I actually wrote most of this a few nights ago when I was unable to sleep (shock, I know). The nearly exclusive reason for my occasional insomnia is that my brain is not ready to let me sleep, despite the rest of my body eagerly waiting rest. So there I was, not sleeping, when I realized over the last hour or so I had transitioned through several “phases.” Thinking back on those “phases,” I realized they were noticeably similar to the infamous Five Stages of Grief. Coincidence or not, I had to document my observations.
Stage 1: Denial
The denial stage is not so much about denying you are unable to obtain sleep. Instead, it occurs prior to the lack of obtaining sleep; specifically, when you decide to go to bed for various reasons other than you are literally falling asleep. Perhaps you have to be up earlier than normal the following day, or maybe it is fast approaching 2:15 AM and society tells us that we should be asleep at this time (unless you work a night shift, or you play video games). Regardless of the reason you decide to go to bed, it is not a good enough reason. This is denial, as it relates to insomnia.
Stage 2: Anger
At this point you are lying in your bed (or hanging from the rafters if conventional beds are too cliché for you). You realize you are not sleeping, primarily because you are able to realize you are not sleeping. A few minutes later you grumpily change your position in bed (or face a new wall, for you rafter-dwellers). The anger is slowly building inside you; a few more useless sleeping position adjustments and you may as well be a Sith apprentice.
“Come on,” you angrily think to yourself. “I need to be up in 4 hours. At this rate I will be lucky if I get a solid 3 hours of sleep.” Your anger has caused you to preclude the possibility of falling asleep this very instant, and instead have made the assumption that your lack of rest will continue for a while longer, but hopefully not more than another 60 minutes.
Eventually the anger passes, but you are still left awake.
Stage 3: Bargaining
It’s time to get smart about this. “Being upset about this won’t solve anything; I need to <insert any sports analogy or common “manager” phrase> so I can get to sleep.” So you start bargaining with your brain; after all, even if you have nothing substantial to offer your brain, it may just take pity on you and let you sleep. So you start simple: “If you let me sleep soon, I promise to go to bed at a regular time every night. That way it will become routine for you.” A few minutes pass, and
that asshole your brain is still thinking.
“Surely I can do better than that, ” you think, scrambling for something brains want even more than zombies. “I know! I will read more books, and they won’t all be from the juvenile fiction (a.k.a. young-adults literature) section! I probably don’t utilize you as well or as often as I should, but reading books should change that.” So now you are thinking about what books you could be reading to uphold your end of the ingenious bargain you just struck with your own mind. You even briefly recall some of the good books you have read throughout your life; just when you seem to be drifting off to Slumberland, your brain cruelly reminds you that you are still awake.
“I swear to all things holy, if you let me sleep now I will drown you with all the caffeine I can afford for the rest of the week! We probably won’t sleep for days, and you will be able to think about EVERYTHING imaginable!” Alas, even promises of gratuitous amounts of chemical energy are not enough for you to achieve sleep.
Stage 4: Depression
At this point, you become overwhelmed with sadness. Even if you manage to fall asleep within the next few minutes, you won’t even get half of your normal night’s rest. You are going to be worthless tomorrow morning, and probably well into the afternoon. You will want to go to bed at 8:00 PM, which ruins your entire evening, and, to top it all off, this same **** thing will probably happen the following night due to your early bedtime!
“This is terrible! I just want sleep. It’s free and awesome and healthy and it is even supposed to be effortless.” Thankfully, the depression stage typically passes the quickest, primarily because your brain hates being depressed. It is a total buzz kill, which, as it turns out, is exactly what was needed for your brain to finally submit to sleep.
Stage 5: Acceptance
“Finally! We are on the verge sleep!” Indeed you are. Having weathered through 4 unforgiving stages, you are finally ready to accept the fact that you probably aren’t going to get any sleep whatsoever tonight. So you might as well be productive and write a new post for your blog, or check all 18 social networks you are registered on. Maybe you even watch some late night programming and buy some things that look totally awesome at 3:30 in the morning.
“This is nice, actually, ” you peacefully say out loud. “I can get so much done now that my day is starting almost 3 hours early.”
BEEP BEEP BEEP. That’s the alarm, alerting you that the day has begun.