For me, falling asleep and staying asleep is a chore. I lie there, looking up at the galaxy stars that my daughters insist upon keeping on until they fall asleep. Once they are asleep, I turn off the spinning blue stars and try again to doze off. But I fail. Like the children’s book says, I tell myself to “Go the F**K to Sleep.” Insomnia is rearing it’s ugly head again.
By the fourth night of this, I am so exhausted that I cave and take a Xanax. It helps, but it’s not something I want to be dependent on.
Like many moms, my insomnia began when I was pregnant. I tossed and turned with my big belly, trying to get comfortable while carrying multiples. When they arrived, I floated through those first few months of hourly feedings and gassiness like a champ. Now that our daughters are older, and nightmares or trips to the bathroom or snuggles interrupt my sleep, so does something else — insomnia.
The Office of Women’s Health estimates that one in four women suffer from insomnia. Primary insomnia in and of itself is a sleep disorder. A doctor can diagnose you with primary insomnia but first may rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing it. There is also something called secondary insomnia, which is caused by or happens in tandem with another medical condition such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, GI disorders, stroke, arthritis, and others. People who suffer from insomnia are 10 times more likely to also suffer from depression, while some with insomnia are 17 times more likely to have anxiety. I’ve been diagnosed with both mild depression and anxiety, thus the Xanax.
The Sleep Foundation recommends that “older adults” — which I apparently am, as I’m in that age bracket between 26 and 64 — need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. I’ll be forty soon enough, and research says that older women suffer from chronic insomnia more often than men.
No joke, I get into bed by 10:00 p.m. after binge-watching a few episodes of “Schitt’s Creek,” and I am ready to call it a night … sometimes that’s even at 9:45 p.m. Whatever the case, my wife and I usually head to bed together. Once her head hits the pillow, she begins to snore. Could she be the reason why I can’t get to sleep? No, because recently, I’ve been able to drown her out, thanks to our white noise machine. Funny thing is, I cannot pinpoint one thing that I am worried about, or what’s keeping me up. Nothing.
After I kiss my daughters, tell them that I love them, and after my prayers, I think about all of the things in my life I am grateful for. From my kids to the ability to get up every morning to my job security and so much more. I try to center myself mentally and let go of any stressors of the day.
I toss and I turn hoping that maybe a new position, on my left side instead of my right, will be the actual magical pill instead of my Xanax. Then I try my back; nothing works. So, I try to count from ten down to one. Nope. That doesn’t work either.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s the anticipation of what will come during the night. I know our youngest daughter will come to our bed complaining that her bed is uncomfortable. And inevitably, I’ll find myself in her bed, wrapped up in her unicorn jersey twin blanket, unaware of what happened during the night, feeling like I am suffering from a hangover.
That’s exactly what it feels like when I allow myself to suffer from insomnia for too long: a hellish hangover. When I’m awake in the night, my “drug of choice” is creating a mental list of all of the house projects I want to do. How I will decorate, what will be the most cost-efficient, how long each project will take — and then I go down a rabbit hole which sometimes leads me to Pinterest. Five seconds in, I remind myself that I have no money and window shopping at 1:00 a.m. ain’t helping anybody.
To help me sleep, sometimes I will choose Xanax. I don’t allow myself to overdo it on Xanax, which can happen. Both of my parents had addiction issues, so it’s a slippery slope for me that I’d rather not go down. I push myself to go up to four nights without solid sleep before I consider taking a Xanax. Then there are times when I just don’t. I try to settle my body and mind down in other ways: meditation, less coffee during the day, a day off from work, disconnecting from the internet. There are other things out there that work, sometimes. I just wish I could find a consistent solution.