Is there such thing as compulsive insomnia?

compulsive insomnia

One of the things people find the hardest to understand about my insomnia is how little I actually try to fall asleep. I’ve had terrible sleep problems since before I can remember, and complain about being exhausted all the time, and yet when it’s time to go to bed, I’ll procrastinate for hours. I’ll read a book; I’ll binge-watch a TV show; I’ll go on a Twitter spree; I’ll decide that 3am is the perfect lighting to take pictures; I’ll sit on the end of the bed and stare into space. Baffled, people ask, “But why don’t you just stop playing with your phone in bed, and then go to sleep?” Well, it’s a decent question—and it’s one I’d love to know the answer to. I’ve spent hours googling “compulsive insomnia” and getting nowhere—but I’m preeeetty convinced it’s a thing.

Early last year, I managed a few weeks on a strict no-technology-in-bed ban. The first night, I unwound with a bath, snuggled down in bed, turned off the light—and panicked. Within seconds of my head hitting the pillow, my mind was absolutely racing, and I had to fight not to jump out of bed and run for my phone. But eventually, using some mindfulness techniques, I managed to calm down—and then proceeded to have the best night’s sleep of my whole damn life.

compulsive insomniaBooks to help you with mindfulness

  • Why Can’t I Meditate? by Nigel Wellings
  • I am here now by The Mindfulness Project

compulsive insomniaOver the next few weeks, I slept like a log every night, and woke up refreshed and energetic. But it didn’t last long. A stressful period at work had me sneaking my phone into bed to send last-minute emails, and once the pattern got offset, I’ve never quite managed to fight the panic feeling successfully enough to do it again. So the frustrating part is that I know I can sleep (not without some difficulty, but within 30–40 minutes of turning off the light), but I just don’t.

Part of this is definitely due to “sleep procrastination”, and the technology addiction that basically all of us are suffering from—but this problem is way older than my iPhone. In fact, my mum tells me that even when I was tiny, I would lie with my eyes wide open—and then complain that I couldn’t sleep. It’s almost like I’m scared of trying to sleep, in case I fail; I all but hold my eyelids open until I fall asleep through sheer exhaustion. Does anyone else get this?

compulsive insomniaSo yeah, I know my sleep hygiene is all wrong. I know I shouldn’t watch TV in bed, or let the dog sleep in my bed, and I definitely shouldn’t have had that glass of wine in bed one time, but I don’t know how not to do those things!


Image: segar bugar/Flickr