Inability to sleep is destroying my life

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had great difficulty getting regular sleep. Poor sleep has kind of been the lifelong bane of my existence, hindering my academic performance in the past, and my work performance now.

When I am rested, I am actually a very high functioning, productive person. But I only ever experience that state of being for short bursts, maybe three days at a time if I’m very lucky. Normally I’m a bag-eyed wreck.

I’m fortunate that my profession allows me to work from home, which I end up doing very frequently so as not to embarrass myself in the office, but there have been times where I have been under pressure and had to push through the sleepiness. Some of those periods have put me into a truly terrible mental state.

I’ve tried every conceivable remedy to solve the problem. Cool room, dark room, ear plugs, special pillows, no coffee, exercise, no food before bed, no shower before bed, no blue light before bed, melatonin, reading before bed, sleeping pills. Even popping two Ambiens when I absolutely have to sleep will not always do the trick. I’ve actually had a no sleeper after taking two of those. I simply cannot shut my mind off.

The thing that’s so maddening about this is that it’s such a simple problem. I don’t have a physical or mental disability. I’m not crazy. I’ve managed to build a very decent life for myself. But I’m fucking miserable. Every day is a slog. I have to hide how shitty I feel constantly, and it’s actually getting to the point where I’m becoming depressed about it. I feel hopeless that I’ll ever achieve any kind of balance in my life. I’ll always be fighting tooth and nail to make it through the next week.

I was exactly the same way. My mom said even as a baby I didn’t sleep much. I am always more tired than other people in general. I started going to drs and even had a sleep study. I have lower lvls of rem sleep when I do sleep and sleep was always hard. I’m not one of those people who can just chug energy drinks and power through. When I dont sleep I can’t think/focus at all. I finally got on some sleep meds and that is not an issue anymore. You should try to see if you could benefit from it. Most drs are hesitant to get someone dependent on them at first but after finding a good Dr who appreciated the effect insomnia was having on my life, and understood it’s not just stress or lack of exercise, everything has gotten so much better. You should try seeking help.

Hey Lane,

I’m really sorry to hear that you’re going through that. It can really be maddening and frustrating to not be able to sleep. It seems like such an effortless, basically human thing for people, and to not be able to do that; and not even be able to attack the problem; can be super hard.

Someone I know went through very similar circumstances, and since she was a child, she’d have a hard time getting to sleep. For her, it was definitely a slow, gradual process. There was no on/off switch, no day when she could say, “oh, I figured it out!” But she stuck with it and tried a lot of the things you’ve tried, and after about two years of working on it, things are a LOT better.

I only say that because we tried a lot of the things you tried looking for instant results, when in reality, it was a lot of small things that contributed. I think it’s a lot about feeling relaxed and feeling at peace with your sleeping, and that takes a long time to achieve when you’re so anxious and worried about it.

The one type of thing that I don’t see you’ve mentioned here is meditation. I would highly recommend it. I know it can sound weird, but learning to quiet your mind, quiet your breathing, and really take your whole system down a few notches is a skill you’ll learn in meditation that really, directly correlates to sleeping. If you can’t quiet your brain, it might be a good first step towards making progress in that area.

I hope you find some relief.


You say you have done exercise, how much exactly? On a day off work try standing up for most of the day and go for a long walk. I’m betting you will sleep much better that night. Of course im not saying you can do that everyday.