9 Celebrities Who Struggle With Sleep Just Like the Rest of Us
A glamorous lifestyle doesn’t automatically come with high-quality R and R. These celebrities struggle with sleep (and in some cases insomnia) just like you and I.
Insomnia is one of those universal equalizers that can affect everyone andanyone. Insomnia has a simple definition: It means having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It can be a temporary, short-term problem caused by stress or a traumatic experience. Or insomnia can become persistent or chronic, meaning that you have trouble sleeping at least three nights a week in a three-month period. (1)
are ones that we all might face at some point in our lives: depression, anxiety, going through an emotionally upsetting event such as divorce or the death of a spouse, or having certain medical conditions (such as those that cause chronic pain, like arthritis, or those that cause breathing problems, like asthma). Menopause and hot flashes or gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn, are other conditions that can contribute to insomnia. (2) And traveling frequently across different time zones can wreak havoc on sleep, too.
If you have problems with sleep, it’s important that you get help as soon as possible. Unaddressed sleep problems tend to get worse and get tougher to treat the more habitual they become. In the meantime, know that there are a lot of people out there struggling with sleep just like you, including these celebrities who have helped raise awareness about how debilitating not sleeping can be, and why it’s so important to get help.
1. George Clooney
In an interview withThe Hollywood Reporterin 2012, the actor, director, and producer George Clooney revealed that he routinely has a “tough time getting to sleep,” and that he woke up as many as five times per night. (3) In another interview with the publication in 2019, which was published three months after the birth of his twins, Clooney shared that he had resolved his earlier issue with insomnia, but that it had been replaced by another source of sleep deprivation: being a parent of newborns (4).
As any parent of young children knows all too well, duties like multiple feedings and diaper changes in the night can do a number on a night’s sleep, and with twins, Clooney and his wife, Amal Clooney, were no doubt getting far short of the rest they needed, according to what he toldThe Hollywood Reporter.
2. Mariah Carey
The singer-songwriter Mariah Carey has talked about her search for sleep for many years. In a November 16, 2002, interview withThe Guardian, Carey discussed having a recent breakdown caused, she said, by working too much. (5)
“'The bottom line is that I was severely exhausted,” Carey said. “I've always had trouble with insomnia. It's more falling asleep than staying asleep, especially when I've been performing or doing interviews — there's a certain amount of adrenaline goes along with that — and when I'd finally unwind and go to sleep I'd be woken in another couple of hours to speak to someone in Australia, and then they'd say ‘Oh, there are just a couple more reporters and they're going to ride with you in the car,’ and there was no downtime.”
Recently, Carey revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001, which was likely the root cause of her earlier sleep problems. In an interview withPeoplejust last month she noted that she was getting treatment that doesn’t make her feel tired or sluggish anymore, and that she is “in a really good place.” (6)
3. Chuck Palahniuk
In an article he wrote forThe Guardian, the author Chuck Palahniuk shared his theory about insomnia being a sort of muse for creative people like himself. (7) Palahniuk, well-known for his novelFight Club, about a protagonist who suffers from insomnia because of job stress and frequent travel for work, suggests that writers are inspired by things that are related to shock or suffering. “Fasting works. Rejection, too. Insomnia works wonderfully,” Palahniuk wrote.
According to Palahniuk,Fight Clubwas inspired by his own insomnia. “In 1993, I found myself stranded in Reno, Nevada, with no money and nowhere to stay,” Palahniuk wrote. “At night I wandered sleepless through the empty all-night casinos and restaurants, exhausted, delirious, and inventing a story about a man who thought he had insomnia but was actually living a double life: whenever he thought he was asleep, his alter ego would venture forth to have all the adventures he, himself, could never consciously dare.”
Palahniuk recognized, though, that the insomnia lifestyle is not a healthy one. “To be honest, Ambien helps me sleep more nights than I care to admit — although I’m uncertain about the quality of that sleep,” he wrote.
4. Renée Zellweger
Jet-setting to different parts of the world for filming and premieres may sound glamorous. But the constant travel that comes with making and then promoting a film (constantly shifting time zones and sleeping in unfamiliar places) in reality can be a recipe for insomnia. In 2005, the actress Renée Zellweger shared withW magazinethat because of her busy schedule, she often didn’t have time for sleep. (8)
Recalling a 10-day promotional tour forBridget Jones: The Edge of Reasonthat had her traveling to 10 countries, Zellweger toldW, “Your body doesn’t quite register that you’re supposed to eat at a certain time, or that it’s time to sleep.”
5. Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay has written short stories, criticism, essays, and more, including the 2014 collection of essays Bad Feminism,and her 2019 memoir,Hunger. Across multiple pieces, Gay has written about her struggle with insomnia. In a 2014 interview withSpecter Magazine, she said, “I suffer from insomnia.” (9)
She has also in the past taken to Twitter when she can’t sleep. “So tired of insomnia,” she wrote in August 2019. (10) “I haven’t been sleeping well. I hope I sleep tonight,” she wrote in November 2019.
6. Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall has spoken publicly about her battles with insomnia, which has affected her ability to work. In 2015, the actress pulled out of a play she was scheduled to perform in at London’s Royal Court Theatre. The reason, she later disclosed, was insomnia. (11)
In an interview with BBC Radio, Cattrall described her insomnia as “like being pinned down by a three-ton gorilla.” (12) She also shared part of her diary entry from her stay in London in which she wrote, “I think I’m losing the ability to think clearly. Words are harder to remember without sleep. I can’t grasp, hold on, to ideas, thoughts, even tasks. They’re slipping away from me since I got here and I can’t sleep… Without sleep, there is no way to wash away the debris that collects throughout any given day, no way to clear and cleanse the thoughts that bracket morning through night.”
7. Jennifer Aniston
In a 2019 interview with HuffPost, the actress Jennifer Aniston spoke about her struggles with insomnia and what habits have helped improve her sleep. (13) Aniston described her insomnia experience as being like having a “committee in my head,” she noted. “If I wake up at three in the morning, I just start having conversations and they won’t shut up and then I can’t get back to sleep.”
Aniston said some things that have helped her with insomnia include sleeping with the phone at least five feet away, doing a quick meditation before getting into bed, and doing some stretches and yoga poses. She also recommends turning off electronic devices an hour before turning off the lights.
8. Pete Wentz
The Fall Out Boy musician has spoken about his insomnia, even tweeting his musings in the wee hours of the night. According to the online magazine Contact Music, Wentz tweeted in September 2009 this thought: "sometimes late at night i realize this planet doesnt belong to me. i also dont belong to it. i wish i had recycled it more and me less.” (14) He’s also written, “Can't fall asleep. No “bodyguards/nannies” in sight. Mission possible. We need to start an insomnia club. Nobody that does uppers need apply. [sic]”
Since then Wentz has opened up about dealing with bipolar disorder in a 2015 interview withHuffPost. (15) He takes care of himself, he explained, by exercising, meditating, talking things through, and having a schedule with his family.
9. Christina Applegate
Christina Applegate has been outspoken about her insomnia, and has worked to help others who are struggling to sleep. In 2019 she toldSelfmagazine that she had struggled with insomnia for 20 years. “I could sleep a couple hours and then be up for four hours and then fall asleep again right before my alarm goes off,” she said. (16)
She partnered with the Why So Awake? website and sleep awareness program to help others recognize and address their problem. (17) (Why So Awake? is sponsored by the drug company Merck.) On the site, Applegate writes: “I know all too well how hard it can be to struggle with sleep. As an actress, wife and mother of an active 6-year-old, I have to push through the day, even if I’m very tired and haven’t slept well. But sometimes it’s hard to feel excited for the day when I don’t get enough sleep.
“Through talking with my doctor, I learned more about my insomnia and how to manage it. That’s why I’m encouraging others to get the facts and learn about the possible causes of insomnia that may be keeping them awake,” she says.
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