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My Tryst With Insomnia

by Pranav
(New Delhi)

They say a good night’s sleep is like an indulgence. How true! Looking back in time, I remember that my tryst with insomnia began in class ninth or tenth when I started staying up late during nights to study for exams. It just felt right to study late at night when everybody else were fast asleep, there was no sound or commotion and you could concentrate fully.

This attempt soon turned into a habit and ever since, I have been burning the midnight oil during exams, nights before an important presentation or competition. I found myself staying awake for more than 24 hours during my class 12 board exams, something that made me extremely troubled. In fact I was so disturbed, I pleaded my mom to give me sleeping pills, which she obviously declined, indignantly. But that problem persisted only till the initial two or three papers, and after that I was back to my normal routine of sleeping for at least eight hours each day.

Of course you can argue that during exams we all become stressed, and since there is so much to be covered, we have to make a trade-off between studying and sleeping. And majority of the students opt for the former. However what appeared to be a slight disturbance of sleeping pattern has now turned into a nightmare of sorts for me. I badly miss sleeping like a sane-minded person! Exams or no exams, stressed or relaxed, I don’t end up sleeping before 3 am.

It is extremely hard as well as distressing for me to articulate how exactly I feel when I am not able to sleep. That’s why I get miffed when people ask me stupid questions like what do I do when I can’t fall asleep. I remember a friend once told me that if I am unable to fall asleep, I’m rather lucky, as I could utilise the time others spend while sleeping for studying. How ridiculously indifferent can one get! I want to clarify that a person who is trying to, but failing to, fall asleep is often so fatigued and stressed that he often ends up doing nothing at all. He is too tired to concentrate, too stressed to study, but too restless to stay on the bed and give his mind some peace and rest. Even if he decides to try sleeping, his mind wanders from one thought to another and hours pass by just like that.

Troubled to the core, I recently read some literature on insomnia and other sleep disorders and learned some rather shocking and disturbing facts. Apparently, women are able to deal with insomnia much better than men. Men, once affected, find it difficult to get back to a normal routine. Story of my life! On a more serious note, there are several health risks associated with insomnia including some fatal ones, which I won’t even mention. It does pay to get a good night’s sleep.

There are some miracle foods which relax your mind and induce you to sleep. Herbal tea mixed with honey really works. A glass of sweet, warm milk works as well. Some people find it difficult to sleep on an empty stomach. But too much food during bed-time can make you stay awake. Much to my surprise, I also learned that any form of physical exercise carried out in late evening or at night can further lengthen the time you take to fall asleep. Insomniacs should avoid caffeine like the plague, which means that too much coffee, tea and chocolates should be banned from your diet.

In my opinion herbal tea does help you relax. But what works for me might not work for you. Perhaps there would be a universal cure for this disorder. Perhaps it is more of a psychological disorder than a body cycle disorder. Perhaps, the day we all gain full control over our own minds, there won’t be any insomnia or, for that matter, any disorder at all.

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Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

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