Trying to fall asleep is a delicate thing. It’s like saying, “Don’t think about pink elephants” — those giant pink creatures pop into your head immediately, yes?
As soon as you try to fall asleep, it becomes more and more impossible. This is because the very act of falling asleep involves a relaxed unconsciousness that’s the opposite of trying. So if you’re an insomniac like me, you’ll definitely relate to these crazy thoughts that can pop up and get in the way of a good night’s rest.
1. “I need to get organised.”
Why is it that we can spend all Saturday on the couch watching TV, but it’s only once our heads hit the pillow that we decide we need to organise every single aspect of our lives? Visits to the dentist, tax returns, paying fines… if we could conduct our lives from our beds at 2am, we’d be the most efficient people ever.
2. "Oh god, did I really do that?"
Right behind your eyeballs is a never-ending video loop of Funniest Home Videos... starring you. If you've ever said something awkward, tripped in public or farted in front of a love interest, you'll probably remember that moment just before you fall asleep. Even if the incident in question happened in 1999. Fact: cringing has the same effect as coffee — it will just keep you awake and jittery.
3. "I'm dying."
There's something about the darkness of night that brings out the morbid in all of us. Thoughts about death are quite common among those who cannot sleep. While some may be bothered by family health histories, others will obsess about the tiny fleck of mould they saw on their wall, and the possibility that inhaling it will make them die somehow.
Okay, non-sleepy head. Time to breathe and calm yourself - try this meditation from Paper Tiger. (Post continues after video.)
4. "There's definitely a burgler in the house."
By day, you'll take multiple safety risks like jaywalking and leaving the door unlocked. But by night, you're so vigilant you might as well be a superhero trying to protect the entire world. 'Are the windows and doors locked? What if I left the oven on and the house burns down? I should get security screens, because what if a thief with sharp scissors cuts through my flimsy fly screens? I shouldn't have gotten those security screens, because what if there's a fire and we can't escape through the windows...'
5. "I can't sleep in these sheets."
"How did that one tiny piece of sand get into my bed? Ugh, it's right under my calf. Why don't I change my sheets more regularly? WHERE DID THE SAND COME FROM? I never even go to the beach!"
6. "If it's 2:03am now and I have to wake up at 6:40..."
Insomniacs are notorious for counting their hours of sleep. The annoying thing is that this actually keeps them awake for longer. After lying in bed for approximately five seconds, an insomniac will begin immediately calculating how many hours of sleep they will get if they wake up at 6am. They will then want to check the clock but worry that checking the clock will stop them from sleeping, as though they're being jinxed. An internal argument will then ensue, further prolonging the time of being awake.
This is one of the main reasons non-sleepers hate Android phones — as soon as you set your alarm clock, it will tell you how many hours you have to go until you wake up.
7. "Me. Want. Food."
Even the merest hint of hunger will trigger a neurotic spin-out in the mind of the insomniac. They will lie there, pondering whether they should get up and eat or not. They will wonder if their stomach will somehow eat itself if they fall asleep while hungry.
Then they will get up and eat two bowls of sugary Crunchy Nut cornflakes and not be able to sleep because they are on a sugar high. Or is that just me?
8. "I need to wee. Again."
Dear bladder: why do you insist on somehow filling up during the night even when I've had nothing to drink? Should I see a doctor about you? Do you hate me? WHY WON'T YOU LEAVE ME ALONE?
9. "Has he texted me back yet...?"
Got a crush? Then you've got a problem. Whether it's a late-night booty call text from a hot yet sleazy paramour, or a near-midnight viewing of The Mighty Boosh, any thoughts of desirable people will ruin a good night's sleep. You might end up texting a crush, poring over Tinder, or Googling "Does Noel Fielding have a girlfriend?"
10. "What's that sound?! Is it a serial killer?"
Maybe I'm getting old, but I seem to spend a lot of my waking hours going, "What? Huh? Speak up." It seems like everyone is mumbling. So riddle me this: how come I can't hear what people are saying during the day, but then as soon as I lie down to go to sleep at night it's like I've got supersonic hearing or something?
My usually ineffective ears can pick up the tiniest ticking from my wristwatch. Or I'll shove my husband for breathing too loudly. Worst of all is the mysterious creak from within the house or snapping twig outside my window, which obviously means there's a psychotic, murderous ghost outside and that I'm doomed.
11. "The kids are NOT all right."
I was warned I would never sleep if I had kids. At the time, I thought, 'Duh — babies wake up and want to be fed. I'm not stupid.' Little did I realise child-induced insomnia actually stemmed from the insane amounts of worry and guilt that occur once you become a parent. I'll check on my daughter at least twice before I settle down for the night. And "checking" involves a whole list of things. Is her favourite soft toy in bed with her? Can she breathe? Is her night light on? Once I'm in bed, along come the guilt-induced worries. I could totally relate when a Mamamia writer confessed to this thought that keeps her awake: "Why are my children so short? It's my fault, isn't it? I haven't fed them enough meat."
Watch: Aussie celebrities share their best parenting advice. (Post continues after video.)
12. "Why don't I have a home loan yet?"
Hitting those life milestones is the furthest thing from your mind when you're watching endless episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But come snooze time, you're suddenly bothered by all of that life stuff you're supposed to have done. You know — get married, have kids, have a career, buy a house, own a car, get health insurance, having a general understanding of basic life things (e.g. what is stamp duty?) and quitting unhealthy habits.
Then, that great philosophical question will occur to you: "Why did I spend so much time watching reality TV? What's MY reality? Am I the Scott Disick of my family?"
13. "But what does it all mean?"
Similarly, you may never pray or go to church, or even care that much about human origins. As the sun shines, why worry, right? Yet, at sleepytime, those big, deep scary questions begin to plague you.
Is there a God? If there's a God, should I believe? If there's not a God, what should I do? Why don't I know more about my family history? What if Aunt Delilah is lying when she says that Uncle Ned "accidentally" died in her arms? Is Mel Gibson my secret dad?!
14. "I read somewhere that if you count sheep..."
Those who are experienced in being non-sleepers will be well versed in sleep theory. You know — "the best way to go to sleep is to count sheep", blah blah blah. But of course, true insomniacs will know that none of the methods work and will in fact cause further wakefulness.
Consider this: WHY is counting sleep the best method? What sort of sheep? Why are the sheep jumping over a stile? Is "stile" the right word? Where do the sheep all go? Do they jump on top of each other and die? Welcome to the mind of the insomniac.
What are the thoughts you have when you should be asleep?
This post originally appeared on The Glow.