Insomnia can be a debilitating, lonely experience. Need proof? Look no further than haunting photos from artist Michael Massaia.
The 39-year-old New Jersey photographer, who has been dealing with the condition since he was 13, often operates on only a few hours of sleep every few days. As a teen, he used to frequently hope sleep would come just so he didn’t feel bored.
“It was a bit maddening trying to fill up all the hours,” Massaia told HuffPost. “My desire to sleep wasn’t to try and get rest, it was to simply help pass the time.”
Now Massaia resigns to the fact that the chronic sleep disorder is something he will always need to manage. And when rest eludes him, he puts that time to use through his artwork.
His most recent results are a series of photos taken in Central Park at night, which aim to capture the loneliness of insomnia. The images are a stark contrast from how the park normally is during the daylight hours ― bustling and filled with wide-awake people.
While the nighttime project wasn't recommended by a doctor (and treatment varies depending on the person), Massaia says it allows him to turn the disorder into something positive. He also hopes the photos inspire other people with health conditions.
“I hope people take away from the project a kind of compelling isolation, or perhaps something as simple as being able to turn a defect into something useful,” Massaia said.
An estimated 60 million Americans deal with insomnia in a given year. The condition causes severe fatigue, low energy, mood issues and more. Doctors are increasingly working to find effective treatments, some of which include over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Massaia stressed that anyone dealing with a disorder like insomnia isn’t alone, even though it may feel that way sometimes. He also said it helps to embrace the condition and transform it into something productive and positive.
“I guess what I tell myself regarding any deficiency ― including insomnia ― is that sometimes you’re just not made to live a ‘normal’ life,” he said. “Abnormalities force you to see and approach the world differently, if you can bring something tangible back with you from that perspective, then I think you’re onto something.”
We have to agree.
Take a look at the rest of Massaia’s photos below: