Nothing seems unusual for the first hour. For all my life, it has never been unheard of for me to take a while to fall asleep. But if I am still awake after an hour, a feeling of dread starts to settle in. Usually by then, a feeling of having to go to the bathroom has settled in as well, so I get up and deal with that. I go back to bed and try to relax.
The end of the second hour is when I really start to feel doomed. I can often tell by then that I’m just not going to be falling asleep. Usually by then I have to go to the bathroom again, and I’m desperate to get rid of as many distractions as possible that might keep me awake all night, so I get up again and go to the bathroom. It is at this point that I try doing something else for a bit to get my mind off of whatever is keeping me awake. If I work the next day, I’ll make my lunch now; that’ll give me an extra few minutes in the morning just in case I do happen to fall asleep. Sometimes I’ll read for a while. Eventually I’ll try going back to bed. I’ll set my alarm for about 45 minutes later than the time it usually goes off, so that I will wake up with the absolute bare minimum amount of time to get ready and dressed in the morning and not be too terribly late to work. Every minute of potential sleep counts.
If I don’t fall asleep at this point, I start questioning why I am being punished with this inability to sleep. Am I just subconsciously, or consciously, worrying about something? Was it because of something I ate? Did I just eat too much too late at night? Did I drink too many caffeinated beverages? Was I looking at too many screens too late at night? I start to get angry and frustrated over the lack of consistency. I remember other nights when I did whatever it might have been that is keeping me awake, but had no trouble falling asleep. Why do there seem to be absolutely no rules here? Insomnia is infuriating.
Sometimes, between the third and fourth hour, I get desperate. I start lamenting whatever it is that is wrong with me that causes me to experience this hell. If I have any in the medicine cabinet, I’ll take some medication for colds or allergies that causes drowsiness, even though I don’t have a cold and am not bothered by allergies. That also gets me to the bathroom to take another bathroom break. And this is when I start to notice the headache setting in. A sense of dread begins to overwhelm me as I realize that I’m going to have to go to work tomorrow with this headache. I contemplate taking a sick day, but then I realize that no one else can do my job, not being there just gets everyone behind, and preparing not to be there is often quite a bit of work in and of itself. Most of the time, I just decide to ride it out and go to work anyway, and try to survive until lunch when I might get in a 20-minute nap with my head down on the desk.
Eventually, after a few more hours of helplessly tossing and turning, I realize that my alarm would have gone off by now had I not changed it earlier in the night. I give up and get dressed and go about my day, simply hoping to survive until I get home, and hoping that it will be a long time before I experience this misery again. Unfortunately, the nights of insomnia have become more frequent lately. Every time, when I finally get to sleep after being awake for 30-40 hours in a row, I hope that these days are behind me. We’ll see.