Wednesday 31 August 2005

"An inability to sleep"

With those four simple words is how the always-excellent WordWeb describes insomnia, and you certainly couldn't argue with the accuracy of the definition. It's just that somehow that brief, almost dismissive description hardly seems to do insomnia justice. This is, after all, a "condition" (or, as I prefer to think of it, "experience", since conditions quite often have cures) that can have a phenomenal and debilitating affect on a sufferer. And yes, I am on the kind of bad run at the moment where three hours sleep is considered a very good night.

Don't worry, I'm not going to drone on about all the obvious problems of insomnia: lethargy, irritability, sallow eyes, stifled yawns, the loneliness of 4am... and oh, did I mention the lethargy? STOP!!! I said I wouldn't drone on. After all, I am resigned to how insomnia affects me, and am truly grateful that I can go weeks or sometimes even months without a problem. What riles me though, particularly when (as now) I am having a prolonged period of "an inability to sleep", is other people's reaction. As you might imagine, the insomniac is familiar with a lot of trite responses, from "have you tried counting sheep?" and "just close your eyes and try to relax" right the way through to "you're not switching off your mind properly" (yes, really) and "I've got one of those airline eye-masks you can try if it helps". Yes, so have I. I've got a whole drawer of the sodding things, none of which helps in the slightest. But it's not the trite responses that rankle either - however inane, such comments are only meant to help.

What really rattles my chain is those people who feel they have to jump on the bandwagon, and regale you with tales of their "bad night". Night! Singular! And "bad" as in "I went to bed at two o'clock and had to be up again at 7.30." And as if that wasn't bad enough, such people often feel the need to say something along the lines of "I haven't been sleeping very well lately..." and then just let their voice tail off, as if this allusion to insomnia somehow makes them interesting or mysterious. Or, as is the case with one of my colleagues who is about as much an insomniac as I am the Prime Minister, some feel that a claim of insomnia gives them an excuse for being irritable, stroppy and unfocused at work. The aforementioned colleague also plays the insomnia card because he associates it with eccentricity and genius, and that is how he is desperate to be perceived.

Sigh. It's 4am. I would say "I'm off to get some sleep" but instead I'll just say that I'm going back to bed. Good night all.

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