There’s nothing quite like reading the chaotic, emotional ravings of the chronically sleep-deprived. That’s why I spend most of my waking hours (and most of my hours, as you’ll see, are indeed waking) reading the message boards of insomnia support groups.
“Every time I see someone sleeping, I get so jealous that they can actually sleep,” seethed Imawesome611 at 2:11 a.m. on my favorite message board. “It honestly pisses me off seeing somebody going or falling to sleep because I can’t do that. I am a very jealous person but this is just driving me crazy. Even when my mom tells me she’s going to sleep I get so angry because I know she’ll be asleep soon while I just lay here all night….I’m so frustrated right now, you have no idea.”
But here’s the thing, Imawesome611: I do have an idea. I have a very good idea. I know the rage that seizes the sleep-deprived mind. I understand the intense anger induced by other people’s napping habits. I feel the crippling envy of those who can close their eyes and be snoring five minutes later. Oh, I know this frustration all too well.
But let me back up a little bit.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can sleep and those who cannot.
I, much to my chagrin, am really bad at sleeping. It’s a skill I’ve been trying and failing at for about 18 years now. Sometimes I’ll have a few months during which I’ll think I’ve mastered it, and then one night I’ll find myself wide awake at 3:42 a.m., angrily grinding orange Tic Tacs between my molars and reading the insomnia support group message boards in between chapters of the latest Jacqueline Kennedy biography.
Before you ask, let me tell you that yes, I’ve tried melatonin, and it doesn’t work. My insomnia is stronger than melatonin. It’s stronger than warm milk, than reading a dense book in dim lighting, and than giving up caffeine after noon. My insomnia is so strong that they named a successful cookie franchise after it. It can be conquered only by powerful sleeping pills that were popular in the 1970s (and that’s how you know they’re strong) and now come with as many safety precautions as a fire extinguisher.
Like Imawesome611, whenever I see people napping or hear people talking about naps, I become irrationally and uncontrollably envious. I want to march over to them, perhaps sleeping peacefully on a soft patch of grass, and slam two big pot lids together in front of their ears. That would teach them, napping so indulgently in broad daylight, just gloating to all passerby how easy it is for them to rest!
Another regular on my favorite insomnia message board, denymckuster, has found something that works for her: “My husband and my son begged me to try Cannibas [sic],” denymckuster confided blissfully at 10:14 p.m. (Sure, denymckuster; I bet you really had to be coerced.)
“After several sleepless nights,” denymckuster went on, “I agreed. My husband is a Musician in Austin Texas so it was very easy for me to find. After trying 5 different strains I found 3 that worked beautifully. I take 3 good puffs at bedtime and it is lights out.”
People with insomnia are—and I’m trying not to generalize too much here—a frazzled, anxious bunch. I’m not sure if the anxiety causes the insomnia or if the insomnia causes the anxiety, but the answer is probably that both can explain either. The anxious insomniacs are probably not the most supportive people on Earth because they’re so usually wrapped up in their own woes, but I keep going back to the online support group when I’m up at an ungodly hour. I’m addicted.
When SlayerEnraged happily reported that ze had slept well for the past week, Biatta, another regular, offered her congratulations and a warning: “Congratulations! Keep the fan going and stay away from the bad people. They do not have a right to ruin your sleep.”
Imawesome611, meanwhile, offered a begrudging, reluctant, terse, “Lucky.”
That was the whole message: “Lucky.” He wrote it at 2:06 a.m., so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to infer that it wasn’t a great night for Imawesome611.
Later, when meandmydog, whose photo is of a very pretty girl holding a very cute dog, posted her tale of woe ending with, “I hate bedtime!!!” I began to question Imawesome611’s motives. At 2:32 a.m. he replied, “Message me if you want. :)”
Oh, Imawesome611. Don’t you know that two insomniacs would make a terrible pairing? The two of you would definitely keep each other up all night with your tossing and turning and getting up to take walks around the house or drink warm milk in vain.
But the last thing I need in my life is this new worry that has sprung from Imawesome611 and meandmydog’s burgeoning romance. Let me take a deep breath and look at another topic on the support group’s message board.
“Believe it or not, but lack of sleep boosts the creativity,” Biatta said at 12:02 a.m. Classic Biatta! She’s always looking on the bright side. “This is probably why insomniacs sometimes perform better than those who sleep well.”
Thanks, Biatta. I feel so much better now.
If only she hadn’t gone one step further, though: “Since I stopped sleeping normally I feel like I am living in another dimension.”
Oh, God. Now I’ll be up all night worrying about whether or not I exist in this dimension. Thanks, Biatta. Thanks a lot.
Davis is a member of the class of 2017.