There are few things more frustrating than a night of insomnia. No matter what causes your sleeplessness, it’s horrible to lie in bed with your body desperate for rest, but somehow stalled in awake mode. As much as you want to, and as many remedies as you may try, sleep remains out of reach.
Those who have never experienced insomnia can try to be sympathetic, but often it's hard for them to fathom the misery. Insomnia’s not a wonderful way to accomplish more during the day — it’s a menace associated with mental health problems including anxiety, and one that makes functioning during the day a hell of a lot harder.
A night of insomnia starts out like any other: you go through your bedtime ritual, you get yourself tucked in, and you might even fall asleep for a little bit — maybe even for a whole REM cycle, if you’re lucky. At some point, though, you find yourself in a nightmare situation, and you’re not even sleeping.
And therein lies the problem. You’re not sleeping.
How tired you are is a non-factor, because insomnia, much like a honey badger, don’t care. Here are the five stages of grief all insomniacs experience during a sleepless night.
Stage 1: Denial
At first, you’re concerned. You know how nights like these can play out, but you don’t want to jump to the worst-case scenario. Sleep may be hard to come by, but it’s not totally impossible.
This isn't happening. You’re tired, you have to be up early, and this insomnia business is just not going to work for you. Not again. Certainly not tonight. You’re going to fall asleep, if it’s the last thing you do.
Stage 2: Anger
The more determined you become to get some rest, the more worked up you get. You can’t tell if the red that you’re seeing comes from the lights of your alarm clock, or your growing temper.
This is happening. You've been tossing and turning for two hours, and you’re still not f***ing sleeping. What. The. Hell.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Your rising blood pressure isn't making sleep come any easier, so you attempt to calm down. You try to meditate, count sheep, focus on your breathing — anything that might help. In your zen state, things don’t look quite so bad.
Your alarm won’t start beeping for another four hours. You've gotten by on less. If you fall asleep soon and fortify yourself with caffeine, you’ll be OK.
You’ll just try reading for a little bit. If you read a chapter, you’ll get tired, and then you can still get three hours of sleep…
Stage 4: Mourning
The clock keeps moving, but you’re still very much awake. Any optimism you once had drained out of you hours ago. The mere thought of how hard it will be to get through the day when you’re this exhausted practically makes you cry frustrated tears.
Everything is horrible. Life tomorrow is going to be so miserable. The expression “things will look brighter in the morning” is only true for those who've managed to get a good night’s sleep. Definitely not for you.
Stage 5: Acceptance
There comes a point when it would feel worse to sleep for a tiny bit than it would to just stay awake. Strange as it sounds, it can be decidedly more wretched to get up after falling back asleep for two hours, than it would be to just give up on sleep and power through.
You hate it, but sleep just wasn't in the cards. It’s time to get out of bed, caffeine up, and put on your game face. You’ll have to do your best impression of a fully functional person (not the near-zombie you are) throughout the day. You've got this.