A drawn image of Oxford at night insomnia sleep rest
Credit: Amelia Woon

Column: Nights of an Oxford insomniac

When you suffer from insomnia, genuine rest is difficult to come by, so when the opportunity presents itself you take it regardless of what you were supposed to be doing at the time. Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my economics tutor for sleeping through a two hour tutorial in the middle of the day – I made it to college and promptly passed out on a sofa in the JCR. I would also like to thank my tute partners for not waking me, but rather leaving me to rest.

If you are going to try to sleep though, your environment should be as conducive as possible. A busy JCR full of students loudly discussing their work (because we always focus our energy on our degrees and nothing else) is not exactly optimised for rest and relaxation.

My bed is my sanctuary, where I spend at least half the hours in the day, more of them conscious than I would like. I have invested appropriately – easily the best thing I ever purchased was a V-shaped pillow. It has changed my life and I cannot recommend it enough; comfy, supportive from all angles, and ideal for reducing back and neck pain. Probably not suited to sleeping with a partner and it does take up a lot of space, but definitely better than a wriggling, snoring (and let’s be honest, probably farting) lump for company all night.

If you do have a partner, and a bed large enough to accommodate them, they can often make for a perfect pillow – and temperature controlled too. A couple of weeks into a bout of insomnia a strange phenomenon occurs – just as in Madagascar, Alex’s fellow animals begin to look like steaks, people begin to look like warm, comfy cushions.

Temperature is incredibly important when trying to fall asleep. The body typically cools as it enters a state of rest, but if the surrounding environment is too hot or too cold it can undermine your efforts to fall asleep and stay that way. In much the same way Minecraft prevents players from sleeping if monsters are nearby, when your body feels threatened by its environment, it will try to keep you alert.

Blankets are therefore crucial. A weighted blanket is particularly useful in facilitating a cool sleeping environment with all the weight of a full quilt. Although often advertised as useful for tackling anxiety, I think they actually have a much more practical purpose: the weight discourages fidgeting, holding you down and forcing you to rest.

This might have been rambling, random, and only just coherent, but that’s insomnia. Hopefully I’ve got some much-needed sleep by next time, or there may be no cohesive column at all.