How and when did you come by it?

m_farmer.jpgWhat time of life, childhood, adolescence, motherhood, menopause?

Childhood onset insomnia is said to be rare, but a lot of people talk of their insomnia as going back forever.

Adolescent onset insomnia is also said to be “rare.” And yet many people trace their insomnia to this time.

Researchers tells us that most insomnia is brought on by a stressful event or event which then settles in and becomes conditioned. Has this been your experience?

Do you think it’s related to childhood stress or trauma?

Does it run in your family?

Is it related to your hormonal fluctuations?

Is it related to the work you do? Job and money insecurities?

Do you have other health conditions—such as autoimmune or gastric or low blood sugar –you think are related to insomnia? (other than obvious things that would keep anyone awake, like pain—I mean, subtler connections between something going on in your body and sleep disturbance)?

Head injuries?

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  1. Head injuries?
    Skiing accident 5 years ago, Traumatic brain injury to the brain stem, resulted in a coma and a lengthy recovery.
    The brain stem plays a role in regulating basic attention, arousal, and consciousness. The onset of insomnia happened about 2 months after the injury. I went 7 days getting no more than 20-30 minutes of sleep at a stretch. My doctor is a very “warm milk” sort. I became quite disoriented before he finally relented and wrote a prescription. Now five years later, I am regaining the ability to sleep without drugs.
    Given the severity of my injury, I have been quite fortunate. My heart goes out to those struggling with insomnia.

  2. 0-20 years old: slept like a baby
    20 -25 started skipping nights sleep for work during graduate school catching up on the weekends by sleeping 20 hours in a row

    25-32 mostly normal sleep patterns
    32- Began sleep interruption on 4 hour cycle because I began motherhood

    35-40 sleeping less, waking up early to have a little time before client’s starter calling, and husband and daughter wanted attention. I usually spent the time doing accounting and getting thoughts in order for the day. One day of the weekend asleep all day

    40 started waking up after 4 hours with out being able to recuperate lack of sleep and with out being able to fall back to sleep.

    40-45 progressively worse, headaches, nausea, fogginess, depression, physical pain corresponded to the time when I start working with a new partner on more complex jobs with more personal responsibility so I associated symptoms with stress occasionally took drops of Lexotan (I live in Italy so I don’t know what the American equivalent is)

    45 started to think the problem was more than stress doctor agreed so began testing, after two years of tests biopsies and unnerving hypothesis- I seemed like a case for Dr. Hause- and after collapsing and being hospitalized the diagnoses was a rare autoimmune disease.

    45-48 Taking a cocktail of medication for the autoimmune disease I avoid adding sleeping pills of any sort but still sleep only 4 hours a night. I have tried literally everything but can’t break the cycle. Now when I talk to doctors they tell me the insomnia is caused by the cortisone I have to take- can’t get them to understand that the problem starter before the cortisone.

    I recently started monitoring my blood pressure (problems related to the disease) and found that it is highest when I wake up at that 4 hour point. That is the diastolic is between 90 and 100 while the systolic can be normal or high at that time. I find that if I take my blood pressure medicine at that point instead of before going to bed at night, after a half an hour-sometimes-I fall back to sleep for and hour or two.

    Life modifications
    It is a chicken and egg situation because I am not sure if the insomnia facilitated the development of the disease or the disease caused the Insomnia. It usually take san average of ten years to diagnosis given the rarity of it (they say I am lucky because I found it in less than 5) so who knows when it really started.

    In any case, there is no question that I starter making mistakes at work and being less concentrated. I had hoped in times of difficulty my business partner would have helped as I helped him in times of need but instead he took advantage of my less than perfect attention and did some rather unscrupulous things, Given my health and my mental state it took a while to understand and then react to but eventually I left him and set up office on my own.

    The practical solution is.
    My office is in walking distance from my house and it has a small pleasant room with a bed. If I wake up at 4 in the morning and can’t sleep, I answer e-mails and do internet research for the day from my house. I wait until my daughter gets up to have breakfast with her before she goes to school and we walk together-her school is in the same block as my office. When my clients comment on the hour I wrote them I respond either, “I am an early riser and don’t need much sleep” or “my most creative ideas happen while I am sleeping so I get up and write them down” I am an architect so creative is a plus. It makes them feel good that I dream about their projects, during the day when I don’t feel well I lay down for 10 minutes to two hours. Putting my phone on automatic response which says I am in a meeting and can’t respond but will get back as soon as possible. I have found that clients forgive being busy coupled with the fact that I think of them at 4 in the morning, but they don’t accept illness and fatigue. When I am in pain from the disease I say I over did it at dance class the night before. People don’t tend to trust you with their money or their projects if you project weakness. And letting them know the truth doesn’t bring sympathy or give you slake as you might think would be the response. I do my job well but I have had to cut back the number of projects I can handle at a time and this has unquestionably affected my income.

    Why can I sleep in the middle of the day and not at night? Why do ten minutes at noon seem more restful than four hours at night? Some of it might be psychological, just the fact that I allow myself to do it relaxes me. But the other aspect is that I have complete control of my environment, no husband in the bed who moves or complains when I do, I can set the temperature as I want, use the weight of the blank I need, it is completely silent, I can have the shades open or closed. My needs are never the same but just the tranquility that what ever they are I can respect them gives that sleep a deeper quality.

    I am hypo not hyper thyroid and my mother had the same sleeping problems same daily cycle

  3. I have a new theory every day about how I became an insomniac. I think I have every risk factor.

    I have two parents who had either extreme insomnia like mine (mom) or disturbed sleep like my dad (RLS, HEAVY snoring, non-refreshing sleep “forever”).

    As a very young kid maybe 5 of 6, I remember having to share a bed with my sis, and also remember being brutally kicked (she’s since apologized!) every time I felt I was falling asleep. She said I was snoring. I’ve recently had a sleep study for apnea, and while they DID record SEVERE snoring, they said it didn’t last long…like 10 minutes, so it wasn’t a worry. However, I think I may only have had 10 minutes of sleep that night and it could be possible that neither of my sleep studies recorded a possible apnea because I don’t sleep long enough to record it. So, sometimes I theorize that possible childhood apnea accounted for my daytime exhaustion and maybe played a part in the eventual development of full-blown insomnia by teen-hood.

    I clearly remember a point in childhood (maybe around 8) when I realized that something seemed WRONG…I hated getting up in the mornings, and had a difficult time going to sleep at night, yet I would awaken an hour or two before necessary on school days and would feel desperate to get a little more sleep. Every school day I was zoned-out, recovering energy and clarity only in the evening. This is a set-up for my theory number 2; that I had/have a circadian rhythm disorder or delayed sleep onset, and that perhaps if I could have naturally followed my personal sleep pattern in childhood, I wouldn’t have destroyed my capacity to sleep well at ANY time, day or night.

    Theory #3 is that my condition probably is a complicated by childhood stressors. I had a loving family, but I had a mother whose ability to manage stress was near non-existant. She had MANY health condition of her own, diagnosed with FM, lupus (off-and-on, but she usually had the lupus rash on her face) and I now believe was probably bi-polar. Her method of communicating to her kids involved lots of very loud yelling, and I know that certainly affected any sense of serenity.

    I graduated to CHRONIC hard-core insomnia in my senior year in high school. Interestingly, I’ve read on other forums where it is not uncommon for life-long sleep problems to be traced to a period of all-nite “cramming” for school. Because I WAS so behind in school, I had to pull many all-nighters around this time, and my already fractured sleep patterns developed into…well, I think my “sleep-switch” broke, never to mend.

    I managed to get through a few years of college by choosing my schedule carefully, for the most part avoiding early classes.

    I got a preview of my “career potential” when I then tried for a few years to hold onto full-time jobs. I repeated a prayerful mantra every day just DRIVING to work; praying that I wouldn’t crash because the road would not stay still. My fatigue at work was inhuman; I felt and looked like a zombie. If I jokingly talked about having a “bad night” or mentioned insomnia, I’d likely get the response “don’t worry, you’ll sleep when you get tired enough!” In fact, the same false energy I had to call upon to push me through the day in which I had to FIGHT sleep, was probably the same factor that further disabled my ability to turn it off at night. The more tired I got, the less likely to acquire sleep.

    My belief is that the “sleep mechanism” (which is turning out to be true, if you search “sleep switch), is a very delicate set-up and once it’s really messed-up it’s GONE. The best one can do in response is to MANAGE it, by controlling one’s environment and schedule; and in my case…not holding a job.

    I also believe there’s a HUGE and largely unacknowledged genetic component. I believe chronic insomnia is related to PTSD, in which research is finding that sufferers have a genetic predisposition.

  4. P.S. I don’t know how I got the little EMOTICON in my 4th paragraph above…supposed to say “maybe around eight” (years old)

  5. My insomnia didn’t start until a few years after I left college and entered the working world. I had a couple of back-to-back jobs where I had an abusive boss. I believe my body holds on to these experiences in ways I don’t understand. I am 27 now, and I haven’t been able to get a good night’s sleep in about three years. My mom suffers too, and neither she nor I handle stress well. We hold onto it a lot. I have gone to talk therapy and of course, talked to my doctor multiple times. I have tried everything – exercise, food, hot baths, lavendar…I’m sure many of you out there do the same. It doesn’t work, does it?

  6. I believe I’m one of the worst sleepers who ever existed. I don’t ever remember sleeping well. My mother says I rarely slept as a baby and I continued to have problems sleeping throughout my childhood. I was eight years old when I was first taken to a doctor for treatment for insomnia. I think I was given a sugar pill in the hopes that it would have a placebo effect. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I remember MANY (most) nights lying in bed in the dark crying because I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do what other people found so natural–like breathing. I also felt extremely lonely. My mother started to believe that my problem was behavioural–I was just looking for attention. As I entered my teen years my problems with sleep intensified. By this point my mother was getting angry at me. She now told me that I wasn’t trying hard enough to control my anxiety. If I would just relax more, my problems would go away, she said. I started to became very secretive about my insomnia because I felt very ashamed of myself. I also didn’t want people to think I was a freak–an adolescent’s worst fear! I felt really different from other girls who could laugh so easily and be interested in such simple, silly things, but I felt like I was carrying a huge weight on my shoulders. In a way I was–I was so exhausted most days, it was all I could do to keep my head up. At about age 13 I started dipping into my parent’s liquor cabinet because I was desperate for something to knock me out. No one in my family knew I was doing this. In my late teens and early 20’s I began to use halidol, and progressed to other drugs in my 30’s and 40’s–I’ll write about my experiences with medication later. I will be 45 in a few weeks and, depending on what’s happening in my life, I fluctuate between managing the beast reasonably well to it completely managing me! All in all I’m a pretty happy person though. Gayle, I just want you to know that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Insomniac. It has done more for my self esteem than any of the psychologists or psychiatrists I have ever gone to (more on that later too!). You are so bang on in many, many ways thoughout the book. I have ALWAYS felt that my problem is physiological–some sort of chemical problem or misfiring of neurotransmitters. Any chance of you ever coming to Toronto?

  7. I bought your book, Gayle, after seeing the review in People, and I am stunned/relieved to see there are others out there like me that have experienced early onset of insomnia.

    I remember my parents telling me it was bedtime. I, too, would say “I can’t sleep!” They would say “just close your eyes”, not understanding that closing your eyes by no means guaranteed sleep, even at the age of 4 or 5.

    I would dread going to bed because I knew it would be another long night of looking at the shadows on the walls and glancing at the clock to see if it had advanced another two or three minutes. After I got into junior high (middle school as they call it now) and high school, I would panic when the clock would hit 4 a.m. and I still had not gotten to sleep because I knew I would be a zombie the next day and I wondered how in the world I was going to get through it.

    I am 42 years old now and these memories are as vivid today as they were back then….

  8. Insomnia did not hit me until menopause. I have trouble falling asleep and night sweats wake me up several times a night. For serveral years I was able to go right back to sleep after waking up, then about three years ago, it became very difficult to go back to sleep. Thank you, Gayle, for your book, and your belief in the connection between hormones and sleep.

    My insomnia has not been taken seriously by anyone except my acupuncturist, and a chiropractor; unfortunately, I have not found acucpuncture helpful. The sleep clinic I went to was exactly like the ones Gayle described: it was a sleep apnea clinic. They spent more time trying to sell me a CPAP machine than taking my history. Their own tests confirmed that I do not have sleep apnea. I was diagnosed with periodic limb movement sleep disorder, which I am trying to find out more about.

    The first two years of my insomnia were hideous; I got about 3 – 5 hours sleep per night (this after 57 years of 8 hours/night with very few problems, although it has always taken me 30 – 60 minutes to fall asleep initially). I started having dizzy spells during the day.

    Last fall, in desperation, I went to a local NAET practicioner (a chiropractor who cures allergies using a very non-Western approach focused on energy flow). After several treatments there, I lost the hyper-awake state I had been in for over two years, and started to feel sleepy. My sleep improved to 5 – 6 hours/night, which I do not consider adequate, but which was a definite improvement.

    I discovered during the first year of insomnia that listening to voices on tape is more helpful than any of the many drugs I’ve tried to help me fall asleep initially. I’ve tried mediation and hypnosis tapes, but a good tape of short stories is just as effective (as long as the stories are not full of tension and drama). I can play them again when I wake up during the night, and generally fall back asleep before I get to the end of the tape. Tapes are definitely prefereable to CD’s because they are shorter.

    Reading Insomniac was a gift. I just finished it a few weeks ago, and I’m thinking of reading it again, just because it makes me feel so good. I can’t imagine a whole lifetime of insomnia – I guess I’m lucky it’s only been three years, and the situation seems to be improving recently.

    Thank you, Gayle Greene, for your book and this website.

  9. I’ve had it since childhood, and I’m 52. It has always come and gone, like an unwanted guest. For weeks, I’ll have trouble sleeping 2/3 nights. Then, it goes way. It feels like a chemical imbalance. My brain literally feels different. There is a metallic taste in my mouth.

    I have noticed that since I gave up coffee four months ago, I’ve had less of a problem with insomnia. I drink tea, which has caffeine, but it doesn’t appear to have the same effect. Green tea in the mornings, black tea at midday. Another curious, related effect: Since giving up coffee, I need less sleep. I wake up more refreshed. So, if I do have insomnia, as long as I get some sleep, 3-4 hours, the next day isn’t so rough.

  10. My insomnia started right at menopause. I had my last period, and shortly thereafter, the insomnia started. Up until that point, I slept just fine. I have had no other menopausal symptoms, NO hot flashes. No other member of my family had or has insomnia. I don’t have any other health conditions. I eat very healthily, I have a fairly low stress life, my job is not too demanding. I tried to cope with the insomnia for 8 years using natural methods, herbs, meditation, relaxation. Nothing worked and I was exhausted a lot of the time, so I bit the bullet and started to take Lunesta. That has helped a great deal, although even with Lunesta there are periods where I still do not get enough sleep. I wake up too early and don’t seem to get enough REM sleep. Just sleeping that extra hour in the morning makes all the difference.

  11. My mother remembers her frustration in trying to rock me to sleep when I was a baby. Does that mean I already had as a baby what has been diagnosed as Delayed Phase or did her anxiety influence my sleep habits? My father was a surgeon who called his surgical crew in to operate at midnight when he was at his best. Did I inherit Delayed Phase from him? These are interesting questions but the bottom line is that I can never remember a time when it wasn’t difficult to wake up in the morning to go to school or other activity. I have memories as early as 4 years old that I was permitted tiny sips of wine to induce sleep, allowed a tv in my room so I could watch Johnny Carson and couldn’t wait for the Jerry Lewis Telethon so I could have company all night (before 24 hour tv). Honestly, this makes my parents sound irresponsible but it was a desperate and chronic situation. Later, sleepovers were great so long as staying awake was the goal. A pediatrician instructed my parents to give me allergy pills to induce sleep at around age 12. They made me groggy and weren’t particularly effective for sleep. My student record shows a chronic late arrival because I slept through alarms throughout my childhood. Nothing has changed. Getting to sleep at a “normal” hour has never been an option and stigmatized me in many ways throughout my life.

  12. I’ve slept fine my whole life until the day I brought my newborn son home. Since that exact day, I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 5 years. At first I believed it was due to having a new baby, who sleeps then anyway? He wasn’t a great sleeper for the first year and would wake every 2-3 hours to feed. On his first birthday, he slept through the night for the first time and has been a wonderful sleeper ever since. He is now 5 years old and I feel like I’ve aged 10 years from lack of sleep. I’ve never spent so much money on eye cream as I can’t stand the dark circles. My insomnia pattern changes from not being able to fall asleep for hours to falling asleep right away, but waking about 2-3 hours later, unable to go back to sleep. I’ve experienced a metallic taste in my mouth and I notice a physiological change in my body as bedtime approaches, around 10:30p or so. My body temp rises, my heart rate increases and I feel like I need to go for a run to burn off energy. I exersize regularly, eat well and have a very supportive family. I’m tired in the morning, exhausted in the afternoon, but then perk up in the evening. I notice my best nights are when I start yawning at night, my worst are when no yawns come on at all. I think my paranoia about not sleeping often causes more insomnia which is a vicious cycle. I have tried acupuncture which was relaxing, but didn’t help sleep. Under the direction of a Dr, I was taking glycerine, vit. D, Ambian, seriphos, Travacore, and melatonine all at the same time for about 8 months. She then added a bunch of holistic meds to help with adrenal exhaustion which is what she felt I had. Not much improvement then either. I got off the Ambian after about 4 months as I was getting horrible headaches and was scared to take it “forever.” Currently, I have nights where I feel like I never get to sleep and after 2 days of this, I am extremely irritable and anxious. It’s hard to be around anyone because talking about it doesn’t help, I just want to sleep and no one can do that for me. Meditation has helped and it helps to have some sort of counting mantra to repeat at night so I stay away from thinking about stressful things or not sleeping.

  13. It breaks my heart to read the sleep problems. I used to be sleep deprived and it is no laughing matter. However, I now sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed. Unless I accidentally ingested gluten. That little protein found in wheat that gives breads that really good texture. It took years to find out gluten was my problem but, after firing all the doctors I ever went to with my problem, I did some research on my own and got rid of gluten from my diet (as well as refined sugar). 1 out of 133 people and it could be more, have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. This can cause and is the cause of many of these people’s sleep deprivation. Historically, gluten was not a problem until modern technology messed with the genetics of grains to make bread even tastier. This has had huge undesirable health effects in people (and animals) and thanks to greedy corporations, we are dearly paying with our health. My advice to those who are suffering from sleep deprivation is to look at your diet. Consider getting rid of gluten from your diet. And while at it, refined sugars, which are notoriously bad for the health. Go for honey or raw sugar instead. Fake sweeteners are a no-no. I know this sounds simplistic but, wouldn’t it be worth trying if it were to work? Most doctors have no clue about this. If you would like to find out more about this, go to and you will get tons of info concerning the effects of gluten and how to avoid it in your diet. It worked for me and many, many others who had little or no sleep for years.

  14. No head injuries, but an illness having to do with my head, probably meno-pause/hormone related, maybe beginning with stress and continuing from it:
    Age 0-38: no sleep problems. I never thought twice about sleeping. In my 20’s I could even drink a coke just before bedtime and sleep like a baby.
    38: i spent 2 weeks in the hospital with meningitis/encephalitis. Plus, I went through a divorce. Sleep issues began then.
    38-48: I would experience periods of insomnia when I could fall asleep but wake up sometime in the night, often after 5 hours of sleep and be unable to get back to sleep.
    50-present: In the past few years, I NEVER sleep well at night. I can fall asleep but wake up anywhere from 1hour to 4 hours later and am usually unable to get back to sleep without help. Many nights I wake up every hour, then sleep, then wake etc. I NEVER feel like I have a good night’s sleep. Never feel like I’ve gotten down to the REM state. I used to remember dreams and now it feels like I do not dream at all (though I figure I must just not be remembering them).
    I take melatonin which seems to help a little, sometimes I drink Bedtime Tea (Yogi Teas) with valerian which can help, though then I have to get up in the night which can disturb my sleep.
    I am taking 25 mcg of L Thyroxine every morning for low thyroid.
    At first I thought that actually helped me sleep better, but now I don’t think it has any effect at all.
    I do not drink coffee, usually one cup of tea in the morning and maybe a coke in the afternoon. I do drink wine at night though. I’ve tried not drinking any wine and it does not seem to make a difference, but my next step is going to be avoiding all alcohol for a longer period of time to see if that helps. Relationship issues could also be a factor in sleeplessness, though I had insomnia well before the present relationship. The insomnia has just gotten worse over the years.
    I appreciate reading these blogs as they make me feel that I’m not alone and give me insights into other possibilities.
    Thanks, Gayle.

  15. I remember as a little girl watching my sister sound asleep in the car and my parents carrying her inside and putting her in her pajamas, she never stirred. I didn’t understand how someone could sleep so soundly. I do remember as a child having recurring nightmares and vivid, strange dreams just as much as I remember laying in bed counting sheep.

    I became obsessed with time. If I looked at the clock and it was double digits, such as 10:10, then I would be awake all night. This started one night when as I lay in bed trying to sleep I looked at the clock at 11:11 and the panic started. I tossed and turned until I finally rolled over to look at my clock, it was 12:12. I closed my eyes and tried to force myself to sleep but the next time I looked at the clock is was 1:11. This continued all night — I saw 2:22, 3:33, 4:44 and 5:55. I managed to never look at the clock at any other time that night. That lead to the nighttime panic — starting to worry about not sleeping before it happened.

    When I was younger it affected me but it was not as dibilitating as it has gotten in the last 10 years. I could recover more quickly when I was young — now I feel like a zombie most of the time.

  16. I have DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome), which I have suffered from (according to my mother, as of course I don’t remember that far back) since I was three days old. I cannot remember a time when I could fall asleep ‘naturally’ before 4 a.m. Of course, I have been frustrated and angered all my life by those well-meaning but clueless idiots who advise, “just close your eyes and relax, and you’ll go right to sleep” (no, nitwit, if YOU close your eyes and relax, YOU’LL go right to sleep; if *I* close my eyes and relax, *I* will be awake until 5:30, and THEN I’ll go to sleep).

    The best option, of course, would be to shift my sleep patterns from 5 a.m. or so to noon (I experience sleep of normal duration and quality as long as I sleep during that time), but that is not currently an option. I work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (I am, however, working on building up my freelance proofreading business with the intention of shifting my work hours to all night.)

    Currently, to allow me to work “normal” hours, I take 5 or 10 mg of Ambien each night. I have not experienced any negative side effects, other than what I call “buzzed e-mailing” (the equivalent of “drunk dialing”) which means that after taking my Ambien I do not sign off the computer quickly enough, and send over-emotional or silly e-mails that I regret the next morning. I also have made purchases on the internet (what my friends and family call “Ambien shopping”) about which I kicked myself the next day. However, I have never done or said anything while on Ambien that I did not remember the next day–only things that I regretted the next day. I equate it to be mildly intoxicated as opposed to blacking out.

    On weekends and vacations, I stop taking Ambien and revert to my normal sleep schedule, which is about 5-6 a.m. until 12-1 p.m. I have not experienced any symptoms of addiction; when I stop taking it for a few days or weeks, I immediately (with no lag period) revert to the exact same sleep schedule I had before I started taking it. Of course, my DSPS is chronic (25+ years now) and severe (shift/delay in sleep onset by greater than four hours from “normal” sleep onset times), which means that taking Ambien for an extended period of time is not going to “cure” it–just stifle it.

  17. I believe I have DSPS also. My earliest memories are night time memories. I used to get up and wander around the house after my parents were asleep. I know I was doing this when I was only two years old. I can clearly remember getting up at night after Mom and Dad and my younger brother were asleep–I used to like to climb up in the kitchen sink and watch the lighted A&P (a grocery chain store) sign revolve in the parking lot across the river from our house. I can remember one place we moved to when I was ten years old; the layout of the rooms and furniture enabled me to sneak into the dining room and watch late night TV (I was behind the sofa where Mom couldn’t see me). This was years ago, when Johnny Carson was the host of Late Night and after his show was over, all you got was a test pattern.

    Luckily, I have never been afraid of the dark but always felt secure in the night time. In fact, I love night sounds (crickets and spring peepers and trains) and the night air–which I think feels different than the day time air–fresher and cleaner somehow. It’s good I enjoy night, because I bet I spend more hours awake in the dark than in the light!

    Thank god I no longer have to worry about getting up and getting to work on time! Getting to work on time in the mornings became such a problem that I gave up trying to hold down a “normal” day job and took up driving a semi-truck…despite having a master’s degree! Truck driving usually worked pretty well for me…except when I had an early morning delivery. Now I’m retired, sorta, and don’t usually have to worry about being anywhere in the morning. I try never to schedule appointments or anything else before noon.

    Here’s how it goes….I get sleepy enough to fall off somewhere between 2 to 5 am normally. Once I get to sleep, I sleep like the dead and can be almost impossible to awaken. In the past five or six years, I’ve developed a lot of physical problems which interfere with my sleep–back pain, as well as arthritis in my hands, back, hips, and knees. Because of damage to the nerves in my legs, my limbs jerk periodically and cause me to have trouble falling asleep–especially when I am already tired.

    Used to be, once I went to sleep I didn’t waken into about 8 hours later. Now, I waken periodically–from either pain caused by turning in my sleep, or from my legs jerking. But left to myself, and allowed to get up when I awaken naturally and feel I’ve had my sleep out, I will usually get about 6 to 9 hours sleep.

    I’ve never been a morning person…not even as a child. It takes me an hour or two to ease into the day. I usually get sleepy around 3 to 5 pm…then get a surge in energy (you can almost set a clock by it) at 8 pm. Just as everyone else is winding down, I’m finally winding up!

    This pattern has caused me tons of grief…problems with spouses who didn’t like me not going to bed when they did, problems with getting to work on time, problems with holding down some jobs because I just couldn’t function on the schedule I was supposed to keep.

    Two more things to note: I don’t have Celiac disease–I’ve been tested for it and the test was negative. I do have untreated (and to be honest, self-diagnosed) ADD.

  18. I am 14 and I have it yeah young and I havent been able to sleep on my own since I was 3 and If I get lucky I can fall asleep at 6:30am I take medicine its called clonidine and it works great but I want to be able to experience just closing my eyes and falling asleep and if I do get a moment of sleep I get terrible nightmares bad so my sleeps lasts for about 5 minutes then im wired out! HELP!

  19. I could actually not sleep until I faint or die I have lasted 4 days without sleep without feeling tired but I got scared so I took a clonidine! and when I wake up it feels like im fully rested wierd but dangerous isnt it?

  20. And to add on to my 2 other comments I have ADHD and my dad has ADD and I think that might be causing it can it im mean look at the time im commenting im 14 and i didnt have any clonidine so i stayed up all night and look its 5:57am!!!

  21. I never had a problem with insomnia until 1989, when my first wife died a few hours after having a massive heart attack. My physician prescribed Ativan, which seemed to work a miracle until it made me so nervous and jumpy during the day that I had to go off of it. I then saw a sleep disorder specialist at the Cleveland Clinic who suggested biofeedback. This seemed to work in part, but still left much to be desired. They then referred to to a psychiatrist who thought I had some unresolved grief issues.

    I re-married about two years after my wife’s death, but still have bouts of insomnia. I was prescribed trazadone at one time, took one dose, and the next day when I was driving, I found that I had completely lost my sense of direction. I stopped the medication immediately.

    I have been taking Ambien -the generic kind – off and on for about three or four years now, and find that when I cut a 10mg tablet into quarters, the two or three mg dose lets me sleep. Sometimes, though I wake up after four or five hours.

  22. (Local time is 11:52 pm)

    Hello, all. I have trouble falling asleep, and think my problem is Delayed Sleep Phase. (DSPS is technically not considered insomnia, but it’s close enough and who’s counting, right?) I have had nightowl tendencies for as long as I can remember (age 3), but was not aware of having trouble sleeping until age 7 (probably because of enforced bedtimes on school nights). Sleep hygiene is worthless for me; to quote a fellow nightowl, sleep hygiene merely “improves the decor of Hell.” Valerian not only doesn’t help me fall asleep any sooner than I otherwise would have, but it gives me nightmares and a terrible sleep hangover the next day. Taking melatonin before bedtime never helped either. (For fellow DSPS’ers, mel. can also be used as a chronobiotic to shift the circadian rhythm earlier, generally by taking about 1/4 mg about 8 hours after your natural spontaneous wake time; I have not tried it that way yet, but others have had success.) Right now I am self-administering bright light therapy; it helps, but I haven’t been able to shift forward more than a few hours. I thought I was ready to try drugs, but after reading Gayle’s book, I am scared to death to try them!

  23. When I was a child, we lived in a bad neighborhood. The woman next door was a scary-looking hag who had killed her husband and would occasionally threaten us kids. My bedroom was on the alley between our houses, and I was constantly afraid she was going to come to my window and kill me while I slept. I’ve never associated that trauma with my lifelong insomnia, and the idea really surprises me now.

    Thank goodness I’m 61 and no longer working so I can sleep as little or as much as I want. Sometimes when I’ve been up all night, I am aware that I feel more relaxed when it starts getting light outside and can fall asleep more easily. Perhaps this is a reflection of my childhood fear which manifested most strongly at bedtime (when it was dark).

  24. I first experienced insomnia when I was 30 and had a toxic withdrawal from Paxil. My doctor put me on Zanax, which simply put me to sleep every time I took it. When I went to the hospital and they didn’t give me any, I didn’t sleep for TWO ENTIRE NIGHTS.

    My periodic chronic insomnia started a few years later, during pregnancy, and has lasted off and on for the 10 years since. My marriage ended soon after my daughter was born, so I need to be “on duty” all the time, which might be part of the issue.

    Trazadone helps me fall asleep easily, but I have trouble staying asleep: I either wake up at 2 or 3 for a couple of hours and take a little Ativan to help me get back to sleep, or I wake up a couple of hours too early at never get back to sleep.

    I’m going to move over to the general experience section to finish my thoughts.

  25. If there would be no war, no imperialism, no discrimination, no poverty, no abuse then there would be no insomnia. Instead we had compassion, kindness, love, connection, and understanding, It is a societal ill just like depression and PTSD. Women, elderly, and minorities suffer most from these b/c we are marginal groups. Other people might suffer because they have lost touch with what makes them happy and are too concerned with making it, status, and privilege.

  26. My insomnia began in childhood. I remember often being told by adults to go to bed and it would be daytime as soon as I next opened my eyes, but then the night would drag on for hours before I’d get to sleep. I did have a very unstable childhood, with parties going on around me till all hours of the night or my mother suddenly deciding at 1 am that it was time to leave her boyfriend that very instant, with us kids in tow, of course. Was also left alone a lot at night so often woke to find no-one around, which was unnerving. The insomnia has continued on and off till the present. I’m now 49 but at least am in a stable-ish pattern of getting to sleep by 2- 4 am, with the help of a small dose of meds. Luckily I work a late starting shift (2pm start) so can sleep in, but I try to always get up by 8 30 or 9.30 am.

  27. Should have added to the above:

    I don’t think it runs in my family, but depression and mood disorders do.

    I don’t have any other health problems apart from allergies. No head injuries though feel brain-damaged if I don’t get enough sleep!

    Stress makes it worse, so I maintain a low stress life as much as possible.

    Hormones definitely have an effect–my menstrual periods severely exacerbate the insomnia, to the point where it can be 7 or 8am and I’m still not sleepy.

  28. As I read these posts, I’m seeing a very strong autoimmune theme. I have Grave’s disease, diagnosed in my 40’s, but prob. had all my life. Sleep disturbance began in mid-30’s, likely related to hormonal changes impacted by the Graves, but have also had early childhood brain injuries.

    Head injuries (common in childhood) are another common theme here. Many people have mild brain injury in utero and don’t know it, but suffer symptoms such as ADHD, OCD, chemical sensitivity and sensitivity (or lack of) to smells, and yes… sleep disturbance.

    I work with people w/disabilities and have have many brain injured clients w/severe sleep disturbance after injury. Sleep meds often have little improvement on their conditions.

    If it comes down to injuries to the brain, brain stem, or regulating glands (thymus, hypothalamus, thyroid) whether through injury or disease, and interactions of hormones; these are very complex things to sort out and doctors do not know how to treat insomnia if they can’t sort out the various causal mechanisms.

    Where does that leave us? Basically… as self-diagnosing and self treating experimenters (same as doctors, I guess), but I often wonder if we are doing more harm with our concoctions, cocktails, medications and adaptive measures.

  29. It started around age 12, very fun, loving childhood w/ 3 brothers, 2 caring and encouraging parents, lots of head-injuries though in all the childish rough-housing…i’m almost 30 now and the insomnia gets worse and worse every year. The “bad periods” which last a month to 2 months, come 4-5 times a year, 1-2 hrs of sleep a night, usually correlating with changes in seasons, and gets most vicious during my mentrual cycle/full moon. I’m generally a positive, “look-on-the-bright-side” type of person, with lots of love in my life, but insomnia has limited my potential to be a fully-participating member of society, in terms of the types of jobs and social schedules I can handle, etc…My mom has always been a poor sleeper, ie: “light” but never as bad as I am. Like Kathy (above) my parents often took out their frustrations about my disorder by blaming me for it…there must be something wrong with my lifestyle (i keep a regular schedule, sleep in a cool dark room, no TV, computer, drinking before bed, excercise regularily, eat healthy, great friends, job that I love)…or sending me to psychitrists who insisted I must be tortured by guilt about something. Nope. Not guilty. Just tired. And always the feeling that “nobody understands.”

  30. I also remember having a hard time sleeping as a child – some time around age 7 or 8, I remember staying up all night worrying if the sleeping pill they gave me was going to work or not. I’ve never been a “good sleeper” and I avoid vacations because, what will I do if I get insomnia and I’m in some hotel somewhere and there’s noplace to go but the lobby? (this has happened – walking around the hotel lobby in the wee hours..) Insomnia is also complicated by, and complicates, my bipolar disorder. I’ve read the same books, the same authors, as Gayle recommends (I was surprised to see this list, of the authors I keep coming back to) because other bedtime reading keeps me up all night. My doctor keeps me on sleeping meds (formerly Ambien, now Lunesta with good results) because sleep deprivation can trigger a bad episode. Trust me I know. I pass for normal but when I get sleep deprived I have trouble acting like all the lucky folks with normal brain chemicals.

  31. I’m 17, and discovered that I’m an insomniac about 3 years ago. I found out by aimlessly googling in the middle of the night – and discovered ‘Insomnia’ -before this, I didn’t even know it was a problem. I remember reading that “the average adult falls asleep in 7 minutes”, and I was dumbstruck. For as long as I could remember (about 6 years old), it took me hours to get to sleep, whilst my brother fell asleep in minutes. Founding out that this wasn’t normal behaviour was a good first step – and now I feel I know all there is to know about Insomnia – just not what cures it for me.

    It’s sad, but I feel its’ part of me now – no trauma set it off, I had a perfectly normal childhood, but now I find sleep patterns interesting.
    It may take me hours to fall asleep, but once I do I fall into extremely deep sleeps, and then struggle to wake up.

  32. My mum and dad can merrierly wheel off countless stories of having major trouble getting me to fall to sleep when i was a tiny tot (before i can remember in other words). Insomnia and general ‘night owl’-ness runs on my dads side of the family, so naturally my dad is considered an insomniac as well. He has just as much trouble falling to sleep as i do and his had it his entire life too.
    However, coming back to me personally, I can clearly remember having trouble getting to sleep when i was very young (around 4 years old). I have memories of when i used to look out my window at all the stars and make up stories in my head about them to pass the time until i felt sleepy. Didn’t have a clock in my room at the time but i bet it must of been fairly late before i went off.
    This sleeplessness (or being nocturnal/night owl) continued on in my life and didn’t really see it as an issue as i was so used to it. Getting older i used to watch TV, sneak downstairs and play on the computer, read books, anything to pass the time.
    It wasn’t until i hit my mid-teens and all the major exams started at school that this made my insomnia worse. It went from me ‘normally’ dropping off at around 1am to either 4/5am or not going to sleep at all!!! My parents (more so my dad for obvious reasons) would constantly be telling me off if they saw my light on in my room after a certain time or heard me get out of bed. looking back now,i’ve lost count how many times that happened…
    However, that stress ‘trigger’ seems to have stayed with me ever since.
    I’m now in my mid-twenties and have abit of stress in my life at the moment and my sleeping has been so awful that i’ve finally gone to the doctor about it. Got put on low dose zopiclone, it worked in sending and keeping me asleep but made me horribly depressed the next day, so came off it and got put on diazepam instead but it doesn’t work at all. The doctor just suggested i sort these small~ish stress issues out (which i can’t just yet).
    When i brought up that having insomnia has played a part my entire life and as it runs on my dads side of the family, could a genetic componant play a part? I was practically told in the nicest possible way that i should leave such things the medical profession to research and not leap to my own conclusions. I haven’t been to see the doctor since for my insomnia. I was left with the impression that they didn’t really have a clue about what its like to suffer with this.
    But i know even when the stress is off the insomnia will still be there but not as bad.
    I personally believe there has to be a genetic factor involved in my case.

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