The Blog

The Diary of a Hermit: Insomnia

I've battled insomnia for a decade off and on. It's hard to know whether something triggered it specifically, but there were a few emotionally traumatic events that took place around the time it first reared its nagging head.

Half way through today a stranger on the tube kindly informed me that I was wearing my jumper inside out. A little embarrassing, particularly due to the size of the budget brand's garish label, but no big deal in the grand scheme of things. But this type of incident is a little insight into insomnia's influences on everyday life. These minor occurrences will happen with increasing regularity. Friends find the resulting tales, mishaps and calamities, entertainingly ditzy, and I chuckle along whenever the misfortunes are regaled. However, I'd rather not be perceived as a woman unable to handle the most simple of tasks, particularly as a twenty something trying so hard to progress career wise.

Articles written to argue why women aren't cut out for top roles in business use our supposed tendency to be emotional as the primary reason for that point of view. I'd hate to be a bastion or poster girl for such a notion, so I'm extremely frustrated that my severe lack of the z's has affected my ability to remain composed in times of intense work stress. In the midst of my season of sleeplessness every day has become like my time of the month, when the hormones are heightened and the chin starts the emotional wobble at the most trivial of things: a sentimental Christmas advert, when a zip gets stuck, when the wi-fi is stuttering. So far I have kept the weeps confined to tube journeys and my bedroom, but it's only a matter of time before I crumble in front of clients.

I'm currently teetering on the edge. I've been typing my debit card pin-code into the microwave and found myself foraging through the kitchen bin when I have intended to make my lunch. Insomnia has turned me into a bedraggled, weather beaten, Stig of the Dump like character - never polished, and always with more than a few hairs out of place (a Thai noodle has even been found within haystack). I still know how to be professional, what's right from wrong, and how to hold an intelligent conversation...but there are unavoidable blips and lulls.

I've battled insomnia for a decade off and on. It's hard to know whether something triggered it specifically, but there were a few emotionally traumatic events that took place around the time it first reared its nagging head. But I put a lot of my inability to sleep down to the fact that I can't turn the volume down on my thoughts. Creative brains often get impulses at night and I've always found my best ideas turn up when all surrounding is mute and resting. It's night time or shower time when I find I construct the sentences to my articles or invent a new concept for a show or piece of art. But it's not just just creativity that interrupts natures necessity to recharge. I've always been a relentless worrier. I worry about the normal stuff - my friends and their current causes of anxiety, death, money, relationships...turning 30. But as someone who has always been extremely self critical, I also worry about things that aren't worthy of sleep stealing. Did that person misinterpret what I said in a negative way ten years ago? Why didn't I leave that boyfriend sooner? Did I accidentally give someone the stink eye, and do they hate me now?

My choice of romantic partners over the years has only worsened the problem. I've either dated those who enjoy a nocturnal lifestyle and find it quite acceptable to follow up a night of working, or cavorting, by festering in bed till 3pm the next day. During these relationships I've had a sparring partner, exacerbating the problem by giving me more entertainment and interaction during the hours when normal folk snooze. Others have been those those infuriatingly jammy types that zonk out as soon as their head hits the pillow and make it their unconscious mission to stop anyone else from joining them in dreamland. Last night it was necessary to flee the unique snore soundtrack of a Walrus learning the trumpet/gurgling drain, a regular interruption which I'm sure can't help in terms of being able to build a stable sleep routine.

We all know that interaction with any tech paraphernalia before you intend to sleep is frowned upon by the sleep experts, and that laptops and TV's should be turned off at least an hour before bedtime. I've tried and failed at sticking to this advised rule. I currently find putting a TV show you've seen oodles of times is the most effective technique - Friends, Sex and the City, Alan Partridge, The Office etc. You know what's going to happen so you don't need to concentrate, the sound drowns out the dark thoughts in your noggin, and the familiarity is comforting. However, I am aware this is not a good long term fix, particularly if you have a partner that requires the bedroom to be a silent pitch black sanctuary.

So aside from hugging my knees while simultaneously rocking and moaning, I have tried various recommendations from Google - imagining the colour green, various herbal remedies, relaxation techniques and hippy chants. Finally a Doctor has prescribed a pill that seems to knock me out pretty well...until my bladder kindly reminds me that I'm getting older.

But who wants to rely on pills for sleep normality. I think we can all see what I need to work on...