This Is What It's Like To Be A Teenage Insomniac

It’s a constant, futile war between my eyes and my mind each time my head hits the pillow.

My eyes hurt.

I try to squeeze them shut tighter and for a longer period of time, but there’s still a slight sting dancing around my eyelids. Maybe that’s why my head hurts a bit, too. But every single time I calm myself down for a brief moment, long enough for my mind to toy with the idea of turning off, my body doesn’t like the position it is in. Soon, I’m tossing onto my other side, which relieves me a little, but my mind’s wide awake again.

It’s almost 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday night -- well, Monday morning, now -- and there’s school tomorrow. I’ll have to be up at the crack of dawn -- 6:30 a.m. -- and out of the house before 7:20 to beat the morning rush-hour traffic to make it to school by eight. I won’t be able to come home until 3:30, but I’ll allow myself a little nap before I start doing my homework and whatever else I’ll be nagged to do.

My subconscious knows I’m only lying to myself, as I pull out my charging cell phone for relief, but that’s a problem to deal with tomorrow.

It’s the same cycle every time. It’s a constant, futile war between my eyes and my mind each time my head hits the pillow. No matter how early I tuck myself in for the night, no matter how busy and stressful my day was, my devious mind wins every time.

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder, characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. There are two types: acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term). I’ve had trouble falling asleep for as long as I can remember. It started way before the age of cell phones and electronic media, way back when we didn’t have iPhones or tablet computers glued to our hands. My mind always fought me when it was bedtime, so I would stare out my window at the night sky, pretending I could see the stars.

Some nights, my mind plagues me with empty thoughts. There’s nothing I need to be thinking about at this late hour, but suddenly I start fretting about what I want to be when I grow up or what’s going to happen on the next episode of my favorite TV show. That’s where the tangents start. First, I’m thinking the latest plot twist on Teen Wolf, but then 10 minutes later, I’m caught wondering about the logistics of wearing high heels at a crime or battle scene. That’s got to hurt after awhile, right? But wouldn’t they be practical weapons, of sorts? Like, you could kick someone real hard with those pointed blades at the end of your shoes and they’d be immobilized.

It’s a little unnerving to realize how many mental two-sided conversations I have with myself while my eyes are fruitlessly trying to lull me into a deep slumber. However, there are nights when my mind chooses to recount every single mortifying moment and awkward encounter I have ever lived through. Those are the nights when attempting any kind of repose becomes utterly useless and I seek solace in the harsh, bright LCD screen of my phone. Those are also the nights 11:26 p.m. turns into 1:34 a.m. in the blink of an eye.

Social media is the devil in disguise. It offers you every sweet benefit life has to offer -- entertainment, comedic relief, companionship, and aid -- all at your nimble fingertips. But it’s the reason why time flashes by so quickly and suddenly the charcoal sky is turning navy blue.

There’s a misconception about the relationship between teenagers and social media. Many adults believe it to be interdependent; their adolescents cannot live without Twitter or Facebook and are thus not dealing with a real problem. It’s their fault they can’t fall asleep at night, it’s their fault they have such trouble waking up in the morning. I used to think that way, too. It’s a blanket statement to assume teenagers can’t sleep because of the rise of social media. While social media has been attributed to some cases of insomnia, there are people -- such as me -- who have been dealing with the sleeping disorder way before it became a phenomenon.

I used to let myself think that I couldn’t sleep because of my need for Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. I was a social media addict; I was the problem. I thought I should feel guilty every time I heard my parents’ footsteps coming down the hall to my bedroom and quickly stuffed my phone underneath my covers, lightly snoring as a pretense.

So as an experiment, I decided to put my phone on the opposite side of my room and try to go to sleep without it. Reading books always keeps me up just as late as my cell phone does, so I didn’t even bother with that. I tried meditation, but my mind didn’t empty itself into a blank canvas; it just continued the tradition of bringing back every dark memory I have tried to hide. I thought about staring out the window again, like I used to when I was young, but I only continued talking to myself again. I didn’t even last the first night before bringing my phone back to bed with me. Because even though social media and the Internet are definitely not making me fall asleep any faster, at least I’m falling asleep. My eyes become too weary of the bright light burning into my retinas, finally overpowering my mind into resignation.

There is no cure for chronic insomnia. WebMD suggests treating the underlying conditions and health problems that are causing the insomnia, while many of us would rather down a “non-habit forming” sleeping pill and call it a night. There are methods to forming good sleeping habits that might beat insomnia, but personally, my mind is too cunning to be fooled by avoidance of caffeine, regular exercise, and a bedroom only used for sleep.

It’s hard in this day and age, as an 18-year-old, to say out loud, “I’m an insomniac," because the immediate response tends to be, “No, you’re addicted to your phone.”

“Well, yes, that’s true, but I’m addicted to my phone because I’m an insomniac, you see?”

“Just put away your phone at night so you don’t have access to it.”

This time, my eyes hurt because I'm rolling them too hard.

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