Why Twitter can be the best thing around for insomniacs

Twitter would have been a great thing for me to have as a little kid, when I had terrible insomnia and always felt like the worst child in the world for being unable to get some shut eye like everyone else my age. I was always the last to fall asleep at sleepovers, and this would inevitably bring me to tears. When I stayed at my Boston uncle’s house in first grade, I stared at the closet for seven hours straight, thinking about God knows what. The sky would lighten and I’d begin to panic, realizing that I’d gone the entire night without sleeping, unlike everyone else in the house. I was concerned my bad habit would trickle into my academic performance and ultimately prevent me from ever achieving much.

My mom has several different theories on why I could go night after night without sleeping during my early years: I wasn’t worn out, I couldn’t stop thinking, I had really bad anxiety, etc. The end result, she said, is that I’m still trying to make up for all the rest I missed out on those years, and that’s why I often choose sleep over food. I think she’s right, only I couldn’t fall asleep until 5 a.m. last night (or technically this morning).

Yesterday, I made the mistake of staying in and watching horror flicks for hours on end. I saw “Jennifer’s Body,” which is more funny than it is scary, but creepy nonetheless, so I slept restlessly until my roommate came home at 3:30. We chatted for a bit but even after she retreated to her room, I tossed and turned for an hour. Finally, I read Us Weekly to calm down, and boy, did Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds do the trick for me:

Before that, I finished up an article I’d been meaning to write and took to Twitter, where I vented about my sleeping troubles. My favorite thing about Twitter is that it’s always busy. You can complain of insomnia and learn within seconds that you’re not the only one awake or incapable of relaxing enough to snooze. It didn’t take long for a couple of other people to send their support my way and admit that they, too, have trouble checking out at night. It was strangely comforting to discuss something so personal on the Internet, and I even laughed when one individual messaged me to say, “If all else fails, jerk off. That’ll get you tired.” I giggled but knew such an act would do anything but quiet my thoughts. Nevertheless, I eventually fell asleep, and I know it’s partially thanks to my Twitter friends who assured me I was far from alone.

It’s just such a shame that Twitter wasn’t around during elementary school. I go through periods of terrible, relationship-shattering anxiety, and believe it or not, I went through it in fifth grade, even though 10-year-olds have little beyond the realm of schoolyard bullies to worry about. I used to constantly worry about being late to class. It was the weirdest fear ever, but I believe it stemmed from my early years in Los Angeles, where traffic is always a problem. My dad got me to school late every single day, and after a while, teachers and administrators started punishing me for it. That’s one of many things I loathe about education: children receive detention merely because their moms and dads can’t get them to class on time. It’s an atrocious system, one I protested in high school when my buddy Lauren got in trouble for her carpool situation. I told the vice principal that Lauren should not have to pay for the behavior of the adults in her life, but my opinions went unheard. To all admins out there, you have a lot of nerve faulting minors for their irresponsible (or, you know, overburdened) parents. That needs to change.

Anyway, this was something I fretted about all the time in fifth grade. When my family and I would go out late on school nights, I would often cry and tell them that they were increasing their chances of sending me to school late the following day. More often than not, I was correct. I remember feeling ashamed by my tardiness and even hating my parents for taking me out on social outings on Sunday night when I should have been sleeping. Though they should have left me at home, what I really needed was a chill pill.

Every Sunday, my parents braced themselves for sleeplessness on my part. I stressed out at the beginning of each week, and it was common for me to take hours to fall asleep. Sometimes I’d wail on my twin mattress until midnight or 1 a.m., certain I’d wake up fatigued the next day and possibly be late to class. It annoyed my dad, who eventually chose to ignore my cries at night. The method worked, as all I really needed to do was weep until I became too tired to make another sound. It took a while for me to calm down though, as my mind simply refused to shut off. All I wanted to do was have fun, visit with my friends, and write in my diary. Life was too short to sleep, I thought. In fifth grade, I noticed several of the neighborhood adults gathered outside at about 11 p.m. one Sunday, so I sprinted through my front door to join them.

“Laura, what in God’s name are you doing out here?”

“Isn’t everybody hanging out?” I asked, crossing my arms and shivering in the chilly night.

“No, we’re going to bed. And you should have been in bed hours ago,” a neighbor said.

I nodded and went back into the house, sad that I couldn’t partake in the grown-up activity. I not only disliked being a kid because of all the excitement I was missing out on, but because I resented being ordered around and condescended. I really never was meant to be a child. It’s a good thing insomnia is so much less difficult for adults — and that Twitter is here to remind me I’m never the only person in the world awake. No matter what, I can always refresh my feed and find a new tweet. Somebody else is up at all hours of the day, and more often than not, he/she has my back.

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