Insomnia is a single person’s disorder. How often we wish we were on our own and could organize our lives as selfishly as we need to give us the space to do all the things to help ourselves get better. Advice about when you eat, what you eat, how you relax, what you do and don’t do in the evening all of it becomes infinitely more complicated when there are two or more to consider.
Living with someone adds to the burden, often creating huge strains for both. However supportive your partner may try to be, seeing someone at their worst for much of the time is hardly a recipe for a happy, harmonious domestic life.
Having children to consider as well is an added complication. Family relationships are never easy at the best of times, and adding insomnia into the mix makes normal family life impossible at times. How many insomniac mothers, for example, beat themselves up for being irritable with their children?
Insomniacs can at least confide in each other: your sleeping partners (and children) have to put up with it and, even if they sleep, they suffer the daily side-effects that sleep-deprivation causes. In short, when insomnia hits hard, you get the guilt but they get the misery full on.
It would be wrong to pretend that insomnia causes intolerable burdens in every case. That’s not true at all. I know one couple, for example, who are both insomniacs and blissfully happy together. But I absolutely believe that managing your insomnia or sleep-deprivation in the context of the people you love is as important as tackling the demon itself and deserves its own shout. Sleep books naturally focus on the insomniac, and usually deal with insomnia in isolation.
It’s as if the people you share your life with either don’t exist, or are at best incidental. The reality for many of us is very different. Having insomnia is like having an uninvited, wholly on you unwelcome and unpleasant guest in your home.