It can be difficult to identify when a day in the life of someone who suffers from insomnia actually begins. There is often no definitive point where they wake up and just have a ‘normal day.’ While a regular sleeper would emerge refreshed from a lengthy period of rest, Elizabeth is someone who has a great deal of difficulty falling asleep in the first place.
Therefore, it may be easiest to fully understand her struggle by starting her story at bedtime.
Although an 8pm bedtime may sound ridiculous for some adults, Elizabeth’s erratic sleeping pattern has made this time the point when she feels like she can no longer function on a basic level. Dozing off intermittently in front of the TV is usually the giveaway.
This is often where her frustrations begin, as even though she just collapses into bed, she instantly finds it far more difficult to drop off to sleep than when she was on the sofa missing the end of her favourite show. She has actually just given in and remained upright in the living room on many occasions before, only to wake up at 3am fully alert with a terrible neck ache. This throws her daily routine into even more disarray.
Trying to get to sleep
Elizabeth has now been trying to get to sleep in bed for a good two hours, with her brain refusing to ‘switch off,’ throwing up images and questions about both the day she has just experienced and her life in general. For some reason best known only to her subconscious, choosing a horrible sandwich for lunch that day has become just as prominent in her mind as a terrible date that she experienced 20 years ago. This is the pitfall of having a mind that is now running on empty at a hundred miles an hour, and it is impossible to comprehend.
Annoyingly, from the neck down, her body is exhausted, but her head has other ideas and before she knows it, 10pm has become midnight.
Counting down and calculating
With her phone’s alarm clock set for 6am the following morning, Elizabeth is now growing anxious at not only her lack of sleep so far, but also the fact that she only has six hours of time left for rest. With every passing minute that she remains awake, one more minute of potential downtime elapses, and the temptation to repeatedly look at her alarm clock becomes too great.
These mental calculations simply kick-start her brain once again, and so Elizabeth decides to spend a little while on her phone, checking out her social media accounts to try and tire herself out. She has no idea what time she eventually dozes off with her mobile resting awkwardly between her chest and her chin, but it must have taken a while as she vaguely recalls seeing 3.06am in the top-left corner of the screen. Perhaps it was actually 4.26am – she doesn’t know.
Rise and shine
When her phone starts blaring out her alarm tone at 6am, Elizabeth knows that she daren’t give herself ‘just five more minutes’ – she has already had multiple warnings from work for lateness in the last few months. For this reason, she has alarms set at 6am, 6.05am, 6.10am, and at the same intervals until 7am.
Today, she has somehow managed to get up before the fifth alarm kicks in, and she knows better than to make herself some breakfast and just sit down to try and psych herself up for the day ahead – this often leads to her falling asleep again. Instead, she is straight into the shower to try and wake up, before getting dressed and heading out to work.
Elizabeth leaves plenty of time to visit the café next to her office to grab something to eat and drink – a strong coffee and the largest iced Danish pastry that she can find. She knows that the sugar rush from the cake will give her the energy boost that she needs to at least appear productive to her boss when she arrives.
Unfortunately, the inevitable ‘crash’ before lunch occurs just an hour later, and she is finding it impossible to focus her emails as she feels her heavy eyelids closing against her will. To fight this, she makes a similarly unwise choice for a morning snack – chocolate and biscuits, and finally when her half-hour for lunch arrives, Elizabeth literally feels too drained to even think about getting a decent meal. She forces down a sandwich with more coffee.
Yet another crash
Her afternoon at work is another vicious cycle of almost falling asleep at her desk, coffee and sweet treats, with each ‘rush’ getting shorter and shorter due to her body now feeling the effects of last night’s lack of proper rest. Home-time cannot come soon enough, and Elizabeth knows deep down that her gradually declining work performance has caught the attention of management. This is yet another worrying topic for tonight’s ‘brain blitz.’
A bad sleeping pattern gets far worse
She almost manages to fall asleep sitting next to a complete stranger as her bus journey home is hit by heavy traffic, but when she does get through her front door at 7pm she commits the ‘Cardinal Sin’ for insomniacs. A quick ‘sit down’ on the sofa, and the next thing she knows her body has completely given up and it is 1am. She is now hungry and wide awake, having to deal with the fact that she won’t be tired again for a good few hours.
To make matters worse for Elizabeth, it is now the early hours of Wednesday morning – there are still three full days of work ahead for her before she has the weekend to try and recover. Unfortunately, her planned social engagements may fall by the wayside due to sheer exhaustion, leaving her feeling isolated from her friends.
A terrible sleeping pattern has now become near-catastrophic, and this ‘day in the life’ story can’t even finish exactly 24 hours after it has begun. Over an extended period of time suffering from this crazy schedule, Elizabeth can expect her physical health to deteriorate as well – even the medication to help her finally get a good night’s sleep will eventually have its own undesirable side effects.
Broken sleep, daytime exhaustion, reliance on carbohydrates and unhealthy snack foods, an inability to work effectively, anxiety, stress, addiction to sleeping medications, unhappy relationships, poor parenting…. all the consequence of a sleeping pattern that is anything but normal. Sure, most of us could live with the occasional day in the life of Elizabeth, but when it is chronic, you know the time has come to do something about it – and soon.