Insomnia can be one of the hardest things in life to deal with. We, as humans, require a certain amount of sleep to be able to function during our wakeful hours. Without the proper amount of sleep, our bodies and brains have a hard time keeping up with what is needed to accomplish anything at all. This includes simple things like having a conversation or comprehending directions without being told twice. To those who have never experienced insomnia, this may sound like a funny story. However, for those who know the woes of insomnia, this is no laughing matter.
Most people have had insomnia at least once in their lifetime and understand how this affects them the following day. For those who have had it a time or two, think of those who live with it constantly. It is understandable that these people are more irritable and sometimes downright mean to the others, who enjoy their eight good hours of sleep. I say eight hours just because that is a rule of thumb. Different people require different amounts of sleep. Some may do fine with four hours, while someone else may require twelve to be at their peak performance. While the majority of people enjoy their four, eight, or twelve hours of restoration, the insomniac would do anything for one or two hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep.
The insomniac will try anything to get some form of sleep, including taking sleeping medications. The problem with this is that the medications also create other problems, like headaches and drowsiness, which affect us in our wakeful hours. So, all in all, they still have a problem being at their best when they are awake. So, the solution to using medications is really no solution at all. The person taking these over-the-counter medicines is not much better off than not sleeping as much as needed in the first place! If you don’t get enough sleep, you will feel like crap, be irritable, and not be able to perform at a high level in anything. On the other hand, if you take the over-the-counter medications and get some sleep, you will find the effects of headaches, be irritable, and not be able to perform at your best. Are you seeing the problem here? With or without the pills, peak performance cannot be achieved.
Now, let me explain that I am not a doctor of any sort. (Well, maybe a doctor of self philosophy, ha ha). But I have no degree in what causes insomnia. The only thing on which I am basing the information I am presenting is that, well, I am an insomniac. I live with this affliction almost every day. The few days a month that I get a restful night of sleep (usually once a day out of fourteen) are because my body almost shuts down on me. I become so tired that I can literally fall asleep standing up! I have tried many things to cure my sleeplessness, but to no avail. The one thing I have found is that if I use these over-the-counter drugs, it makes things worse. Yes, I can sleep, but I sleep very restlessly with nightmares and wake up feeling like crap.
I will add here that insomnia is caused by many different things. Veterans (like myself) are more prone to insomnia than those who have never served. I thought on this and found why I personally believe this to be true. Veterans are trained to always be thinking ahead to the next task that must be completed. We were taught to always be ready at any given time for any situation. Our brains must always be tuned into the coming situation, whether we know what’s coming or not. I was a firefighter in the US Navy, and even in my deepest sleep at the time of service, I could be awake and fully functioning in a matter of seconds to do the job I was trained for. This works very well in the military because you have others in the same situation as you, and we lean on each other for help if needed. The problem comes when the airman, sailor, or soldier becomes a civilian, and his or her needs change. No longer do you have the support of many men and women around you, and the need to be ready in a matter of seconds is no longer a part of your life. However, the training to always be thinking ahead is so deeply instilled in the veteran that he or she has a tremendous difficulty getting that part of their brain transformed back to civilian life. To a civilian who hasn’t served, this sounds ridiculous. However, to a veteran, this makes complete sense.
So, how do we get past these sleepless nights? This is a question I wish I knew the answer to. If you know, please inform me. I sure could use that information. The best way that I, personally, have found help through meditation. The times that I can focus on something particular, like a tree or a certain model of a car (mine is the 1969 Ford Mach 1), it helps. I have to put all other things aside. I cannot think of bills, things that need to be fixed around the house, or even family (both good and bad). Once I achieve this task, which seems simple but really isn’t, I can fall asleep. The question then is, “Can I stay asleep and keep the nightmares away?” This I still have not mastered, and so about once every fourteen days, I will fall into a deep sleep and stay that way for anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours. After this time, I feel great for one day, and then it’s back to thirteen more grueling days of insomnia. However, every once in a great while, I will achieve that inner peace and be able to focus on my dream car or that big tree and fall into a relaxing sleep.
For those who deal with insomnia, my heart goes out to you. I wish you the best of luck in breaking whatever pattern is causing your affliction. Hopefully, one day, we will all enjoy night after night of restful sleep. Until next time, have a good night, and remember, we are all in this together.