How are you sleeping?

How are you sleeping? my friends and I ask each other with honest concern. We don’t just mean how well are you sleeping, we want to know the exact mechanism by which sleep is attained. Because we are all crazy for sleep right now.

sleeping well

I’ve shocked myself by sleeping steadily for the last three nights. I have a sick little dog, and she’s been waking me up for over a month with various needs and tiny but terrible episodes (she is a tiny but terrible dog, that one). But for the last three nights, she’s slept soundly. So have I.

I have waltzed into work each morning and bragged about it like a total sleep whore. Some people brag about promotions, grandchildren, vacations, sex. I brag about sleep. “I got such amazing sleep last night.” Of course, my friends are actually envious. Sleep is so elusive and alluring.

just one of the gang

Most of us have severely disrupted sleep. Much of the time it’s cats. Snoring is another culprit, our own or that of our bed partners. Then there are the hot flashes. And once we’re awake, going back to sleep is impossible. Our lives are full of midlife worries and woes that keep us up when the dreaded awakening comes at 3 or 4 AM.

One of my friends does a mental shopping trip when she can’t sleep. She imagines going through the aisles of a store, and finding things by alphabet. Like, Apples, Benadryl, Coloring book, and so on. I have tried this but I invariably start to worry about how much it’s all going to cost, just like in real life.

I have a breathing trick I do. You can read about it here: How to Fall Asleep Right Away I forget about this trick sometimes, and then remember it and think, “I might as well give it a try.” The entire time I am breathing and counting, I’m thinking how stupid this trick is, and how it will never work, and why do I even try these dumb internet things anyway, and right about then I fall deeply asleep and there you go.

insomnia and ambien

I went through a time in my life when insomnia had me in its grip. This was ten years ago, and I made the decision to start taking Ambien. Ambien is a miracle, at first. You take it and stay asleep for eight hours. For a single mother in her forties gripped with the stress of work, finances and children, that’s unheard of.

EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP.

The problem is, of course, you can’t vary your schedule. You have to plan movie times and leave concerts early to make sure that you won’t be driving less than eight hours from when you take the miracle drug. You start arranging everything in your life so that you’re in bed with the pill on your tongue by 9:30 PM. And you get suspiciously grumpy when anything stands in your way.

There’s also the fact that you become completely addicted to this little pill. To fend this off, doctors are only allowed to prescribe you 11 pills for each 14 day period. I actually remember standing in the pharmacy tech and whining, “What am I supposed to do on the other three nights? Just not sleep?” in this horrible, crabby, mean way. It took about a month to become a complete Ambien addict, shambling around the drugstore in my yoga pants and UGGs, scowling, waiting for my scrip.

After four or five months of this mess, I decided it was time to go off. Maybe six months. So I took 2/3 of a pill each night for a while, and then I took ½ a pill, and by gosh I made it down to ¼ of a pill and was sleeping fine. I told my doctor I took ¼ a pill and she huffed, “That’s placebo effect. Go without it, you’ll be able to sleep.” And she was right.

outliving one’s usefulness

My sleeping was fine again until 2014, when I became some kind of wild-eyed hot-flashing menopausal cliché of a person. For over a year, I had ten hot flashes a night, bad ones that woke me up. I didn’t think I needed sleep so much as I needed euthanizing. Really. I would lie there and think, “Why do I need to go on? I’m clearly useless and just a drain on the world’s resources. I’ve done my part, I’m in the gene pool. Can’t someone push me over a railing and put me out of my misery?” But no one ever did.

This is a good thing, as all that passed, and I have slept decently since. Unless some little dog needs something. Or I have heartburn. Or the man snores too much. Or the moon is too bright. Or I’m in an unfamiliar bed. Or I forgot to apply my Carmex. Or…you get the picture.

As I said, none of my friends sleep well. I have friends who take Ambien, and friends who take ZQuil, and friends who take Melatonin. I have friends who swear by smoking pot, and others who swear by exercise (what is wrong with those people? the exercisers, I mean). Others drink red wine to go to sleep, which is just courting some kind of hot flash heartburn nightmare, in my book.

How about you? Are you sleeping? How are you sleeping? Tell me, friend. I care.

5 Comments

  1. Reply
    Joyce Reynolds-Ward May 19, 2017

    Not sleeping well due to back and leg spasms. Doctors tell me it’s myofascial pain syndrome and suggest different things. I’m not about to try muscle relaxants because I know what they do to me, and I’d just as soon not join the zombie ranks, thank you very much.

    It is better in Enterprise than in Portland, though….

  2. Reply
    Billy May 19, 2017

    Melatonin. Podcast. Exercise. Trying not to think (and failing).

  3. Reply
    Linda May 20, 2017

    I never slept “long”…4 hours will do it for me. I prefer to think I sleep “fast.” I went through a period of horrible insomnia in my early 20s. I often went two days and two nights without even going near my bed. I’d read all night and smoke. Clean the oven and smoke. Defrost my freezer and smoke. I was up to 3 packs of Marlboros a day, which is easy to do when you’re up day and night. When I conceived my first son, I quit smoking. Miraculously, my insomnia went away! I then realized the sleeplessness was due to my addiction demanding a constant supply of nicotine. I have slept very soundly ever since.

  4. Reply
    Terri May 20, 2017

    Oh, I wish I were a sleep whore!

  5. Reply
    Sue May 22, 2017

    Melatonin, Tart Cherry extract, hydroxyzine, Tylenol, ibuprofen. And pot (the sleepy kind) if I still can’t sleep. Several horrific hot flashes in the night. The need to pee. A night-owl husband who tries his best to keep the lights dim in the wee hours, but forgets, so when I get up to pee I see lights. Which wake me up more. I wonder if I’ll ever see 8 hours again. I’ll try your breathing trick tonight and report back.

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