The problem isn’t how many people have insomnia.
The problem is not enough people have insomnia.
According to the good folks at the Mayo Clinic (whom, I’m told, have nothing to actually do with mayonnaise), an estimated 3 million Americans currently suffer from insomnia. I must not know where these 2,999,999 other folks are hiding, because I sure can’t find them to talk to at 4 a.m. when I can’t fall asleep.
I’ve been suffering from insomnia for as long as I can remember — and, considering I’m usually awake anywhere from 20-22 hours at a time, that’s a lot to remember. I’ve never been a good sleeper to begin with, and things usually get worse this time of year when my workload increases and my brain won’t shut off because I’m too busy thinking about things such as the Troy football team’s record in the past 121 years when playing under a full moon against a team wearing green with a running back whose name has exactly 14 letters (Note: It’s 8-3).
It’s not as though I don’t try to get more sleep. Usually, I’m in bed by a decent hour. Once in bed, I usually lie there, hoping to fall asleep. As the hours pass, I try to bargain with myself, thinking, “OK, I can still get a good three hours of sleep if I fall asleep right … NOW!” As it turns out, this method of trying to get yourself to fall asleep doesn’t tend to work very often.
And before you suggest something that might help me sleep better — please, just don’t. Having battled insomnia most of my life, I can promise you that I’ve tried pretty much everything from warm milk to the sounds of the rain forest to hitting myself over the head with a ball peen hammer. None of it works. And yes, I’m sure you probably know something your grandmother told you “always” works. And I’m sure your grandmother was a very wise and sweet woman. I’m also sure I’ve tried it already and I’m also sure it’s not going to work.
If one more person suggests I count sheep, I’m probably going to throw them over the fence. You have been warned.
If you really want to help an insomniac, perhaps you should start staying up a little later yourself. Because, you see, of all the things I hate about being an insomniac, it’s the boredom and solitude I despise the most. The fact of the matter is there’s not much interesting going on in the middle of the night. Everyone else is asleep, which means there’s nobody to talk to. There’s nothing good on television, either, even if you do have a thousand channels from which to choose (of course, I’m not sure the fare is much better at more reasonable hours of the day).
Very few things are open at that time of night, so it’s not like I can go catch a movie or have a nice seafood dinner at 3 a.m. I’ve tried hobbies to keep myself busy, but there’s only so many ships in a bottle you can build before it starts getting tedious. Not to mention, since you are up by yourself, most of the time you are emptying the bottles in which the ships will reside by yourself, which presents a whole new set of problems.
Of course, medical professionals would lead me to believe all of this insomnia I’ve been battling over the years probably isn’t good for my long-term health (granted, none of the habits I seem to possess seem to be particularly good for my long-term health). Insomnia, if gone untreated long enough, can lead to a wide assortment of health problems, including death.
Well, at least then maybe I’d get some sleep.
David Fong writes for the the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.