Don’t change your lifestyle because of insomnia

Don’t change your lifestyle because of insomnia

It doesn’t get any worse than this. There is perhaps no piece of behaviour which will accelerate the progress of your problem as much or hold it in place so firmly. If your insomnia problem has become so all-consuming that you are willing to compromise enjoyment of life rather than risk missing sleep, then you need to take action… now.

If you are a long-term insomniac, you are likely to be making many, many compromises to your life for the sake of sleep. If your problem is recent, check if you are already making small changes which impact upon the normal running of your life. Your particular behaviours are likely to be quite specific, which makes it difficult to identify them all. Such behaviours may include special routines; avoiding coffee even in the morning, avoiding all alcohol, avoiding scary films or spicy food at night, avoiding holidays or spending nights away from home, never staying out late, avoiding making plans, demanding special behaviours from your spouse or partner, or any other behaviour or special action (and this is the important bit) intended only for the purposes of helping you sleep. Many people even change their jobs in order to fit in with a sleeping problem. Becoming self-employed is common amongst insomniacs because of the mistaken impression that the greater freedom and flexibility of working hours will improve the chances of sleeping.

Situational insomnia

This problem is particularly pernicious if you have situational insomnia like I had so chronically. It does not affect all insomniacs, but I give it a special mention because it is one of the most stubborn forms of the problem. The fear of not sleeping before important events can seem impossible to overcome.

This was the last aspect of my problem to be eliminated, lingering long after I had otherwise recovered. And even though my sleep at this point was generally very good, I was still terrified of making plans. I never invited friends to dinner, or organised a night out or a party. I wouldn’t even arrange a shopping trip or meeting someone for coffee or lunch. I stopped going on holiday and never, never stayed overnight at a friend’s house. When invited to an event, I would answer in the most disinterested way. ‘I’m not sure what I’m doing yet’, I would nonchalantly reply; ‘can I let you know on the day?’ A cast-iron plan was simply too frightening and by not committing myself to anything, I had a better chance of sleeping. To my close friends and family I even gave a set of rules: if you want to plan anything with me tell me about it on that morning. Don’t tell me beforehand. Bless them; they stuck to my ridiculous rules. Any occasional breach of the rules would result in an angry response. I remember reprimanding a friend for telling me about a future dinner party plan. ‘Don’t you know what you have done?’ I told her, ‘You have condemned me to a sleepless night! How could you be so thoughtless?’ What a nightmare I was living, and what a nightmare I was to live with.

I eventually found out that this was classic behaviour for someone with situational insomnia. I couldn’t see it then, but every time I avoided making a plan, every time I feigned indifference to a social invitation, every time I demanded people follow my rules, and every time I reacted badly when they didn’t, I was holding my problem firmly in place.

Some insomniacs simply refuse to attend social occasions or important events if they have not slept well and so begin missing out on all the good things in life, frequently cancelling or postponing engagements because they are too tired. Can you see how destructive this sort of behaviour is? Insomniacs will literally privilege the problem over their enjoyment of life. Are you beginning to compromise your normal life in order to avoid any danger of a sleepless night? In truth, there is no greater way to feed, grow and keep your insomnia monster healthy than by letting it dictate and affect your normal everyday activities.

When you start rearranging your life for insomnia, insomnia has become your life.