Would you like to trade places with an insomniac? No? Okay, so it’s not such a great deal. I’ll admit that. But how about I give you a whole night’s experience, for free, and then you decide later. Okay? Here you go; dusk ‘til dawn, free of charge. Enjoy.

Dread the moment when everyone else peels off, one by one, to go to sleep. Pace around. Put some music on, turn the volume up, louder, louder, too loud – you’re waking them. Turn it off. Mess around on the internet: Facebook, Cracked, Stumbleupon. Decide you’re going to be intellectual. Turn the computer off, pick up a book. Read.

The letters start to swim before your eyes, your lids begin to droop. This is it! Quick, turn off the lights, lie in bed. Immediately, you’re awake again. But that’s just momentary, from moving, right? Stick it out. Lie there. Count the seconds, then the minutes. Turn the pillow over. Fluff the duvet. Too hot, too cold. Throw the duvet off the bed. Retrieve it. Turn over. Lie on your front, back, side. Turn round so that your feet are where your head used to be.

Give up. Turn the bedside lamp on, and pick up the book. It’s boring. Pick up another book, one of your favorites. Try to immerse yourself in the story. Fidget. Move to the kitchen, make some decaf tea. Play with the TV remote. Channel flick, but keep the sound low. Hate late-night TV, turn it off. Sit in your chair, clutching the mug. Don’t think, just sit.

Turn the radio on, settle on the sofa. Try to drop off as the disembodied voices lull you into a catatonic state. Realize that you really, really need to pee. But you can’t move now, you’ve just got comfortable, and you can’t open your eyes.

If you don’t move, you’re going to wet the sofa.

Go pee.

Now the soft, jovial voices on the radio are an irritating drone, so you turn it off and throw yourself, exasperated, back onto the sofa, sending it scraping across the floor. Wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Turn the computer back on. Google symptoms. Conclude you have a rare viral disease found only in the tropics, along with every mental condition you can find on Wikipedia. Spend ages conducting online personality tests, at first to see if there is something strange about you, then just to fill the hours. Find a friend in a different time zone. Skype them. Yawn. Get back in bed, keeping the lights on.

What did insomniacs do before the internet? Start to Google this question, then realize how ridiculous it is. Decide to go for a walk. Get dressed, put your shoes on. Check four times to make sure you’ve got your keys, because we all know what happened last time.

Breathe in the night air as the door slams behind you. Have no direction. Take the road you normally do, ending up somewhere you don’t want to be. Turn around. Go home. Let yourself in quietly, slowly. You wouldn’t want to wake anyone. Kick your shoes off, sit on the edge of the bed. Fall back into the duvet, legs dangling off the edge of the bed. Feel unable to move. Cry, silently. From this angle, the rivulets run strangely across your face. Stare at the ceiling until the tears dry. Open the curtains, notice the gentle light creeping in at the corners of the night.

Go to the kitchen, forget why you went in there. Hear birdsong. Decide you might as well stay awake now. Have a shower, get dressed, make breakfast. Think about getting some work done. Dismiss the idea.

This was the fourth waking night. Four nights since the alcohol-induced stupor, a desperate attempt to dupe your brain into shutting down. The novelty of waking up was dampened only by the pounding headache. Was it worth it?

Yes. Lips soundlessly form the answer that shouldn’t echo so resoundingly. Spending endless nights with your thoughts churning self-reflexively through a mind addled by fatigue does not engender self-love. That reprieve from the pretentious, repugnant, inevitable introspection was sweet, in spite of its brevity, in spite of your better judgement.

Wait impatiently for the rest of the world to wake up. People often tell you that you look tired. Of course I do, you think, but you’ve given up on saying that you couldn’t get to sleep. People make sympathetic noises, but they don’t really want to hear it. It’s not a real problem, is it? They assume that eventually, you will just drift off if you get tired enough. Obviously you’re drinking too much coffee, eating too late at night and worrying about things too much. So you have continued to stumble through work, school and life on the verge, not really awake, but unable to sleep. Spend the daylight hours willing your body to finally give in, break, and embrace oblivion.

As the greyness of dawn fades into morning, you promise yourself tonight. Tonight you will sleep. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • lls322
  • zzz

    This cured my insomnia!

    • kaylee


  • Howard

    You're not off to a good start

  • Brendafager

    I'm so there every night!  The only reason I ever sleep is because I take 15 mg of Ambien every night.  I've been doing this for 4 1/2 years (I actually started with just 10mg but had to up the dose just to get 4-5 hours of 'sleep').  I compare my insomnia – circuit board thought racing – to a computer that has to be forced to shut down.  Ambien 'forces' my brain to shut down but the whole time it's struggling to wake back up and does as soon as the drug even begins to wear off – hence only getting 4-5 hours of sleep on a dose that would send most people out for 12-15 hours.  I'll be thinking about you – thanks for wording it so precisely and cleverly!

  • Helpless

    I hate this because it's true. There's nothing like reading an article that captures your life in real time.

  • Sacrisvid_13

    oh this is so true!

  • lsl77
  • tania rahman

    Fuck you. I actually clicked on it expecting a relevant link. /:

  • Marianna Elvira

    I don't have insomnia but every once in a while comes those nights where I know I'm not getting any sleep. So relephant.

  • Ann

    One of the few articles on Thought Catalog that I can truly relate to. Here's hoping it gets better, for the both of us. :/

  • Kyoudai

    Get out of my head >.

  • guest

    starting to think 'insomnia' is just a trend.

    • guest#2

      i know where you're coming from. there are some who self-diagnose themselves with “insomnia” loosely (i don't know why, maybe they think it's cool or something). but there are those who are suffering from insomnia (the real deal). 

      i think insomnia has become such a commonplace problem, like eating disorders too. that doesn't mean it isn't a serious issue though.

  • Bob

    I love how they posted this in the middle of the night. WIN FOR TC.

    Also this was beautiful.
    “Spending endless nights with your thoughts churning self-reflexively
    through a mind addled by fatigue does not engender self-love” gave me a writing orgasm.

  • MichaelMcGannon

    For me, it's like this:
    Procrastinate, write, procrastinate some more, stare at the page, nod off, shut down the computer, brush teeth, crawl into bed, turn off the light, look at the clock, sigh and get out of bed.

  • Heather Mulkey

    Very well written, but I hate it. Reliving and feeling the entirety of that vicious cycle in the short time it takes to read it is very stressful and overwhelming.  Very well written.

  • Matisse Jenkins

    I love the fact that this was posted in the middle of the night..
    I suffer from some mild teenage insomnia. It takes me five or six hours to fall asleep most nights. Anyone else have that problem?

  • deb

    The “pee” tag is perfection.

  • Guest

    and here I am at 4:38AM reading this…

  • thedailyawe

    Wow. I'm going to be more empathetic to those who suffer from insomnia. This actually broke my heart a little!

  • eferf6
  • Robyn

    Thats almost exactly what happens to me…..

  • Anonymous

    Pran Yantra or Linda Goodman’s Purple Energy Plates India is a natural sleep programmer. One has to simply keep it beneath the pillow and insomnia becomes a thing of the the past. It  also helps people with an irregular sleeping pattern and is a complete natural pain management system.

  • Ziggyfly04

    Sad.  As a former insomniac, my heart goes out.  Been there.  It’s awful.

    But there is help.  My insomnia did not have a medical basis, and so I did not need sleeping pills, which for me would’ve only treated the symptom not the root cause of the problem.  I was able to treat it using cognitive behavioral therapy and now am a normal sleeper.  It took awhile but now I sleep consistently well and without drugs.  

    There are a number of online CBT programs, including and others if you are interested in checking out CBT.

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