Managing insomnia can be an incredibly frustrating, tiresome, and lonely journey. You’ve tried everything, yet you still lie awake at night unable to shut off and get to sleep. Your partner, family, or friends don’t understand why you can’t just go to sleep. Maybe you can’t either.
With 1 in 4 Americans tossing and turning each night, the insomnia struggle is real. While it seems isolating, there’s no reason to feel alone. In fact, insomnia is a common condition that has greatly affected many people throughout history, including artists (like Dali), writers (like Dickens and Kafka), celebrities (like Madonna and Cary Grant), and even world leaders (like Napoleon Bonaparte).
One of the best ways to overcome the isolation of living with insomnia is to reach out to others who share your experience. Support groups and helpful friends can make a big difference, but sometimes diving into a book can be just as comforting. Here, we’d like to share a few of our favorite books that shed a light on what it’s really like to live with insomnia – as well as a couple fiction favorites.
The Shapeless Unease By Samantha Harvey
The Shapeless Unease is a new memoir (released January 2020) that chronicles a year in the life of an insomniac. Harvey guides us through her year of sleepless nights and everything else that enters her mind and world in that time. She views sleep as a lens, a filter through which you see, do, and think. Sleep is not always the subject of her musings, but her insomnia shapes her thoughts, feelings, and actions.
With a stream of consciousness style, The Shapeless Unease captures an idea of how the mind of an insomniac works. Without enough sleep, we can’t focus or stay on task. This loosely bound style recreates the experience of living with insomnia in a way that many readers may relate to. This leads us down a path not so focused on sleep (or lack of sleep) but of the thoughts, memories, and ideas that enter our minds when we’re left awake.
Throughout the book, Harvey dives into topics seemingly unrelated from sleep and insomnia – at first glance. She covers her thoughts on politics and philosophy, writing and identity, relationships and death. These are the very things that so often keep us up at night. Harvey’s shows how our perception of them changes over the course of a sleepless, uneasy year.
She also discusses a condition that is so closely tied to insomnia: anxiety. Like insomnia, anxiety tends to get worse the more we try to control and fix it. We fight to make it better, only to stoke the fire. In all, The Shapeless Unease is an authentic account of one woman’s struggle to find meaning and understanding of our modern world, fueled by the wonder and despair of a sleepless mind.
Insomnia By Marina Benjamin
Many insomniacs or troubled sleepers will find solace in a kindred spirit like Marina Benjamin. In her 2018 novel Insomnia, Benjamin takes a good look at her personal experience with insomnia and decides to use it as a creative vessel.
Insomnia is a sister-book to Benjamin’s previous memoir, Middlepause, which gives a realistic portrayal of her journey through menopause. Insomnia is commonly associated with menopause as hormones fluctuate and our body rhythms change. As with her memoir on menopause, Benjamin provides a realistic account of living with insomnia that will all-too-easily resonate with other insomniacs. She recounts “shotgun awakenings” and “gnawing thoughts” while affectionately referring to her sleep-easy husband as “Zzz.”
Benjamin’s account of living with insomnia is likely to strike a chord with other poor sleepers and, if anything, leave you feeling heard, validated, and not so alone. Unlike the myriad insomnia self-help books offering solutions, quick tips, or diet fads, Insomnia stops trying to fix the issues and takes a new perspective. Could insomnia be a creative outlet? Could wakefulness be useful – albeit exasperating?
Sleep Donation By Karen Russell
Have your sleepless nights put you in the mood for something...dystopian? In Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation we find out what might happen if sleep were a commodity - sold both in blood-donor-esque sleeping vans and on the black market. With a major insomnia crisis ruining lives (and killing victims) throughout the United States, an opportunistic company starts transferring sleep from willing donors to insomniacs. Sleep donation sounds like a great idea until a nightmarish strain of sleep starts to infect victims. The only hope is one perfect donor: the very special infant, Baby A.
Russell shows us through ethical dilemmas and societal commentary what might happen in our precious, life-giving sleep were to fade for the masses. We love the book, but let’s hope it stays thrilling fiction and get some rest?
Sleep By C.L. Taylor
If you’re looking for a fast-paced fictional story that speaks to the struggles of insomnia, consider Sleep by CL Taylor. In this psychological thriller, a woman struggling with insomnia takes a job at a small island hotel off the coast of Scotland. When seven guests join her on the island, things take a turn for the worst. This is a suspenseful, edgy read that might keep you up at night turning the pages, so best to save it for daytime!
Insomnia By Stephen King
Stephen King’s 1994 thriller Insomnia dives into the breakdown of the psyche and the troubled mind of one insomniac, Ralph Roberts. Visions and hallucinations start to catch his eye, night after night of agonizing wakefulness. But is it the sleep deprivation that’s causing the visions or something else? Like Sleep, this one is a stimulating page-turner with heavy insomnia themes, so don’t plan on reading it in bed!
Our mission at Bearaby is to make sleepless nights a thing of the past by helping people find real rest, naturally. Insomnia is a complicated and individual condition, and there’s no single cure for everyone who’s dealing with sleeplessness. We hope that through health, wellness, and the power of community, those who struggle to drift into sleep can finally find peace with more restful nights.
Weighted blankets are our small contribution to the world of sleep and mental health. We know the power of a good night’s sleep, and our blankets can help make this a dream come true for many. If you suffer from insomnia or frequent restless nights, a weighted blanket can help to calm a racing, anxious mind and ease you into a peaceful sleep. We’ll see you in dreamland!
Best Books About Insomnia
Here, we’d like to share a few of our favorite books that shed a light on what it’s really like to live with insomnia
Insomnia can feel isolating. Reach out to an understanding friend, a support group, or open a book! For realistic accounts of living with insomnia, try Samantha Harvey’s The Shapeless Uneasy or Marina Benjamin’s Insomnia.
If you want to indulge in suspenseful sleepless thrillers, crack open Insomnia by Stephen King, Sleep Donation by Karen Russel, or Sleep by CL Waters.
A Bearaby weighted blanket might make your insomnia journey more enjoyable by squashing anxious thoughts and helping you fall asleep faster.
Did you know?
Reading at night helps us fall asleep because of the strain it can put on your eyes. As your eyes tire, the natural desire is to shut and rest!