Friday, March 03, 2006


So far, the year 2006 has turned out to include more insomnia than ever for me.

Over the holidays, I made the mistake of staying up rather late and sleeping in rather late, plus taking naps on some days, which sometimes put my total sleep hours over 10 for certain 24-hour periods. Returning to my work schedule the first couple of weeks in January, I had several nights where I couldn't fall asleep until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. But on the weekends I was okay, because knowing I could sleep in helped me relax. Gradually I got back to normal, vowing never to mess with my circadian rhythms that badly again. I guess I'm getting older and my system just isn't as flexible anymore.

Since then, however, I've had a couple of relapses into insomnia, a night here or two nights in a row there. Right now, my last three nights in a row have all yielded only 3-4 hours of sleep, so I'm pretty woozy and frustrated right now. I'm not actually as drowsy yet as I might have expected, but I'm definitely not concentrating as well, and I'm yawning a lot and feeling a little headachy and dizzy. I wish I could use the extra wakeful hours to read or write, but I'm actually quite tired during these bouts, so I just lay there but never quite fall asleep. My brain will start generating nonsense, and then I'll wake myself up by thinking, "Hurrah, my brain is generating nonsense. Maybe now I'll fall asleep." To make matters worse, my wife is nursing a two-month-old, so she moves around more in the bed than usual. (I wear earplugs to bed every night, which helps some but doesn't block out all the sound.)

I don't know what triggered this last bout. I drink a lot of Coke during the first half of the day, but I haven't been overindulging in schedule-breaking sleep lately. On Tuesday night I took an Excedrin (which contains caffeine) and drank Coke in the evening, and then I started wondering if I might have trouble falling asleep, and sure enough I did, but I think only because it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's such a mental game! I try to trick myself by turning over the clock so I can't watch how late it gets, and sometimes I even go out and try to sleep on the couch. But the last three nights, nothing has worked...

Anyway, I'm frustrated. I hope I get some sleep this weekend and can stay on a decent schedule. Otherwise I might have to start cutting out some Coke or go to the doctor and get some pills. Sometimes it helps to take a Pepcid, but the blue sleeping pills you can buy at the grocery store don't seem to help much. Another bad thing is that when I have insomnia, I don't get up early to do the treadmill, so I did the treadmill only once this week...


Montgomery Q said...

Get your Doc to recommend Ambien. I love the stuff. In alf an hour you'll be into 8 hours of good deep sleep that you CANNOT be disturbed from.

Anonymous said...

I totally feel your pain, man. Insomnia has been one of the great trials of my life.

I'd recommend NOT trying Ambien--it's been in the news a lot for the fact that it can cause memory blackouts. (I'll send you a story or two if you want it.) Not only that, but when I took Ambien, it didn't help me a bit: it's designed to have a short half life--wears off in about four hours, so that it helps you fall asleep but you're on your own to stay asleep. As I find that when I have really bad insomnia I can fall asleep quickly because I'm so freakin' exhausted but often wake up after three or four hours and can't go back to sleep, Ambien was worse than nothing for me.

Personally I like Restoril, generic name temazepam. There are rare occasions when it doesn't work, but usually it knocks me out good. I feel kind of hungover and gross if I wake up in the middle of the night after I've taken it, but I find it comforting, because it means I'll go back to sleep. I always keep a supply of at least ten on hand and sometimes knowing I've got help in the medicine cabinet reassures me as much as taking one. Sometimes I'll go weeks without taking one, and sometimes I rely on it quite a bit, though I try not to take more than three or four in a given a week. But when I need it, I need it.

I'd also recommend Benadryl (allergy medicine) which is the same as some of the over-the-counter sleep aids, only cheaper. One Benadryl and a shot of vodka sometimes does the trick.

Yoga and acupuncture also really, really helped me.

Christopher Bigelow said...

When I went in for my vasectomy yesterday, I asked for an Ambien prescription, and the urologist was willing to give me a small, nonrefillable one. And just having that in my drawer makes me feel much better! I may never even need to take one.

My rule for myself is that if I ever lay in bed for more than one hour before I can fall asleep, I will take one. I don't have as much of a problem with waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, although that happens once in a while. But Ambien wouldn't work well in such a case, because it says you need to get 7-8 hours after you take it. (And yes, I have read some articles about the memory loss and the sleep-driving that Ambien causes for some people...)

The doctor also gave me Lortab (sp?) for the vasectomy pain, and that stuff feels great but makes me really drowsy. So I'll keep the extras from that around as another weapon in my arsenal. And I hadn't thought of taking Benedryl or other cold/allergy medicine that makes me drowsy--good idea!

With the knowledge of all these new tools in my arsenal, hopefully that alone will be enough to help me just relax and fall asleep the next time insomnia creeps up on me...