3 Thing My Insomnia Allows Me to Appreciate

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Photo by Ben Lim

Oftentimes I find myself lying perfectly comfortably in bed at the exact time I need to sleep in order to be a productive human being the next day, only to find myself sitting at my desk five hours later, fully burrowed into an internet rabbit hole about a random topic.

I then drag myself to bed with no uncertain amount of dread and self-loathing as I imagine what’s going to happen when I’m forced to rejoin society in three hours time.

This is far from a novel experience for me. I — and my mother as she’s oft to tell me — remember banging my head against the wall as a child, well past my bedtime, saying, ‘Mummy, I can’t turn my brain off.’

In adulthood I’ve fallen asleep at the wheel after a day at the office from not sleeping a wink the previous night, narrowly managing an inadvertent unnatural death only by constantly pinching myself until I reached home.

Going 24 hours or more without sleep is, unfortunately, a regular occurrence for me. But after three decades of struggling to make my circadian rhythm be both circadian and rhythmic, I have managed to find some silver-linings for an otherwise distressing condition — an appreciation for some things that can only truly be experienced in their best, most pure form, in and around the Witching Hour.

1. Quiet

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Photo by Jeffrey Czum from Pexels

At last, some peace and quiet. As someone who has always lived in cities of various sizes — often on busy roads with incessant noise — and who currently lives in an apartment block with: a pianist directly below me, a pianist beside me, a drummer above me, and people I assume are aspiring national karaoke champions below and to the right of me, I consider myself a long-term sufferer of second-hand noise pollution. Oh, I also live next to a playground.

My usual home environment is basically the perfect blend of day-time and evening audible annoyances which grate on my nerves more than my little sister, in our 90s childhood, watching Disney films on VHS on repeat, forever — I can sing every song from Aladdin.

I didn’t so much learn the lyrics as have them hammered repeatedly through my hippocampus. I sometimes forget my own address but A Whole New World is stuck in my brain forever.

But between the hours of 12AM and 5AM? That is when I finally get to hear … nothing. Just nothing. It’s beautiful. An oasis of silent solace in a desert of decibels.

2. Driving

I live in Singapore. Home to 5.69 million people according to the Singapore Department of Statistics. With its diminutive size this works out to around 7,804 people per square kilometre. The second highest population density in the world. It’s a lot of fucking people (not a lot of people fucking, ironically, as the birthrate is very low) to have in a small country. And a lot of cars.

Driving during rush hour, or almost any hour, has to be one of the single most miserable experiences you can have on this little island. However, there are exceptions. In the middle of the night driving becomes a beautiful, relaxing exercise.

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© Slidezero | Stock Free Images

Free from the stress and anxiety of having to look out for and avoid other motorists — who are presumably deranged or suicidal judging by their driving style — I can instead relax while listening to music, appreciating the view of an open road, while actually enjoying the act of propelling myself down the highway in my technologically advanced metal coffin, stress-free.

3. Grocery Shopping

Along with noise, crowds are near the top of the list of things that make my jaw clench in quiet, grinding annoyance. I’m not entirely unsocial. I have friends I meet regularly. I’d go clubbing all the time when I was younger, still do on the odd occasion. I also go to music festivals. But there’s a time and a place for crowds and doing the weekly shop is neither in my opinion.

If you’re unlucky enough not to have a 24-hour supermarket near you, or simply have never ventured forth in the middle of the night to buy the items necessary for sustaining the meatbag which houses your consciousness, let me tell you something — It is pure bliss.

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Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Apart from the other weirdos like me, I have the store to myself. I can take your time without playing bumper cars with other shoppers or have children propel themselves face-first into my person.

No making room for other people. The shelves are being restocked with fresh items. It’s how shopping was meant to be. It just makes sense.

I know these may only apply to me and my specific circumstances, but I call out to other insomniacs of the world: Revel in your inability to get a good night’s sleep and appreciate the special things personal to you that the daywalkers could never, would never, dream of. For the night is ours and we must seize it. Carpe Noctem.

Written by

Ben is a half-Northern Irish, half-Chinese, Fourth Culture Kid based in Singapore, who has written for Discovery Channel, WWF and Asian Food Network.

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