The Night That Never Sleeps: A Personal Essay on Insomnia

Night occupies a profoundly significant aspect of our existence, and we strive to establish harmony with it, negotiate, even capitulate, and yearn for its embrace. Yet, it possesses an obstinate temperament, frequently arrogantly disregarding us, leaving us stranded on the road. There exist individuals who, on desolate highways at night, have succumbed to breakdowns, standing helplessly betwixt heaven and earth, devoid of solace or refuge.

The clock strikes three in the morning, and still, numerous souls meander within the nocturnal realm of social connections. Having risen from my slumber, sleep’s carriage abruptly veered off course, leaving me unable to rediscover the path I once tread. Consequently, I leaned against the bed’s edge, delving into WeChat, allowing my thoughts to drift with the undulating waves, yearning to meld with the nocturne.

A friend left a message in my social circle: Women ought not to indulge in late nights.

Although WeChat harbors the night, it thrives even amid desolation. Countless spirits convene upon this palm-sized mobile screen, heedless of night’s existence.

Many individuals persist in staying awake into the late hours, their varied states of being displayed within the social circle, their formidable souls crawling across the luminous screen. The phrase “staying up late” has become trite. In the realm of the screen, the distinction between day and night is scarcely discernible. Moreover, the fortress known as a “city” already assumes the role of a ceaselessly vigilant metropolis, ablaze day and night, like an everlasting castle.

Yet, I am one who never indulges in nocturnal wakefulness. If I find myself unable to slumber, it is not a consequence of staying up late; instead, the night detains me.

Night clings to me, lifting me with its somber veil. I tally the seconds, the minutes, the hours, and the sheep… After counting the sheep, I traverse the sheepfold once more, endlessly circling, while the night endures. Time persists, yet we cannot sink into its stygian abyss. What sort of monster is this? In its presence, I yearn to be consumed, only to be cast out of the tent.

As certain sounds assail my ears once more, I ponder which creatures, be they of the animal kingdom or human realm, awaken during these early morning hours…

In contemporary times, the nocturnal behemoth bears an ostentatious title: insomnia.

I recollect a program aired on CCTV many years ago, wherein the problem of insomnia was discussed. The host, himself a long-suffering insomniac, interviewed guests, which resonated deeply with me. Only those who endure the tribulations of insomnia can comprehend its hardships. Rather than relying on professional theories that offer trite advice, such as “don’t overthink” or “follow theoretical guidance to facilitate sleep”…

The host remarked during the program: “One of the most exasperating phrases is ‘don’t overthink!’ Doctors and countless friends have offered this advice throughout the years.”

Before the television screen, I, too, was tormented by insomnia, embroiled in an enduring struggle with the night. The individuals present at the scene exclaimed, “We never overthought!” I, too, uttered those words through the screen. Shared experiences and anguish collided within that space. The genuine sentiment lies in our arduous attempts to cease our ruminations—each place our thoughts alight trembles at any moment, jolting our senses.

Meanwhile, the world remains silent, denying us peaceful slumber.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (calculated in 2019), the global prevalence of sleep disorders reaches a staggering 27%, with insomniacs constituting 27% of the population. China surpasses this rate by a significant margin. Over 300 million Chinese individuals suffer from sleep disorders, with a prevalence rate of insomnia in adults reaching 38.2%.

The “affliction” of insomnia has plagued me for two or three decades. During the long nights, my soul plunges into the elixir of wakefulness, while my body remains imprisoned within the tent of night. My body yearns for sleep, yet my soul cannot close its eyes.

Since the birth of my child, I have been severely deprived of sleep. Since then, I have not experienced a restful night’s slumber—only three or four uninterrupted hours of sleep. Night after night, my child is deprived of tranquility and serenity, waking up with alarming frequency, every two hours. This pattern persisted throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence, rendering sleep deprivation a constant companion. Initially, when weariness overcame me, I would rouse myself to tend to the child’s cries, ensuring she was well-fed and settled before I could lie down. Little did I know that a cycle of reincarnation awaited.

In this tremulous night (wherein any movementor sound could awaken the child), I have become deeply acquainted with night and its capricious nature. I have witnessed the arrival of dawn countless times, my eyes heavy with exhaustion, longing for a respite that seems forever out of reach.

But despite the weariness that accompanies insomnia, there is a certain allure to the night. It possesses a silence and stillness that is unparalleled during the day. It allows for introspection and contemplation, a time for the mind to roam freely and explore the depths of one’s thoughts. In the darkness, ideas take shape, creativity flourishes, and the world feels both mysterious and full of possibility.

However, there is a fine line between embracing the night’s allure and succumbing to its grasp. Chronic insomnia inflicts a heavy toll on one’s physical and mental well-being. The constant fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and mood disturbances can significantly impact daily life and overall quality of life. It is a battle fought night after night, with the hope that sleep will eventually come, bringing with it a reprieve from the relentless exhaustion.

There are various strategies and treatments available to manage insomnia, ranging from lifestyle changes to medications and therapy. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and practicing relaxation techniques can all be helpful in promoting better sleep. Seeking professional help from a healthcare provider or sleep specialist is also advisable for those struggling with chronic insomnia.

As the night wears on, I find solace in knowing that I am not alone in this nocturnal struggle. Countless others share the experience of insomnia, each with their own unique story to tell. Together, we navigate the realm of night, seeking moments of respite and the elusive embrace of a restful slumber.

So, as the night persists and the stars continue to shine, I embrace the nocturnal world with a mixture of resignation and hope. Somewhere in the darkness, sleep awaits, and I will continue to strive for its elusive embrace, knowing that each new day brings with it the possibility of a better night’s rest.

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