Fighting insomnia column art

(Gabriela Vega / Daily Titan)

The unhealthy cycles of overthinking make their way into my sleep schedule, and figuring out how to sleep soundly seems impossible. When sleep finally washes over me, waking up in the morning is an even harder task. 

Poor sleep from the night before often translates to a difficult morning after, affecting my performance in school and work. From not being able to pay attention during a lecture or forgetting to complete responsibilities at work, bad sleep takes a great toll on me.

Sometimes four hours of sleep cannot sustain me throughout the day so I take a midday nap, which furthers my toxic sleep cycle. 

Let’s confront the harsh reality of insomnia. Anxiety and depression in college students have reached higher levels than ever before, according to a mental health survey conducted by the University of Michigan. In the survey, 47% of participants screened positive for clinical symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

Living with the gnawing fear of anxiety and the drowning pull of depression are some culprits of stealing the sleep we all need and deserve. Most nights, I struggle with my anxious thoughts and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I often try to wind down my nights at 11 p.m. as I make the last changes to my homework, close my laptop, brush my teeth and hop into bed. 

Scrolling through TikTok and Instagram subject me to a digital abyss; it’s now 1:30 a.m., and I need to regroup, turn off the phone, turn off the night light and really try to sleep. 

The ceiling is so black and blank, the perfect empty canvas for splashes of overthinking. Did I turn in the chapter quiz that’s due tomorrow? Am I going to get food before or after class? Wait — how come the friend from class never called? Phone calls — right. I have to call the dentist tomorrow and reschedule. Man, my throat is kind of dry, is it worth it to get up and grab a cup of water? Do I have to pee again? Why is my heart beating so fast and loud?

And now it’s 3:30 a.m. 

This toxic sleep cycle can possibly be remedied by an expensive therapist or a spiritual retreat is the best solution, but as a college student on a schedule and budget that’s not a viable option. 

We all try our best to cope with these mental illnesses through wholesome means such as exercise, meditation, journaling and other healthy life habits. However, everyone’s holistic journey to bettering their mental health differs greatly from one another. 

Besides trying to fix my overall mental health — a difficult journey as a college student with a multitude of stressors — I’ve tried more localized approaches to fall asleep. Reading a book before bed, turning off my phone, listening to sleep meditation tracks and planning the next day out in my head are some of the methods I use to calm my late-night anxieties. 

Of course, these quick methods aren’t an exact science, and the restless hours staring at the ceiling still hold me hostage. I often wonder when I’ll be able to fall asleep effortlessly again. 

The struggle of sleep is a personal issue that has close ties with stress and mental illnesses, and dealing with the root is still something I am figuring out.

For now, trying to make a consistent night time routine with calming elements and trying not to overstimulate my brain right before bedtime will be the majority of my efforts.

I know that sleep is a struggle for many students, overthinking and fake scenarios are coping mechanisms, and that 3 a.m. is the only time we have for ourselves to dwell, the only solace I can give is that you’re not alone.

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