I've had insomnia since I was about 7 years old. I have the kind where it's difficult to fall asleep, no matter how tired I am. I've tried just about every trick and technique you can imagine over the years. Lots of exercise, throughout the day; exercise in the morning and cool off at night to keep my heart rate low; exercise at night only; and total couch potato. High fiber, high protein, low carb, low calorie. I've tried meditation and guided imagery, relaxing music, candles, and bubble baths. I've eaten foods to encourage serotonin and melatonin; foods like pineapple, yogurt, bananas, and warm milk. Needless to say, not much has worked.
It's ultimately fear of nightmares that keeps me awake. Going to sleep when my anxiety levels are high just isn't worth it. I could spend the hours tossing and turning, continuing to feel worse, or I could watch TV on Hulu, play sudoku at USA Today, catch up on Atheist Experience and Pat Condel videos on YouTube, join discussions at Atheist Nexus and Ex-Christian.net, catch up on liberal news via Huffington Post and the less liberal AP, or just listen to music while playing on Popcap or Jigzone. Anything but getting caught inside my own brain.
Have I mentioned that anxiety sucks? I've actually got a pretty good handle on it, but trying to avoid the feeling of being anxious is a job itself. I think my anxiety started as soon as I was old enough to understand the word "demon". My childhood nightmares were never boogy men or witches. I didn't even know what mummies or zombies were, because I wasn't allowed to participate in Halloween or read scary stories.
The first time I called someone to my room at night to investigate the creature under my bed, it wasn't a monster I feared (like in "Where the Wild Things Are") but a demon. A shadow moving across the wall, a prickling feeling of being watched, bad thoughts in my head. We weren't allowed to confess to any fear (part of the "Word of Faith" idea - no "negative confessions", so I couldn't really talk to anyone about my fears and anxieties. I'd been taught to fear the world, and it worked, but now admitting that would be the same as spitting in God's eye. I had to ignore my fear away (just like pain, sadness, or any other emotion I had as a child). Kind of not surprising really, I'm still not great at dealing with bad dreams, or thinking about how I feel frightened. It's much more soothing to just keep myself distracted, and the internet is great for that.
And people say religion does no harm. Puh-lease.