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21 Things You'll Never Understand If You Don't Deal With Insomnia

"It's like taking Tylenol PM every morning and drinking energy drinks every night."

Ellie Sunakawa / BuzzFeed

This week at Goodful, we're talking sleep — why it matters, how to get more, and ways to make it better. You can find more Slumber Party posts here.

There is no bigger enemy to sleep than insomnia, and it's hard to know exactly what it's like to deal with if you don't have firsthand experience.

To help give you an idea, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their experiences dealing with insomnia.

1. "Tired" means something entirely different to people who deal with insomnia.

NBC / Via Twitter: @ColIegeStudent

"Insomnia isn't, 'I didn't sleep and I'm tired.' Insomnia is, 'I cried for an hour because I was so tired but couldn’t sleep and I would give my right arm for a 20-minute nap.”'" —erinl4ae5a3000

"It’s more than just being 'tired' — it’s a mental and physical exhaustion that never ceases." —l4d0af9517

2. It's not just about having difficult falling asleep — staying asleep can be the issue, too.

tfw you get a solid 4.5 hours of broken sleep and have to pretend like everything's okay 🙃


3. And tbh, just because they can sometimes sleep doesn't mean that sleep is actually high-quality.

Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

"Even when I sleep, I spend my days feeling sluggish and unrested. It’s hell." —davidcrose89

4. Dealing with insomnia can get seriously expensive.

"Insomnia costs so much money. I can’t even give you an estimate at this point. Between missed work or school days after too many days of not sleeping, doctors, prescriptions, supplements, acupuncture and hypnosis (both not covered by insurance), therapists that specialize in sleep disorders, and everything else, it has certainly drained my bank account." —taylorp4c7128c1b

5. "Have you tried...?" YES. Melatonin, booze, limiting blue light, limiting screen-time, every natural sleeping remedy under the sun — chances are, they've tried it all.

"I constantly have the conversation of telling someone I have insomnia and they, kindly, suggest, “Have you tried—" and I always have to butt in because, yes, I have tried. I've tried every pill, herbal supplement, sleep drink or tea, I use sleep spray, sleep tinctures, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, no screen time, sleep audio, white noise machines, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, salves, not going to my room before I’m ready for bed, no caffeine, exercising at certain hours, and following a diet for sleep. And believe me, I’ve tried even more than that." —taylorp4c7128c1b

6. Sleep medication isn't a cure-all.

Instagram: @th3badwolf

"If you're lucky, sleeping pills work. For me, nothing has worked, even the heaviest one they could prescribe. My doctor has said, 'Honestly, the only thing left is general anesthesia, which I obviously can’t prescribe.'" —taylorp4c7128c1b

7. And when meds do work, relying them can be a big source of shame, worry, or a whole new set of symptoms.

BBC / Via

"Luckily for me, pills do help. But then you have sleeping pill hangover the next day making you feel groggy. And I have no idea what the long term effects of those pills might be on my body." —e434fd427c

8. You might be tempted to be judgy about an insomniac's caffeine intake, but oh my god, it's none of your business.

Twitter: @britta_H20

"Friends, loved ones, co-workers, total strangers: Please don't lecture me about my caffeine intake once I'm down to two or three hours of sleep a day. If I want a cafe au lait at 6 p.m., that's my business. I'm literally just trying to survive until this wave of insomnia crashes upon itself and I sleep for three days straight." —buzz4cha

9. Same with late-night phone and TV habits!

The 5 Stages of Insomnia 🌙 1. Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining 4. Depression 5. Looking at Twitter

Thinkstock / Via

"My phone and/or my TV do not keep me up! Chances are that, if I'm on my phone or bingeing a show at an ungodly hour, I've tried to sleep. I might have even taken medicine to help try to get me there. Point is, if you know you're not going to get much or any sleep, then you're at least allowed to make it feel a little more enjoyable." —marandajob

10. It's an extremely common — AND ANNOYING — misconception that insomnia is a choice. Which, no.

Twitter: @Ziweeee

"I wish people wouldn't assume we are doing it on purpose. Sometimes you can't turn off your mind, sometimes you are sick with a stuffed nose or a cough from hell. Sometimes we can't fall asleep at what is considered a 'normal' time." —jennies4783ed5b8

11. On top of sometimes being a result of anxiety, it can also be incredibly anxiety-inducing on its own.

"When my insomnia was at its worst, I would feel anxious about going to sleep and when I inevitably couldn’t fall asleep for hours, I’d begin to panic about it. I’ve spent many nights crying and begging to just be able to fall asleep. It’s gotten a lot better over the years, but I still envy people who take what seems like a simple task for granted." —laurenm48c4dc219

12. It's nice of you to try to relate by sharing your own sleeping woes, but unless you actually deal with it, don't try to compare your occasional trouble sleeping to insomnia.

Pixar / Via

"I hate when I say I have insomnia and people automatically say, 'Oh, same, I got like six hours of sleep last night because I was studying.' Good for you, Karen. It takes me at least an hour to fall asleep and I wake up at least four times during the night which totals to about four hours of sleep." —maria0716

13. Just because someone got a "normal" night of sleep doesn't mean they don't have insomnia — it can happen in cycles.

Disney / Via

"I can go three or four months getting a 'normal' amount of sleep. But then out of nowhere, my insomnia will flare up and I’ll get two or three hours a night for the next six months. It’s different for everybody!" —haleyn48e2cf979

14. There's really no such thing as catching up on sleep when you're an insomniac.

Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

"You don't reach a point of sleeplessness where you finally sleep all night. 'At least you'll sleep well tonight!' No, see, that's the thing — I sleep like crap every night, and no matter how tired I am the next day, I will be wide awake at 3 a.m." —nettysgirl

15. No, insomniacs aren't ~lucky~ to be able to stay up all night.

ABC / Via

"I’m a full-time college student who has had insomnia since high school. My friends always tell me that I’m so 'lucky' because it means I’m able to 'pull all-nighters' and get more school work done than those who 'have to sleep.' But I wish they knew that is doesn’t work that way. I need sleep just as much as the next person. I just can’t seem to fall asleep. Also, when you haven’t had a good nights sleep in days, your barely able to function through out the day on a normal level, never the less get more work done than normal." —madis4bd199668

16. In fact, feeling weighed down by exhaustion all night and not being able to sleep is a special sort of torture.

Loryn Brantz / BuzzFeed

"My body shuts down. Telling your coworkers that you're going home because you're tired is almost shameful. Then you get home and STILL don't sleep. You just sort of exist in a state of stillness until, maybe, just maybe, you finally get six hours of sleep, and that's only because you took Nyquil." —loribethw

17. Or you can be filled with so much restless energy that you don't know what to do with it.

Universal Pictures / Via

"When I try to sleep but can't, I feel fidgety and twitchy, like my skin is crawling, but I stay in bed and just hope my tossing and turning don't disturb my boyfriend or dog. Once I was spending the night in a hotel with my boyfriend and my insomnia hit so bad I wound up walking around the room in circles and doing sit-ups just to try and get rid of some of the extra energy." —ilanapon47

18. Going without sleep can have a serious impact on your mental health.

Nickelodeon / Via Twitter: @CaptainJonge

"I have had to take medical leave and check into a hospital because I was losing my mind when my insomnia got really terrible. I remember sitting in my car just crying because of how exhausted I was suffering from lifelong chronic insomnia. Currently I have disability accommodations at work due to my insomnia, but it makes me so depressed thinking about what kind of person I could have been if I wasn’t perpetually in a fog and exhausted." —arlinim

19. And it can impact your personality and how people perceive you.

Summit Entertainment / Via

"Insomnia has robbed me of ever knowing my true self and that is the most stressful aspect of insomnia. I wish people knew that I am not dumb/shy/rude when I just stare at them while they are talking, or when I lose track of my thoughts mid sentence. I am just exhausted." —arlinim

20. Honestly, insomnia affects pretty much every part of your life.

Nickelodeon / Via

"After two days, I refuse to drive because I’m so nervous I’ll hurt someone — but my bouts of insomnia last five to nine days, leaving me homebound or in the hands of friends who have probably told me so many things that I simply could not retain. Work is impossible. Everything that comes easy is suddenly impossible with insomnia." —taylorp4c7128c1b

21. Frankly, it just...really sucks — so if you don't deal with it, be kind and try to understand what it must be like. And if you do deal with it, remember you're not alone.

Loryn Brantz / BuzzFeed

"It's like taking Tylenol PM every morning, and drinking energy drinks every night."


"It’s like coming home after a long day but knowing that it’s not going to end." —brandia4e958d049

"It sucks. Really bad. Your body cannot reset itself. You don’t think with all cylinders. You feel completely alone. But insomnia sufferers, you are not alone!"


By the way, if you think you might be dealing with insomnia too, it's definitely worth checking with your doctor. Many things can cause insomnia, from stress to certain disorders, and your doctor will best be able to help you figure out what's going on so you can get the sleep you need. In the meantime, you can always read more about insomnia here.