Welcome to my page of quotations about sleeplessness. I’ve had insomnia since age fourteen. It runs on my dad’s side of the family. I’ve tried meditation, melatonin, giving up caffeine, dimming evening lights, screen-free evenings, amber glasses, yoga, blindfolds, earplugs, camping for a week, antihistamines, white noise, guided relaxations, essential oils, you name it. But, one of the few good things about being an insomniac is that this website would’ve never existed without my inability to sleep an entire night! And I can try to blame typos on middle-of-the-night brain. Happy slumbers to you, and enjoy the quotes.
When you have insomnia you’re never really asleep, and you’re never really awake. ~Fight Club, 1999, screenplay by Jim Uhls, based on the 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk
People who have insomnia lie awake all night for an hour. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968
Insomnia is invisible
but hard as concrete.
~Terri Guillemets, “Can’t freakin’ sleep,” 2016, blackout poetry created from Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996, page 21
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow… ~Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë, 1816–1855), The Professor [written before Jane Eyre, 1847, but published posthumously, in 1857
Not being able to sleep is terrible. You have the misery of having partied all night… without the satisfaction. ~Lynn Johnston, For Better or For Worse, 2006 July 22nd, www.fborfw.com
Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking. As for so-called soothing thoughts, fewer people have been kept awake by innumerable worries than by numerable sheep. Dull books are equally dormicidal. A bed full of animal crackers is far more lulling. ~Clifton Fadiman, “I Shook Hands with Shakespeare,” Any Number Can Play, 1957 [The Shakespeare game referenced in the chapter title is basically a literary version of Six Degrees of Separation, or Kevin Bacon.
An insomniac is either asleep with one eye open, or awake with both eyes shut. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968
In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge. ~Colette [hashtag infj!
…O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee,
That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?…
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II, c. 1599 [III, 1, Henry IV]
If an insomniac had as many ideas during the day as he has at night, he’d make a fortune. ~The Comic Encyclopedia, Evan Esar, 1978
awake until 3 A.M.
hard hours — in the dark
anxious shadows lingered in my imagination
~Terri Guillemets, “Hard hours,” 2019, blackout poetry created from T. Greenwood, The Golden Hour, 2017, pages 59–60
Nothing cures insomnia like the realization that it’s time to get up. ~Quip found in Edwin H. Stuart’s Typo Graphic magazine, 1961
I fell into a refreshing, thirty-seven-minute night’s sleep. ~Clifton Fadiman, “I Shook Hands with Shakespeare,” Any Number Can Play, 1957 [Been there, done that!
I ran in the house and I fell in a heap.
I needed my rest, but I just couldn’t sleep…
I tossed and I flipped and I flopped and I flepped.
It was quarter past five when I finally slept…
~Dr. Seuss, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, 1965
I’ve had such bad insomnia the sleep cops have issued a warrant for my rest. ~Terri Guillemets, “The chase,” 1990
The best cure for insomnia is a Monday morning. ~Sandra Cooley, 1980s
A man who, night after night, falls like a lump of lead upon his bed, and ceases to live until the moment when he wakes and rises, will such a man ever dream of making, I do not say great discoveries, but even minute observations upon sleep? He barely knows that he does sleep. A little insomnia is not without its value in making us appreciate sleep, in throwing a ray of light upon that darkness. ~Marcel Proust (1871–1922), Remembrance of Things Past, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff
Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia. ~Joseph Wood Krutch (1893–1970), unverified
For insomniacs, night steals the morning. ~Terri Guillemets, “Night heist,” 2017
Sleeplessness is a desert without vegetation or inhabitants. Only you, under a curse of some sort, alone; not mindless, but with no use for your mind; without pain, but with a body that needs pain to remind it that it still lives. ~Jessamyn West, The Woman Said Yes, 1976
Awake all night with melancholy thoughts… ~George Gilfillan, “The Poets of Night,” Night: A Poem, 1867
in the depths of worry
swept away in the
whirlwind of nothing—
a horrible nothing
~Terri Guillemets, “Insomnia ticking,” 2019, blackout poetry created from Octave Mirbeau, The Diary of a Chambermaid, 1891–1900, page 6
If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. ~Dale Carnegie, unverified
What you don’t worry about gives someone else insomnia. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968
In the earlier years of his literary career he would frequently awake at night, get out of bed, light a candle, and compose many lines upon some poem which he said had “forced itself upon his mind.” ~William H. Hayne, “Paul H. Hayne’s Methods of Composition,” c. 1892
A poet is an insomniac
and always writes best
by the light of a midnight candle.
~Terri Guillemets, “Flickering,” 2009
My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line. ~Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894–1961), Death on the Installment Plan, 1936, translated from the French by Ralph Manheim, 1966 [This title — Mort à crédit — has also been published in English as “Death on Credit.”
The only cure for writer’s block is insomnia. ~Terri Guillemets
It’s at night, when perhaps we should be dreaming, that the mind is most clear, that we are most able to hold all our life in the palm of our skull. I don’t know if anyone has ever pointed out that great attraction of insomnia before, but it is so; the night seems to release a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instincts and feelings; as with the dawn, a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams to drip into the waking mind. I wish I believed, as J. B. Priestley did, that consciousness continues after disembodiment or death, not forever, but for a long while. Three score years and ten is such a stingy ration of time, when there is so much time around. Perhaps that’s why some of us are insomniacs; night is so precious that it would be pusillanimous to sleep all through it! A “bad night” is not always a bad thing. ~Brian W. Aldiss, “Reflections of an Ardent Insomniac,” in The Guardian, 1972
A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by,
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I’ve thought of all by turns; and still I lie
Sleepless… last night, and two nights more, I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear to-night away:
Without Thee what is all the morning’s wealth?
Come, blessed barrier betwixt day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!
~William Wordsworth, “To Sleep,” Poems, 1807
I’m an insomniacaholic,
If there is such a thing;
Well, I know there is—
I am one, and their king!
~Terri Guillemets, “Insomniacaholic,” 1989
Whiskey may not cure your insomnia, but it makes you more content to stay awake. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968
two in the morning
mind humming from the inside out
thunder across crazy dreams
a night charged with god, heart, body,
thinking about how much I think
~Terri Guillemets, “Two AM,” 2019, blackout poetry created from Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls, 2001, pages 281–286
He had been unable to drive away the gloomy thoughts which kept sleep from his eyes for a long hour… He had solved any number of difficult arithmetical problems, and mentally repeated the same prayer at least twenty times; but the sleep which he obtained after waiting so long and making so many efforts, brought neither rest nor comfort, and the old man struggled all night in the fiery embrace of the fever-god.
It was only in the morning, after awaking and happily falling off into a second sleep, that he enjoyed the peace and repose of both body and soul, which usually characterized his rest. When he again opened his eyes after this delightful morning’s nap, a joyous ray, cast by the rising sun through the bed curtains, danced on the counterpane like a streak of gold, and gave a marvellous brilliancy to its variegated embroideries. ~Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870), The Watchmaker, 1859
There is, if one is lucky, the “first sweet sleep of night” and the last deep sleep of morning, but between the two appears a sinister, ever widening interval. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Sleeping and Waking,” 1934
Sleeplessness comes when my thoughts outweigh the night. ~Terri Guillemets
Insomniacs don’t sleep because they worry about it, and they worry about it because they don’t sleep. ~Franklin Pierce Adams, quoted in Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, 1949
Whelk was not sleeping… he rarely closed his eyes for longer than a few hours at a stretch. He rolled in his bedsheets. He sat bolt upright, woken by whispers… His sleep patterns and energy seemed dictated by something larger and more powerful than himself, ebbing and flowing like an uneven tide. ~Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys, 2012
When some years ago I read a piece by Ernest Hemingway called Now I Lay Me, I thought there was nothing further to be said about insomnia. I see now that that was because I had never had much; it appears that every man’s insomnia is as different from his neighbor’s as are their daytime hopes and aspirations. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Sleeping and Waking,” 1934
When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
~Rumi, interpreted by Coleman Barks, 1979
The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world. ~Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game, 1963
Why is it that people who are troubled with insomnia are generally so proud of it? ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968 [So true! I think it’s kinda like being proud of your black eye after a fight.
How do people go to sleep? I’m afraid I’ve lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things. ~Dorothy Parker (1893–1967)
There is nothing like a sleepless couch for a clear vision of one’s environment. ~Arnold Bennett (1867–1931)
Original post date: 2000 Jun 25
1st major revision: 2019 May 2