It figures that as I write this the clock reads 2:56 in the morning. This is nothing new. More often than not, I don’t get the daily-recommended 8 hours of sleep. I’m lucky if I can get that in two nights added up. One of the points on lack of sleep that I’ve read is that if you are unable to sleep, the worst thing you can do is just lay there.
Obviously, I usually just lay there. In hindsight, it always seems so stupid. My brain is wide-awake, going a mile a minute and I’m just lying there, staring wide–eyed at the ceiling. Also, by staying in bed, I’m giving my stupid brain no choice but to constantly grind its way through obsessive thought after thought. I’ve noticed that getting up and performing some simple activity for about 30 minutes can be effective. It gets my brain thinking about something else, enabling you to get some sleep.
What’s crazy is that when I am wide awake in bed it’s not like I am contemplating anything of meaning. One night, I stayed awake for hours, tormenting myself over a conversation I had with a person that started with her saying, “Hello.” Of course, being the debonair person that I am, I immediately responded with the asinine response, “I’m good, you?” Oh god, why did I say that?! I’ll never forget how she physically recoiled from my answer. I’m certain she thought I was some escaped lunatic.
Other times, I will be in bed, almost asleep. I can feel my body slowly relaxing. My breathing slows and my heart rate drops. Its wonderful; I’m finally going to sleep! Then my cursed brain whispers, did you hear that? Suddenly, I’m more alert. I’m starting to wake up, hear what? What’s my brain talking about? That noise. You didn’t hear that noise? Oh man, it sounded like the front door. I’m one hundred percent sure you forgot to lock it and now a rapist murder just walked in. Just wanted to give you heads up. My heart jacks up like I just finished a sprint. I swallow the surge of adrenaline and it sits in my stomach like a brick. I can feel the last vestiges of sleep slip through my fingers as I lay there, waiting for whatever horror is about to burst through my bedroom door. In those moments, I briefly contemplate crawling over my sleeping partner so that she is closest to the door.
Regardless of if it is a trivial or a perceived life-ending threat, the reason for my inability to sleep does not matter. What really haunts me when I can’t sleep is the clock. Anyone who has struggled to sleep knows that it is a scientific fact that time moves two to three times as fast when you are unable to sleep. The clock will taunt me mercilessly throughout the night. “Oh, you have to get up at 7:00? Okay, well that’s 4 hours away so you should really get some sleep.” An hour passes in the blink of an eye. “3 hours until you have to get up, don’t you have (insert massively important event) this morning?”
Of course, the clock’s teasing only makes the inability to sleep worse. Panicked, my brain will suddenly start enter into the stage where I start performing complex math equations. Desperately, I try to determine how it might be possible for me to cram 8 hours of sleep into the remaining 3 hours before 7AM.
The following day, I stumble from point to point. I feel like crap and I know I look worse, pallid skin, sunken eyes; I’ve become the living dead. My reaction time is reduced to zero. Messages from my brain to my limbs never arrive, condensing somewhere in my chest cavity. As a result, I spend my day slumped in a chair, a pen clasped loosely in my hand; drool leaking from my slack mouth. I consume vast amounts of coffee and sugar to just make it through the day.
When I’m like this, my mood enters into a primal, almost sub-human like state. From underneath my clenched brow, I glower viciously at anyone who stumbles into my presence. I answer complex questions with grunts and struggle with rudimentary problem solving. I quickly forget how to interact with the humans. People withdraw in abject horror from the person I have become.
Of course, all these experiences only serve to provide me with a fresh batch of reasons to be unable to sleep the next night. As I lay there in the dark, I begin to try and figure out resolutions to my problems when my brain pipes up. I don’t want to be a bother but I just heard a strange noise in the kitchen. You probably didn’t notice but a serial killer was following you earlier and I’m certain that he followed you home.