5 Awful Side Effects of Insomnia No One Talks About

I have insomnia -- the "I haven't been able to sleep regularly in 25 years" kind. It's extremely hard to talk about, because most people attach the term to any random night that they had trouble sleeping. "Sorry, I'm kind of loopy today. I had insomnia last night." Mara Wilson can back me up when I say that as a disorder progresses, it becomes increasingly harder to not spin kick someone in the throat when they lay claim to it like some twisted badge of honor. For the 1/3 of you who have actual insomnia, maybe you can show this to your friends the next time they treat it like an annoyance rather than the hope-shredding personal hell it is.

#5. "Just Take Some Sleeping Pills!"

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What Normal People Think:

"You can't sleep? Well, there's an easy solution. Just about every store on the planet carries sleep aids -- you don't even need a prescription for them. That's what I do when I'm having a restless night, and it works just fine. Ten bucks: problem solved. You're welcome, pussy."

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"I can't believe I never thought of that! Thank you, Dr. Friend!"

But the Reality Is ...

Sleeping pills don't work. Yes, in some cases they can help, but it's a temporary fix that doesn't last long. Not only does your body eventually build up a tolerance to the medication, but coming off of it can induce even stronger insomnia. It's called the rebound effect, and it's a lot like a playground bully finding your hiding spot, grabbing your underwear, and pulling it around your neck while yelling, "You think you can hide from me?! There is no escape, bitch! I will wedgie your fucking corpse!"

Of course, you could always go the prescription route. What could be safer than medication, closely monitored by a doctor? Not taking any medication at all. According to that link, "Researchers found that people taking prescribed sleep medications were almost five times more likely to die over the 2.5-year study, compared with those who didn't take sleep medication." Given, I don't know the details of the actual deaths. For all we know, those could have been people mainlining Ambien while watching Pink Floyd the Wall.

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"It's like ... the wall wasn't just a physical wall, man. Wild."

But the point is that if you're the one handing out advice to someone who has the disorder, the chances of your "it's obvious to me" solution being 1) something they haven't already tried, or 2) something a doctor hasn't already thought of are pretty close to zero. If the solution were easy, insomnia wouldn't even be a thing. We'd all be sleeping so hard, our beds would have bruises.

#4. "It Could Be Worse. At Least It's Not Life-Threatening."

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What Normal People Think:

"You're going to have to pardon me if I don't burst into tears over your little sleep problem. I've had two back surgeries in the last year as a direct result of carrying around this enormous penis. My wife left me because she couldn't handle the constant orgasms, and every time I get a boner, I have to take emergency blood pressure medication. I've got real problems to worry about. Be happy yours only makes you tired and doesn't present an actual threat to your health."

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"I have to wear chaps now because normal pants can't contain it."

But the Reality Is ...

Even outside of the prescription medication problem I mentioned earlier, insomnia can kill your face right off. Is it likely to kill you? No. Thankfully, the fatal form of the disorder (fatal familial insomnia) is so rare, you have a better chance of Christina Hendricks flashing you multiple times in one day than having it.

The real problem comes from the effects of insomnia. Fatigue and even the medication used to treat it can cause auto accidents. It's closely related to sleep apnea, which in basic terms is your body saying "Fuck breathing!" Unchecked insomnia can turn into sleep deprivation, which carries a pretty large arsenal of ways to kick your ass, including diabetes, stroke, and heart failure.

Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Dude, he finally fell asleep. Leave him alone!"

The heart problem isn't a small one, either. Studies have found that people who don't get sufficient sleep have a 63 percent higher risk for cardiovascular disease than people who do. It makes sense: Your heart is working its ass off all day, and sleep is the only time it gets to slow down and take a break. If it doesn't ever get one, it's eventually going to throw down its time card and walk out, yelling, "Fuck this whole factory! I'll be at the bar if anyone else wants to walk out with me!"

#3. "At Least Treatment Is Awesome."

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What Normal People Think:

"So you get to do a sleep study? Man, that sounds awesome, taking a couple of days off work to do nothing but sleep. I'd give up one of my own children to do that. And then at the end, they hand you a bottle of kickass drugs that knock you on your ass? Jesus, what are you complaining about? They couldn't make that any more awesome without filling the room with hookers and free money."

Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

But the Reality Is ...

A sleep study means you're lying in bed, still not sleeping. Especially since you know you're being monitored (if you're in a lab setting). Most of the time, though, a sleep study is nothing more than going about your daily routine and keeping a "sleep diary," which sounds like it was made up by a 14-year-old girl.

And those kickass drugs? Those are kind of a last resort or emergency effort. Most of the time, insomnia is treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can involve denying you sleep. That's right, the treatment for insomnia is more insomnia. That sounds insane, but it makes sense when you understand the ridiculous cycle that the disorder puts a person in. You may sleep for two hours, and then wake up at 2 a.m. as if you're totally fine. You go about your day until mid-morning, when you find it catching up to you, and now you're as tired at 9 a.m. as most people are at midnight. If you have a normal job, you're just fucked. If you don't have one or you work from home, you can get a nap. Since you can't do that all day, you set your alarm for two hours and lie down. Four hours after that, you're dead tired again. You give in to it because you know you're not going to be able to fall asleep at a normal human time, so you take it when you can get it. Kind of like sex for a single person, only with sleep.

Chris Clinton/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"I've got a king-size bed at home. I'll be back after I go use that for a few hours."

Your body gets used to sleeping in little bursts, and retraining it to not be a sporadic asshole is next to impossible without help. Meanwhile, anyone who knows about your nap schedule is looking at you like you're the laziest piece of shit in the world, and there is no way to make them understand what's actually going on. So instead, all you can do is shout, "Get off my back, Mom! I am an adult! You never loved me!"

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