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Thank You Insomnia – You Were the Wake-Up Call I Needed to Prioritize My Well-Being

I never thought I'd be thanking my insomnia, but here we are.

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Describe to me, dear reader, the ambiance of your mind.

If you could pull back the curtains and unveil the scenery of your thoughts, would they look like?

Illustrated by Kimberly Gedeon

Do you visualize a picturesque and serene flowery field with a gentle breeze? Or, instead, do you envision a hectic, busy office – à la The Wolf of Wall Street – with a slew of workers typing away at their desktop computers and another set of employees shouting on the phone?

Illustrated by Kimberly Gedeon

If the latter description resonated with you the most, let me tell you, I can relate. Take a peek inside my mind, and I am certain you’d step into a frenetic environment that mimics the disorderly backstage of a high-end fashion show. Much like the chaos of a Paris couture event, tasks, demands, worries, anxieties, nerves – and perhaps worst of all – an obsession with ensuring a perfect spectacle, whiz all around my mind like a swarm of angry bees.

And as you could imagine, no one could possibly sleep if there is a boisterous runway show taking place in the forefront of their mind.

Insomnia became a part of my life, and I even welcomed it, because I always thought, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” There’s just too much to do: I’ve got problems to solve, articles to write, ideas to pitch, online businesses to run, blogs to read, bills to pay, family members to worry about, etc.

Five a.m. would roll around, and I’d still be wide-eyed, tapping away on my laptop. I’d receive “good morning” texts from a few friends, and at this point, I’d laugh – they’re getting ready to get up, I’m getting ready to shut down (I’d try to catch a couple of hours of Z’s before I’m jerked back awake by a 9 a.m. alarm).

Unfortunately, you can’t go sleepless for so many nights without suffering the consequences. The thing about insomnia is that no matter how much you may try to keep hush-hush about your one-nighters, your secret will get exposed – through your drained and exhausted appearance.

“Sure, I have a pounding headache and I feel like a spaced-out zombie, but no one will notice – right?” Wrong! Here comes the influx of “Whoa, you look tired” commentary from the peanut gallery. All the concealer in the world couldn’t hide my tell-tale signs of being a chronic insomniac.

Illustrated by Kimberly Gedeon

The deterioration of my appearance isn’t purely a cosmetic problem; it is, at its core, a message from your body saying, “Hey lady! You’re aging faster!” Translation: “Keep this up and you’ll knock some years off your life expectancy.”

According to Medical News Today, a study discovered that persistent insomniacs had a 58% higher chance of dying compared to their well-slept counterparts.

After the third or forth “you look tired,” I decided to work on getting my eight hours of sleep. Admittedly, I was more concerned about losing my “I still get carded” bragging rights over the health consequences of my sleep deprivation, but no matter what impelled me to change my unhealthful sleep habits, I – at least – was determined to make a change.

And then I realized another haunting aspect of insomnia – this time, I actually wanted to sleep (I wasn’t pulling one-nighters and forcing my droopy eyelids open), but still, my body refused to melt into dreamland and re-zap the youthful, well-slept visage back into my appearance.

I tossed and turned to see if it was my sleeping position. I changed my pillows, opting for a fluffier alternative. I silenced my phone from app and text notifications. I drank chamomile tea. Nothing worked. I couldn’t sleep. Until finally, I realized the culprit:

My mind, I discovered, was just too chaotic.

My heart and soul wanted to sleep – oh, so desperately – but my thoughts were bouncing off my cranial walls like ping-pong balls: “What should my next article be about? How come sales weren’t so great this week? Is my dad doing OK after his surgery? Will I be able to pay my student loans this month? How can I reduce my medical bills?”

It was in that moment I finally understood the significance of meditation, the practice of turning off your mind and being present in the moment, which I once dismissed as a time-wasting trend of sitting Indian-style and spewing out meaningless “oms.” The cause of my insomnia was due to me being in “the future” – my mind was constantly on overdrive and consumed by how I could ensure the future rolls out the red carpet of “ease” for me.

I was never in the now, where the only thought that should cross my mind is “sleep.”

I do, of course, contribute to Thrive Global, which is an online treasure chest of golden information on wellness. After a few searches on the site, I stumbled onto this helpful Thrive Global Facebook video called “Meditation for Beginners,” which steered me toward helpful apps such as “Head Space.”

There are plenty of articles on the topic of meditation, but the most helpful was this one: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. The tip in this piece that helped to tame my wild mind was choosing a mantra to help calm my thoughts. Many people choose “om,” but I chose “Chipotle” – hey, what can I say? The thought of delicious burritos relaxes me.

I am thrilled to say that sleepless nights no longer pervade my life. I feel rejuvenated and refreshed with eight hours of sleep under my belt. Truthfully, I’m no meditation master – I’ve been drifting off to sleep in a cloud of fast-food tacos before I could maintain a state of “thoughtlessness.”

But that was the point anyway, right? To sleep!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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