The good things about insomnia and being awake while the world is asleep

Throughout my life, I have had blocks of time where I really struggled to sleep and my feelings about that have changed a lot over the years. Between the ages of 8 to 12, it really bothered me because I hated feeling lonely and there was nothing that seemed lonelier to me than being in a house where no one else was awake so I had no one to talk to. Kids in school were really impressed when we were discussing what time we went to sleep and I replied with 4 o’clock in the morning because that was just so rebellious and grown up but I just thought it was really annoying.

When I got to 13 it became even more of an irritation as my melodramatic newly teen self decided it was simply going to ruin my life. This was because I had just run into the brick wall that was the workload of high school compared to my easy going primary school. I was unable to sleep on Sunday nights and would be coming to school with huge bags underneath my eyes and would be completely unable to focus. This didn’t happen all the time, usually just for a month or two each year but when it fell on exam week, I was incredibly upset by it and therefore managed to mix panic and sleep issues to create a pointless all nighter the night before my exams.  In the end I managed to get through the exams and had my usual grades in the end but it had been a lot more stressful than it needed to be.

Over the last year or so, I have started to accept that this is something that will happen to me a couple of months a year and that there wasn’t too much I could do about it. Now I have found ways to actually enjoy nights when I cannot sleep.  As per usual, I was inspired by a book: ‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie Stiefvater in which one of the characters suffers from insomnia and uses his nights to build things or research things, he made them productive. So now when I feel a sleepless night is about to happen, I think of something productive to do, whether that be writing or reading a book, learning a song on piano or anything else. Sometimes I find less productive things to do like finding new songs I like or learning new hair styles or making weird snacks. I tend to avoid things like school work because the point is not stress myself out and school stuff does just that. What I have realised is that the middle of the night is the time I feel most creative and this is down to a few things:

  1. There are no people to distract you- Most of your friends will be fast asleep and there’s no chance anyone’s going to come in and ask you to do anything else. For example, it is the one time of day when I am guaranteed that my mum will not come in and ask me why my room isn’t tidy and my sisters can’t wander in asking me to take them to the park.
  2. There is nothing else you should be doing- Well, other than sleeping and  it’s important to note that if you can sleep, DO sleep, this whole post is for nights when you legitimately can’t. However, as soon as you have accepted that for whatever reason sleep isn’t going to be an option that night, you are left with these hours where you don’t have to do anything, you usually can’t run down to the shops or make a call or anything like that so you gave this block of free time for whatever you want to fill it with without feeling guilty about it.
  3. There’s just something about it- I can’t tell you exactly what it is about night time but now I understand where the phrase ‘burning the midnight oil’ came from. For some reason, my mind is most imaginative at night.

So, while having a normal sleeping schedule is definitely much more healthy and something that I recommend hugely. If you are struggling to sleep every night then please do get help or try methods to actually help you sleep, things like mindfulness, breathing techniques or go to a doctor. But the odd night where you struggle to sleep doesn’t have to be so irritating and unenjoyable. I am sure many strokes of genius have happened at 3am while the world is asleep.