Sleep. Sweet, Sweet Sleep.
I’ve had sleeping – or rather, not sleeping – issues since childhood. I have trouble allowing my mind to shut down and relax and it’s terribly frustrating. Even when I’m really tired I often lie in bed staring at the ceiling for hours, thinking and worrying. Every night I dread going to bed and put it off as long as I can. OW simply cannot fathom this. He looks forward to bed time. He strips down to boxers, crawls into bed, gives the sheet a billowy yank and then lets loose a satisfied groan that I’d think he’d reserve for other activities. Within a few minutes he is happily snoring. He’s never had problems sleeping and doesn’t understand why I do.
I’ve tried to explain it, though I don’t fully understand it myself. When I get into bed at night an overwhelming sense of dread comes over me. A dark, quiet room is not relaxing for me. It is extremely anxiety provoking because then I have nothing to do but think. And thinking gets me into deep trouble, trouble with a capital T (I say, trouble right here in River City! – couldn’t resist that).
During the day my mind is always going. I’m not necessarily the sort of person who always has to be doing something physical. You know the type: cleaning one more counter, straightening papers that don’t need to be straightened, tapping their foot. I do those things, but not obsessively enough for anyone to notice. No, my busyness is primarily in my head. I occupy myself by researching whatever is my fancy of the moment, reading blogs and forums, commenting on blogs and forums, playing Sudoku, writing and so forth. Of course, with newborn twins I do spend a large portion of my day doing the physical tasks necessary to take care of them. But every moment I’m doing something with them that involves sitting, I’m on my smartphone, reading, writing or playing Sudoku. I don’t allow myself to have brain downtime.
Then 10:00 p.m. comes and I start to get nervous. OW starts making noise about how we should go to bed. Then 10:30 rolls around and he says that he’s tired and going to bed after the news. Then 11:00 looms and he says that he is definitely going to bed. All the while, the implication is that I should be going to bed too. (As an aside, every single one of my husbands has been insistent that I go to bed when they do. I hate it. That’s a post for another day.) I agree to get in bed, but only if I can have the television AND my phone going. If I can keep the television on until I pass out, I don’t have to think.
And here is my little confession for the day: I love sleeping pills.
I suppose some might see my need for them as an addiction. I don’t think I’m addicted to sleeping pills any more than you would call a diabetic addicted to insulin. I’ve tried several but for me, there is nothing like Ambien.
Oh, Ambien, you are better than chocolate, better than wine, better than sex (although frankly you make all of those things even more lovely than they already are).
Off track there for a moment.
The point is, Ambien makes me feel safe when I go to bed. I know that within ten to 15 minutes after taking it, I will be in that beautiful hypnotic state where I can relax and sleep. My worries disappear, the physical tension in my body releases, and I don’t have to fight.
I’ve been taking it on and off for probably six or eight years now. I’ve been able to keep my dosage fairly low by rotating it with other things like Valium or Xanax. Although I like those things, they don’t give me the true sleep of the dead I get with Ambien.
I do have some of the weird side effects with Ambien that you’ve probably heard about. I sleep-eat, which is really strange. I’ll wake up in the morning with empty wrappers or dishes next to the bed and have no memory of eating. Occasionally I can’t figure out what I ate. Sometimes there is clear evidence in my hair, on the sheets, or smeared across my chest, which is not as amusing as it sounds. I’ve never tried to cook anything. Apparently I just rummage around in the kitchen looking for things I can eat as-is. That may include things better cooked or heated up, but I’ve never eaten raw meat or anything. That proves to me that I do it with some sort of consciousness, but just don’t remember it.
I also have visual and auditory hallucinations. I actually love those. I don’t have them all the time, and the longer I’ve been taking the Ambien every night for a stretch, the less I have them. But they are always similar in nature. They aren’t frightening to me at all.
I’m going to take a deep breath and tell you the secret of the hedge people. Yes, I hallucinate what I call the hedge people, and I’m always happy to see them. They’re like old friends, and they seem happy to see me as well. I see a hedge, and in, around and on top of the hedge are these sort of leafy-looking people. Or not people, exactly. Sprites maybe? At any rate, I talk to them and they talk to me. This I know primarily because OW tells me about the conversations I have with them. In the morning I do remember the hedge people and they make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. When I take the pills I find myself hoping to see my little friends. I know that’s completely bizarre. But they are friendly and comforting and they send me off to a deep sleep I desperately need.
I was terrified about coming off of the Ambien when I found out I was pregnant. I assumed I couldn’t continue but some research and my doctor’s advice convinced me otherwise. I was able to keep taking it through most of the pregnancy, but needed to stop once the boys came home. According to my doctor (and I am not one, so I may not have this exactly correct) the placenta acts as a barrier to some degree and the Ambien doesn’t just mainline to the fetus. It does pass through breastmilk, but the amount is low and decreases significantly within three hours of so of taking it, much like alcohol.
But I haven’t taken it since the babies came home from the hospital, mostly because I was afraid of not being able to wake up to care for them when they needed me. Lately I’ve been noticing that I need a couple of Xanax to relax enough to go to sleep though, so I’m thinking of trying a half-dose of the Ambien again. The boys are now predictably sleeping until at least 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. every night, so I think I could manage it.
The whole thing makes me a little squeegy though. I want to be able to just sleep like a normal person. But I don’t and never have. So do I stay up all night, full of anxiety and then miserable the next day? Or do I reclaim my little addiction? It’s 3:00 a.m. right now, so my opinion is pretty biased at the moment.
Now where did I stash that little bottle?
(Please direct hateful comments and advice on how to relax to my spam folder. Thank you.)
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.