Insomnia is a sod.
I get it every now and then. Months will pass, I’ll be fine, and then, with a dull thud, along will come a month without a proper night’s sleep. Of nights spent lying in the gloom, trying desperately hard not to try to fall asleep in the hope that you will fall asleep.
What causes it? Lack of exercise, probably; certainly, jogging can make it go away, but isn’t really an option at two in the morning. Worry, sometimes; sometimes I’ll have The Fear about something, about money, about deadlines, about relationships, about where my life is heading, about the future of the planet. Sometimes, like Mr Worry in Roger Hargreaves’ seminal work, I’ll even worry about having nothing to worry about.
Worst of all is when you have something important to do the next day; a crucial meeting, or bout of work, or travel adventure, that you know you need to be wide-awake for. That you know is dependent upon you having had a good night’s sleep the night before. And so, with every hour that laboriously ticks by, there is the dread that you are sabotaging the following day simply by lying awake, worrying about the fact that by lying awake worrying about it you are, unintentionally, sabotaging it.
Sometimes it’ll be racing thoughts. Unable to switch the brain off, thinking of things to think about. Writing stuff down helps; nothing worse than thinking, ‘I’d better not forget that’ which means the brain will endlessly re-wind over the same list of points, fretting of forgetting. Sometimes racing thoughts are good, too many great ideas at once, but usually they are pointless; thinking of clever things to say in an argument that happened sixteen years ago, trying to remember lists of Facts, mentally playing computer games, filling out scrabble boards and sudukos. Silliest of all is the feeling of sudden, wide-waking panic, remembering that French homework you still haven’t handed in, twenty years late, or that angry woman who shouted at you in the street for accidentally standing on their heel in nineteen ninety-four and who didn’t accept your apology even though it wasn’t your fault, it was theirs.
And sometimes it’ll just be because I can’t relax, because I haven’t remembered to get comfortable, and after three or four hours I’ll realise I’ve been trying to sleep with my head piled up on folded-up pillows with both hands clenched into fists, wrists twisted back under my stomach with one foot trapped in the nook between bed and mattress.
Oh, and alcohol and caffeine and buggered-up sleep patterns and sneeziness. Those are the other reasons.