The Misery of Sleep Loss

Ugh, that feeling. After I told myself so many times, never again. But here I am.

The pins and needles jabbing through my skin. The alternating hot flashes and cold shivers. And most of all, the thick, blurry dullness in my brain.

My body feels heavy, prickly, when I try to force myself out of bed. Biting little worms crawl through my muscles and skin. I don’t care about the day ahead. I only want to avoid this pain, and moving is pain, thinking is pain.

My head throbs, my stomach turns, as I drag myself through getting dressed. There’s an unreality to the world as I leave for work. Then on the way, fear grips me. My skills and talents, my contributions, they don’t inspire me, they terrify me. Moving and doing seem so far above me, when all I want to do is crawl back under the covers. And the terror makes me feel ashamed.

Through the day, I watch myself struggle helplessly, detached like a researcher watching a lab rat. I hear myself grope for words. I stutter and stammer when talking to a colleague. I make numerous tiny mistakes and social gaffes, and a few big ones. Sometimes I flash on them later, sometimes I watch them happen; but no matter what I do, it feels like some mysterious force is driving my actions, while I just watch.

As the day wears on, I seem to perk up, but the bumbling continues. Five minute tasks stretch out to a quarter of an hour. My head is still throbbing at a low level. I discipline myself not to lash out at people. My back itches. My clothes and shoes cut into my flesh. I grind my teeth.

And there’s the eating. I may be hungry, or my stomach may even be cramping a little; but I mechanically grab junk food and sweets because it’s too much effort to do otherwise. It’s gone in a flash, and my stomach and my self esteem ache for it. Still, I want more, because the endorphins from eating mask the throbbing, the pins and needles, and the shame.

I dream about bed all day. But come evening, I should be glad it’s almost time to go back, but instead I stay up late again. I freeze, because I’m too exhausted to finish my chores and prepare for bed. And so the cycle continues.

Next week, I’ll post an exercise for getting to bed earlier, and breaking the cycle. Until then, make a list of the times and circumstances when you procrastinate on getting your sleep, and what you’re thinking and feeling when you do. Notice how those situations and justifications seems more real to you in the moment than your desire to sleep.


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