Friday, December 2, 2011

Insomnia... the backstage.

It's 4:35... am...

I'm quietly staring at the ceiling, I've been doing so for almost 4 freakin' hours. I almost ran out of stuff to think about, I've already played and replayed the past week and yesterday about three times each in my mind. I last slept on Wednesday (and now it's Saturday, and by the looks of it, it's also the peak of this cycle - a thing I'll explain later), and I haven't lost consciousness ever since, so memories from all the days started blending in. I can't tell Thursday from Friday any more, I have to stop and really think hard. And I feel like it doesn't all fit in my head, it's just like I need a fresh start, but I can't fall asleep.

I'm too tired to think about algorithms and maths, way way too tired to think about the design of that new thing I'm working on... I feel that my brain is slowly caving in.

I look out the window, it's still very dark outside but I know it'll be cracking dawn in a few hours. That's when it's worst, at the dawn. When you see the sky turn red, the pink, then pale blue, that's when you break down emotionally. You feel like stuffing your face in the pillow and screaming for all the fatigue that has been building up within you. But you can't... you're too tired. It works much like a deadlock.

And then I get up from the bed, wander around the room a few times, watch a stupid cartoon or read the news, perhaps WikiPedia, have a glass of water, reply to a few emails, listen to some music. Reading is what I've come to enjoy most during these times. As for sleeping, it's pointless, I surrendered. I'm not going to fall asleep tonight.

And then comes the sunrise, and I start seeing light around the room. It always seemed to me that light has a strange colour when you haven't slept in a few days, it catches on an orange tint that I can't explain. It's like having coloured sunglasses. I don't always notice, but when I do, I don't freak out any more. Another cool thing that comes with it is that you start noticing light artefacts a lot better, you become sensitised to shiny objects and light sources.

About half an hour after my eyes get accustomed to the light, all the fatigue sensation suddenly disappears. It's like I hit rock bottom, and bounced back up. But I don't let myself fooled, I've come to know exactly how this works. I only feel normal, but on the inside, I'm still tired and slow. It shows when I code or do mathematics.

So here we go... the third consecutive day of "today". If I've kept my logs correctly, I'll start sleeping well again in about 2 weeks.

That's because my insomnia happens in cycles. There's a about three weeks or so of normal, healthy sleeping. By healthy, I mean that your short term memories of the day before are lost during sleep and you truly wake up to a new day.

Then, one night you start dreaming, and the dreams progress daily until you are under the impression that that's all you do, dream all night long. It leaves you tired in the morning, but at least you only remember the dreams of the night before, and the day is still sort-of fresh. I've come to learn that sleep actually becomes shallower, and in fact your dreams are much closer to the waking state. That's why you remember everything.

And then about a few days in, you start waking up between your dreams. That's because your sleep has eroded away to the point where you can't maintain deep sleep any more. You just dream and wake back up.

Then the dreams slowly subside altogether (your sleep is so shallow you never get to that point) and you stop losing memory of the day before. That's the beginning of the last phase: full blown insomnia. This may last from a few days, to whole weeks (my worst was in the spring of 2008), and it destroys your self esteem and your mental health.

Then, as that phase is running out, I start falling asleep uncontrollably. In fact, I can't even wake up any more, it's simply beyond my control. This gradually subsides over two weeks, and eventually I come to realise I've survived yet another insomnia episode.

So, buckle up for the next one, ever since I hit 12, it ALWAYS comes back.

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