Sleep Starved: A site by insomniacs and for insomniacs who are looking for something new…
Mar
5

Your stories and ideas…

insomnia_red.jpgI want to know what you know about insomnia, where you think it came from, the impact it’s had on your life, your experiences with drugs, sleep clinics, cognitive behavioral therapy, alternative therapies, the ways you’ve found of coping, and any other insights you have that might shed insight on this complex condition.

Insomniacs are said to be “emotionally seclusive and socially withdrawn,” “mentally and physically inactive, uncomfortable, sleepy, indifferent, not enjoying themselves, and depressed.” They appear to be a “distressed, pessimistic, worried group who face the world with apprehension, anxiety, and self-deprecation.” They have “greater difficulty in interpersonal relationships,” “impaired social skills or negative social attitudes.” Since they have a tendency to deny psychological problems, “essentially considering sleeplessness to be the entire problem,” they have a “strong resistance to the physician’s exploration of problem areas; a need for control, as expressed in manipulation of medications and lack of compliance with general measures.” Even when they deny that they’re depressed and insist that sleeplessness is “the entire problem,” they are depressed. —Insomniac

I am really very tired of being told what it’s like to live in my body by people who haven’t a clue.–Insomniac

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41 Responses to “Your stories and ideas…”

  1. Well, I certainly don’t agree with most of the observations quoted in the article above. If anything, my mind is TOO active and, as for “emotionally seclusive”…well, from the sound of the word, that’s not on target either.

    I’m ready to have a dialog with fellow insomniacs to discuss some options other than Ambien. It works OK, but sometimes my brain just ‘pushes through’ it (not intentionally) and then I’m really stuck. My granddaughter, age 9, already shows signs of sleep disorder and it would be nice to find something that might work for her…even if it’s too late for me!

  2. peter rigacci

    it used to be popular for people to ask: are you a morning person or a night person? I used to say: mostly a night person, but sometimes a morning person. I also used to joke about having allergies and being an insomniac. well it turns out I have a bunch of allergies and i am insomniac.

    when i sleep i sleep when i don’t i don’t. if i get a period of good night’s sleep then i have it’s followed by periods when i don’t need sleep.

    personally i don’t consider it a problem. but it’s true that i have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. i can work all night if i want and sleep in, or rest as i feel.

    that’s the whole point i’d like to make: i really think that the artificial schedules that we live in the modern world are the cause of insomnia. it’s not a disease or flaw of character. people aren’t robots that can be turned on and off on some arbitrary schedule.

    i like to trust my brain and the notion that it knows what it’s doing. so i live my life on my own schedule. if that aggravates a few people around me – well that’s their problem.

    i tried drugs and for me they weren’t a good solution. I didn’t like the side affects. so i just go at life on my own schedule. sleep when i can and stay up when i fell like it. if i’m late or absent i always make due – no problem. i’m generally better prepared than my collegues. but forcing myself day after day to fit into an uncomfortable schedule is a futile effort with little reward.

  3. March 24,2008

    I can’t believe that finally I have a place and a space to share my thoughts, fears and feelings about my chronic insomnia. I have always felt ashamed, defective, imperfect, for not being able to sleep. “If only I could ask for one thing in life it would be to sleep.” is my inner mantra.

    I am in a relationship now where besides my not sleeping, he snores. I love him dearly but since he sleeps so well, he cannot/won’t/doesn’t empathize and tells me it is MY problem. We can’t cuddle, stay in each other’s arms, travel and stay in the same room, not to mention, I am in a terrible mood in the morning. And what is worst when he says HE didn’t sleep at all!!!

    So, I will share some of my personal observations. You won’t be surprised that at 2:04 AM I am not as congruent and eloquent as i would like to be.

    1. I usually can sleep if I am completely happy, have nothing to prepare for or worry about, feel safe and protected, which obviously, is rare.

    2. I have been hypnotized, had acupuncture, taken most of the sleeping pills, tried almost every non prescription, off the counter drug you can imagine; endured the most awful Chinese, Korean and Mexican teas, taken a shot of tequila or glass of wine, and listened to every sleep CD in existence to make my brain go into an Alpha place…not to mention doing pranayama meditation and chanting before sleeping.

    3. The only thing that seems to help me is when I have a wonderful boyfriend who will massage my head for about an hour…oh yes, orgasms sometimes help.

    4. I don’t know if I got Graves disease because I didn’t sleep and continued to work, exercise and be world’s greatest pretender, or if I didn’t sleep because I had a hyper active thyroid.

    5. I feel I am doomed to never again have a real, intimate relationship because of my sleeping problems.

    6. My coping strategy: since I know what is it to be addicted to sleeping pills, I now only take .50 mg of Ativan or half an Ambian twice a week. However, if I am under pressure nothing really helps.

    7. I’m not sure how having a support group would help. But, this is the closest thing to having one, so thank you.

  4. ilene

    I never slept well, neither did my mother or brother. We were often up in the middle of the night having wonderful conversations with my dad yelling for my mother to come back to bed. My older son doesn’t sleep much either and he and I have emailed at 4:30 – 5 Am for years.. the struggle has been to stay in bed that long!

    I take 50 mg of trazodone which often, but not always, gives me 4 hours of sleep.. Fridays and Saturday are the best.. sundays nothing helps.

    before i started trazodone, every night was horrible… i dreaded approaching bedtime.

    I would love to sleep 8 hours every night!

  5. besosdemadrid

    I’ve always been a bad sleeper, so I choose to think of myself as a light sleeper, rather than an insomniac. (However, my parents claim I was born an insomniac because I never slept much as a baby or as a kid.)I wake up at the slightest noise and then can’t get back to sleep, so I try to nap and catch up on the weekends. I find it easiest to sleep on a full stomach, but there is a window of about 15 minutes when I finish a meal that if I miss, I won’t fall asleep.

    I wouldn’t describe myself as any of the quotes above, and I choose to make it a personal mission to get the necessary sleep I need. When I’m anxious or have a lot on my mind, it is much harder to sleep well, and I often have short, intense dreams.

    I’m prone to migraines, so I don’t take any sleep aides. I tried a few and they left me groggy or anxious. The best thing I’ve found is listening to meditation tapes in bed. You’re not supposed to sleep while listening to them, but I’ll take what I can get! I’m also a chronic jaw-clencher, so before going to bed I say to myself, “I am going to wake up relaxed and well-rested”. Occasionally it works.

  6. pamela

    I fear that if I start talking about this, I won’t stop until the year 2015….I am another person for whom 24 hours cannot be neatly parcelled to include 6-8 hours of solid sleep. On the rare occassion it does, I have enough energy to fuel a rocket – hence, I get 2 days on 1 good sleep period.

    My parents were very results-oriented and hard working, and I don’t think anyone realized how terrified a child can become when they don’t think they can meet the expectations set by family and school. My earliest memories are of me worrying about everything.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to learn I have a mental illness, but guess what folks? I’m out here, walking around with the rest of you, functioning in the business world, making it to the top of the 4th flight of stairs at Christopher Street well before many 20 and 30 somethings (I’ll take my 58, stenosis and all, thank you)…I’m out of one day and into the next by completing the task at hand. I do as much as I can until I feel like dropping to the floor. My husband has accused me of sneaking out of the house to meet someone else, because I’ll go out to the garden at 3AM, or take in wash, or whatever.

    I think we have all begun some sort of therapy at this site. I wish all the best to those who visit here – the investment of time and money to lose what is essentially part of ourselves has not been a waste – this collective expression of pain and acceptance can only help other sufferers.

    Thank you for listening.
    Pamela

  7. oconnormassa

    I have suffered from occasional bouts of insomina….not to the extent some people do. Recently, I started taking B-12, B-6 and folic acid, because I have been feeling run down (even when I do sleep).
    I am finding that I sleep better, and if I wake up, I fall back to sleep more quickly. It seems to help and would suggest it to anyone who is having problems.

  8. Tim

    I think the operative word in sleep problems is complex. While some need only a simple solution, for example, stay off caffeine 8 hours before sleep or get up at the same time every day or keep the bedroom cool and dark, for many of us sleep can be a difficult conundrum.

    I’ve read a lot of books and recently saw an MD sleep specialist. I try various things and some work better than others. The puzzle for me is that while some things work well one night, the next night those things don’t result in a good sleep.

    What I’m trying to do is to not let sleep issues dominate me a constantly–like a sliver in my happiness–but try to let them go.
    That doesn’t mean that I ignore sleep, because I can’t do that either.

    I stay away from caffeine late in the day, am beginning to use cognitive behavior therapy, and use every sleep hygiene tip that I run across. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

    A major issue for me is that I don’t naturally go to bed early, but must be up early in the morning for work. The doctor I consulted thinks my primary issue is delayed sleep phase disorder. I’m also a worrier (a 6 or 7 on a 10-point scale). He prescribed Rozerem, which is supposed to help get to sleep faster. I’m one week into a month-long trial. It seems to have worked some nights and not others. No definitive answers yet, but thankfully it doesn’t make my sleep worse.

    With all the sleep references in Shakespeare, including insomnia, I’d bet he had problematic sleep.
    Go figure.

  9. birgit

    Insomnia is hereditary. I started drinking to get tired enough to fall asleep (or just pass out). I went to rehab for alcohol abuse many years later. I was told that there is a gene that can run in the family for alcoholism. My family has this gene (supposedly). BUT what if it is really the gene for insomnia and we were all just looking to get some sleep from passing out from drinking?!!!

  10. tiathome

    Wow! Just registered, where to begin. I started having sleep issues about 6 years ago and it has gone through various stages. Just like many of the previous entries, I just work through trial & error. Started out waking up and going back to sleep throughout the night. Then went through a phase where no matter what time I went to bed, I would wake up at 4:30 am. Now the problem is that I have a “window of opportunity” between 10:30-11pm when I’m ready to fall asleep, but if I stay up past that point, then I’m up most of the night. I believe much of this, in my case, is ageing and menopausal side effects. I have had success for the previous manifestations of insomnia with exercise, vitamin supplements, stretching & breathing exercises, visualization techniques, etc. but then it seems to find a new way to manifest. My instinct is that most chronic sleep problems are organic in nature – too much of something? – too little of something? For instance, if a person does not produce enough lithium, they develope schizophrenia. I have a feeling insomnia is the same sort of problem. Some people are born with/without whatever makes you sleep, and other people become depleted of this substance as they age or go through other physical changes. Just a feeling – no proof!

  11. marginal1

    ha ha…I concur with another poster (if I begin talking, can I stop!) I feel the same way and I hope the host can bear my being all over this website today. But I have only just heard of this book INSOMNIAC, then found this website and am so elated that an actual (and CREDIBLE!) sufferer of chronic insomnia is bringing attention to the seriousness of the issue.

    I’m now 60 and most of my life I’ve been “in the closet” with my insomnia. I loathed hearing the ineveitable suggestions my disclosure would elicit and was embarassed, felt defective and actually FREAKISH by my condition.

    In my younger years I let co-workers and even bosses tease me about late-night partying, because that felt more normal than the truth…that I don’t sleep. I could never hold those jobs for long.

    Sharing this condition with non-sufferers is asking for anything but true sympathy. When I first complained to a doctor as a teenager that I was having extreme insomnia, he put his hand on mine and softly suggested that I find a nice young man and get married. Then there are the leering suggestions from males should you bring it up. The rest will just dismiss you and privately label you lazy.

    I managed to get to 50 only by eventually working part-time restaurant jobs where it was possible to make relatively good money in a part-time night shift. When I finally tried for “respectable” employment at regular hours, I made a descent into the crazy zone…felt disconnected from my body and eventually filed for disability. From my earliest job in my late teens, I felt I had a genuine, but invisible handicap but I couldn’t imagine being granted disability status from such an impossible-to-document condition. By 50 I was FORCED to file and eventually was granted SSDI probably more on my age (by then 55) than any evidence that I was in fact so impaired from insomnia.

    I solidly believe my insomnia is a genetic mis-wiring. As a child I remember my mother frequently crying over her insomniac’s fatigue. My father is also a terrible sleeper, but even though he claims to not remeber EVER waking up refreshed, he has been able to function better than I. But his memory has always been TERRIBLE, like mine. I have a brother and sister who are always seeking better sleep and now I have college-student daughter who makes frightening statements to me about her hallucinatory fatigue from her inability to sleep.

    What I’m angry about is how doctors and researchers can be so dismissive and so lacking even the imagination to suppose this condition is possibly biological and that you are not merely in need of better habits!? Credible studies have been done with fruit flies where researchers have even successfuly BRED for insomniac fruit flies! (mate 2 sleepy flies and eventually the offspring will also be insomniac…I know, who woulda thought flies sleep)

    Anyway, THANK YOU for this forum, it is so liberating to have a voice about this most unglamorous condition. We urgently need a solution before my struggling college student graduates and is expected to hold a job and pay back her staggering loans!

  12. ethyachk

    I just heard you on NPR and had to drop in and share my $.02 here. I had problems sleeping starting at age 13. High School was agony for me and my trying to get enough sleep. I was misdiagnosed with depression at age 22 and badly treated for that with numerous sample drug packs from my unhelpful doctor. I later changed doctors and was put on Welbutrin, which helped my depression and sleep to a small degree but not enough. Later, after seeing a psychiatrist in a failed attempt to breathe life into a dying relationship, I was properly diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and was put on Ativan and Seroquel. Honestly, I could live without Ativan. Seroquel has been like a magic wand that lets me sleep when I need to as well as when I want to. I am, however, slowly developing an immunity to Seroquel, so I am in CBT trying to fix whatever is wrong with my brain. I only hope that if some of you were considering Seroquel and wanted to hear a success story before trying now go out and have the success that I had.

  13. cmt

    My insomnia comes and goes. Before menopause, I could predict my next period by the night or two of serious insomnia (and dark thoughts and anger). So, I’m sure hormones are related to it. I’ve also noticed that if I go to an evening meeting, workshop or lecture that engages my interest and gets me talking and wanting to express my ideas, I come home feeling like I’ve had 10 Red Bulls, and I can’t get to sleep for hours. There’s something about stimulation created by the sharing of ideas, or somebody pushing a button emotionally that puts my mind in high gear.
    As for turning it off, I try to do kegels when I’m lying in bed (those exercises they teach you in Lamaze class). I try to do them slowly, and concentrate on my breathing while I do them. It’s tedious and boring, and sometimes it helps shut out all the other thoughts in my brain so I can fall asleep, but it is not surefire.
    I have always found I am especially tired after dinner and want to go to bed then. When I was single I would often sleep from 7 to 10 pm, then wake up refreshed enough to do evening activities from 10 to 2, then sleep again from 2 to morning. It worked well for me. Now that I’m married I can’t really do that, but I often think I’ll just lie down and watch TV or a video for a little while after dinner, then invariably doze off in the middle, and wake up, finish the show or whatever, and get up and do what needs to be done, and stay up till 1 or 2. I seem to remember reading that tv produces alpha waves, and that’s why people fall asleep watching it. However, I rarely am able to take a nap after dinner. I may want to, but once in bed, I can’t fall asleep. Now that I am married and have a child, there is the nagging guilt and the noise from elsewhere. How much effect does guilt have? Does anybody know?

  14. ashleyjg

    Has anyone here felt judgment from a pharmacist? Last year, I had a traumatic experience going to fill a prescription from my primary care physician for Ambien CR. My doctor called it in for me, and when I arrived at the pharmacy to pick it up, the pharmacist refused to fill it. He said he had given me Rozerem just three weeks prior and would not give me the new kind. My doctor and I spoke about this, and Rozerem had the opposite effect on me, plus a few added side effects that made me feel worse. I could not take Rozerem at all. My doctor’s office called to talk to him about it, but there was no use. I immediately changed pharmacies and complained about how he treated me. My dignity was shot that day. I was humiliated as he verbally degraded me and my situation in front of a line of customers. It was wrong on so many levels. I will never forget the way Ray made me feel. It is people like him that make me feel I am alone and ostracized for my insomnia. I started crying when he refused me that day, because I had not slept in the past two nights. He was taken aback, and I told him I couldn’t believe he was doing this, that I was absolutely exhausted. He does not deserve to have that job. My doctor was furious that this happened to me and said that pharmacists are not paid to be doctors. They are supposed to fulfill the doctors’ requests. It was an awful experience, and I wondered if anyone else had encountered that.

  15. traci

    I’m not really sure when my insomnia started…perhaps I did not realize that is what it was early on. I thought you comments on hormones is interesting as I don’t always have trouble sleeping so I think I will try to track the actual dates.

    I used to have trouble falling asleep but once I was asleep I was good to go. Even if I woke up in the middle of the night I could walk downstairs to the kitchen, get a glass of water, maybe even let out the dogs for a quick break and as soon as I got back to bed I fell instantly asleep. Finally I found a cure for myself to fall asleep. I tell myself the same story every night. I made up a little story and it’s the exact same script night after night no changes to the plot whatsoever. I now get only a quarter of the way through the story…probably just minutes and I’m sound asleep. Now, my problem is waking up in the middle of the night. The story does not work in teh middle of the night. My mind is racing from thought to thought at 100mph and I know sleep is hopeless. I am trying to come to terms with this and simply get up and read or watch tv until I’m exhausted and can go back to sleep but I guess I’m still in the stage of hope…hope that I actually will go back to sleep quickly.

    I’m also finding it difficult to deal with the guilt or people’s perception (my husband included) that I am somehow lazy if I sleep in until 10 am. I own my own business and work out of the house when I’m not on the road so it is very easy to do this when I need to…but I feel I need to be secretive about it.

    One brief note…and I do not know why…when I am on the road I sleep like a baby and do not seem to have any insomnia issues. Even when I’m not physically exhausted from a long tedious day. Go figure…

  16. katyanne

    I first had insomnia at age 16 (1965) Many years later, I figured out that that first episode was likely triggered by pre-menstrual hormones. I also had anxiety and depression which fueled the insomnia. In those days, the only meds were tranquilizers and heavy duty sedatives. Could not stand the side effects so wasn’t on them very long.
    I got into smoking pot at age 15, and finally alcohol. Pot did a pretty good job of getting me to sleep but I didn’t like relying on it. I turned to alcohol but this eventually backfired because I became an alcoholic and it totally wrecked my sleep cycles. I quit drinking 20 years ago and 4 years later, I began with antidepressants – imipramine, which stopped working after a number of years, then trazodone which I also took for several years. The quality of my sleep wasn’t great but it was better than none. And by the way, my anxiety and depression was taken care of long ago, but the insomnia remained.
    About 2 years ago, I tried Lexapro – no help there, then hit upon Ambien (5 mgs) and Remeron (15 mgs) and have had really good sleep since. Remeron increased my night time appetite but that’s under control now.
    What I also use quite regularly are brainwave entrainment CD’s, at least 3 or 4 times a week. When I’m feeling a little sleepy from the meds, I get in bed, put the headphones on and drift off. I usually get about 8 hours of sleep. There are times when my sleep is restless and not as good as it could be. I have the occasional night of little or no sleep, but this is rare.
    I did have some morning grogginess with a slightly higher dose of Ambien but have somehow trained myself to get by with less.
    So, over the years, insomnia was often caused by hormonal changes, anxiety, depression, stress, caffeine, being angry, mental activity, feeling wired, and alcoholism.
    I’ve cobbled together methods that work for me, i.e., the typical “sleep hygeine” (what a horrible term!) strategies, reduced caffeine, the relaxation CD’s and the medications.
    Insomnia has messed with my intimate relationships, my ability to work and certainly I’ve had my share of comments from non-sufferers, which led me to suffer in silence. I’ve also felt that there was something wrong with me because I needed meds but then decided, the hell with it, I’m going with what works! So I feel blessed that I’ve hit on a solution that works for me.
    Insomnia was a problem for my mother and I am like her in many ways, including that. She had some sleepwalking episodes in childhood.
    I didn’t have kids so, haven’t passed on the problem!
    Anyone interested in brainwave entrainment, try therelaxationcompany.com for Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s work and brainsync.com for Kelly Howell’s. I’ve also used guided imagery CD’s from healthjourneys.com. All good, in my opinion.
    Oh yes, one last – I bought the Brain Spa from Sounds True and although effective, the sounds are intrusive unless combined with music and/or turned down very low. It’s pretty expensive compared to the CD’s.

  17. ededdyed

    I stumbled upon your book at the library and can’t express how great it is to read “my story.” I’ve been battling insomnia for about 8 years (i used to sleep like a baby) and have visited an array of doctors, tried countless drugs, tried homeopathy remedies, been to sleep labs, tried accupuncture — all to no avail.
    Most nights, I can fall asleep just fine; my problem is that I wake up after a few hours with the sensation of a full bladder, which requires that I get up to go pee. Once I do, I climb back in bed and can’t fall back asleep so I lay awake for several hours. It’s only when I need to get up (around 7:30 or 8:00 that I feel like I can fall asleep again. Having a full-time job, obviously makes it impossible to drift back off. Anyway, I initially thought I had some sort of bladder problem or a prostate issue but, after countless visits to the doctor, the verdict is my bladder/prostate are fine. I’ve been to other doctors and sleep labs and all they do is throw drugs my way and intimate that I’m suffering from anxiety or depression (the only thing I’m depressed about is not getting the sleep I need!). All along, I’ve maintained that my body is telling me something’s not right and that it’s a PHYSIOLOGICAL issue I’m dealing with. Does anyone else out there have a similar problem they’re dealing with?? If so, are there any remedies that work? Right now, I take 50 mgs of amitryptiline before bed — I still wake up with some aggravating sensation in my abdomen (don’t know if it’s my bladder or belly these days) and struggle to fall back to sleep. I’d love to not be dependent on drugs to get a good night’s rest but, like most of you, am willing to try anything! The amitryptiline seems to help me fall back to sleep sooner than taking nothing at all but, by no means, is a magic bullet. I’m still tired and groggy and – on many occasions –cranky. I’m hopeful there’s a cure out there for me and truly appreciate this site for the shared empathy it provides and the ability to vent without being judged.

  18. cathymclain

    Hello–I am new here and this is my first post.
    I have struggled with insomnia for some 40 years…but in the past few years I have developed something new and miserable…and am wondering if anyone has experienced this or knows anything about it:
    When I start to fall asleep…my mouth jerks closed…and often bite my tongue…and also have have very loud auditory hallucinations…miserable and frightening…
    Now I have to take lorazepam every night…its anticonvulsant properties help…
    went to neurologist and had a bunch of expensive and ultimately useless tests….
    anyone have any insight into this…?
    Thanks so much
    peace to you all…

  19. ECUGrad92

    This is my first post and I am glad to see there are others out there that are struggling with sleep issues.

    For as long as I can remember, I have not been able to sleep with ANYONE else in the same room that I occupy. We can be in separate beds and I can not sleep like one should because I am a very light sleeper. While I was dating my boyfriend (now my husband) I would always pretend that I was sleeping because of obvious reasons. Now that we are married, he knows the truth. We sleep in separate bedrooms because he was so worried about keeping me awake that he was not getting any sleep. When we go out of town (which is rare because I am embarrassed about my sleeping situation)I look for ways to be in separate rooms. If I can’t be in a separate room, I either go to bed really late or I end up sleeping on the floor.

    I have tried sleeping pills, ear plugs, masks, warm milk,…etc with no resolution. I currently sleep with a fan on and darkening shades and might get 4 to 5 hours of sleep.

    I feel as if my relationship may be in jeopardy and want so desparately to be able to sleep in the same bed with my husband!!!

    Sleeping pills make me feel groggy the next day because I don’t get enough sleep. Are there any suggestions?

    Thank you and much luck to all.

  20. baysleeper

    Exercise! I highly recommend yoga. Stress is a major cause of sleep problems and yoga can help train you to clear your mind and breathe properly. It worked for me! Important: Pay attention to your yoga instructor and follow directions!

  21. PLMDinPhx

    Hi! I’m new here. Hopefully someone who reads this site will know what I’m talking about.

    While I do not fight with insomnia exactly, I fight with myself–literally! I have PLMD or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder which is similar to Restless Leg Syndrome except my whole body twitches/jerks all night long and I grind my teeth. As you can imagine, I too get very little sleep.

    I have seen many doctors, tried different medications (which just make me groggy), had a sleep study, tried massage/reflexology/controlled breathing etc. with no significant improvement. I often feel like I haven’t slept at all, but my husband says I’ve been asleep and he even witnessed me injure myself while sleeping!

    Does anyone know if PLMD is related to insomnia? I can find almost no infomation on the web about PLMD.

    Thanks!

  22. estryker

    I am writing to give an example of the extremes to which insomnia can effect a person’s well-being. While my case is a severe one, I hope it encourages those out these experiencing insomnia or other sleep disorders to take decisive action to get their sleep problem treated and under control.

    I have had a delayed sleep cycle for as long as I can remember. Even as a schoolboy, I had a hard time waking in the morning and would not really be awake until after my first couple classes.

    Last year, I entered a difficult and transitional period of life. Here were the factors: an early morning commute, quitting smoking, under pressure to finish an advanced degree, and moving back home (against my wishes) from a city where I had been quite happy. The result: sleep cycles of 3-days awake, 2-days sleeping, anxiety, agoraphobia, and an episode of major depression. When i was awake, I was trying to sleep, but couldn’t – trying to work, but too anxious to do it – desperate to participate in life, but almost incapable of getting out the front door – and exhibiting some serious masochistic tendencies, including self-harm.

    One year later, I look back at it and find myself wondering, just how did my life spriral so far out of control – and what does it mean that the first sign of something was going wrong was when I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling all night unable to sleep?

    Mine is a rather extreme example of what can happen with insomnia. It remains unclear to what degree insomnia *caused* the entire conplex of problems, but it certainly played a large role.

    As you might imagine, my treatment involved intensive psychotherapy (cognitive, plus some psychoanalylsis), and treatment using multiple drugs.

    The first thing the doctor told me to do was to STOP using the over-the-counter sleep-aids. They were exacerbating, not helping my sleep cycle.

    The doctor tackled the depression first: Bupropion (Wellbutrin). It worked very well for the mood problems and energy levels, and had the benefit of giving me a feeling of energy in the morning. Wonderful, I thought; I had a feeling of hope again – but, in the evenings, I had way too much energy!

    Ironically, one of Wellbutrin’s side-effects can be *insomnia*, so we timed the dosing accordingly and I was prescribed a prescription sleep-aid: Ambien.
    So a pill in the morning to bring me up; and another at night to put me down.

    Ambien felt *fantastic* but had some quite disturbing side effects. I *thought* that each night, I was knocked out by the pill; and woke up every morning feeling completely rested. This was not completely the case. Apparently, when I felt I was knocked out, I was actually entering into a couple hours of sleep-walking-like activity – performing often quite complex tasks, like writing emails, or cooking, making phone calls! My friends would call me the next morning and tell me, to my great astonishment, that I was “so emotionally honest and open when drunk.” In the morning, I would have absolutely no memory of these events: localized amnesia during the time when the during was working.

    Eventually, I was switched to Lunesta, which works quite well, but does less to stop the repetitive, even obsessive thoughts that happen when lieing in bed trying to fall asleep. To take care of that problem, I need to take an anxiety medication, Lorazepam.

    Meanwhile, the weekly visits to my very good psychiatrist have enabled me to change a great number of the cognitive patterns that got me into trouble in the first place. The depression and agoraphobia are both in full remission and I am extremely grateful to have my ability to enjoy life back. The treatment has been so successful that I managed to even land a highly desirable job in an extremely difficult academic job market.

    Oddly enough, it is the sleep patterns that remain one of the sticking points. If I slip up with sleep hygeine or with the Lunesta dosing, the next day, things threaten to teeter back into disarray. So I have to accept that while I will soon be taken off the anti-depressant, the sleep management and medication is likely to remain long-term.

    But, after what I have gone through, taking the little blue pill each evening seems an easy trade-off. And who knows, perhaps one day, even that won’t be necessary anymore.

    The advice I would like to give others suffering from insomnia (or other sleep disorders) is, first off, to take their problem seriously. Pursue treatment as soon as possible.

    Secondly, while I know many balk at the idea of medication or seeing a “shrink,” I whole-hearted suggest you consider putting these reservations aside. Psychiatrists (not psychologists, not primary physicians) are most likely to recognize sleep disorders as complex psycho-physiological pathologies. And only a psychiatrist will be able to weigh medication and talk therapy options, explain them to you, and decide with you what will best work in your case. Finding the right drug/talk therapy combination could take some trial and error, but these two methods of treatment are currently the most proven on offer.

  23. jake5564

    I find that when my head says rest and the rest of me says play, that I play. I have found in the many years that if I write, sit at a computer and type, that I can wear out whatever is bothering me. Having said that, a person needs three hours of REM. (pardon the lack of dots) If I cannot get that I get what I can, when I can.

  24. JonS12002

    I have slept poorly for around 25 years (I’m 52,) and most suggestions or comments I read about don’t seem to apply to me.

    I usually fall asleep, but I wake up frequently, usually for half an hour or longer. No question, it has affected my job performance and career as an investment analyst and manager. In particular, I’ve always had a poor memory for detail. I’ve had a tendency to be a little depressed, but I don’t think it is either cause or effect. I have at times taken moderate depression medications, which have not seemed to affect my sleeping for better or worse.

    I follow the sleep hygiene rules. I’ve always exercised, not excessively, and usually early in the day. I don’t drink caffeine or alcohol. I go to sleep with the lights off and no sound, no TV. In fact, I can’t fall asleep if there is music or TV playing — I can’t help actively listening.

    I don’t have apnea or restless legs. I’m a pretty mellow person, neither volatile nor neurotic, and I try always to do nothing I’d be ashamed to have anyone else know about. When I do wake up, I usually don’t have a racing or obsessive mind. I can lie in bed with my body feeling like it’s as inert as it could possibly be, but I’m not asleep and I don’t fall back asleep sometimes for 30-60 minutes.

    The theory that, if you’re not sleeping, get up and do something else — doesn’t work for me. If I get up, I’ll be tired then and all the next day, because I’ll be awake for 2-4 hours.

    I did a sleep study about 15 years ago and worked for a year with a sleep specialist at a major hospital in Boston. The conclusion of the sleep study was, “Hey, you don’t sleep well.” Blood oxygen level never dropped, I woke up frequently, and I never reached stage 4 deep sleep. After reviewing the results and testing neurological functioning, the specialist suggested that maybe it wasn’t a sleep problem, maybe it was an attention problem. He put me on Ritalin for three months. Surprise! – that didn’t help.

    Drugs: I’ve been very reluctant to try any major drugs because my sleep issue seems so chronic. I don’t want to risk any dependency.
    The only things that seem to help are Benedryl (or generic) and a low dose of amitriptyline (10 – 20 mg) at bedtime. I seem to have minimal drug side-effects. It seems to keep me asleep, though it often feels like I’m just under the surface — like I still don’t get much deep sleep.

    I don’t expect to do any better than this. I’m resigned to it and just try to tough it out. Take lots of notes, rely on a Palm Pilot and on computer reminders, write everything down, and be honest about it.

    Hope this somehow helps someone else. Thanks for listening.

  25. I really appreciate everyone else’s sharing (except those stupid auto-computer posts ;-}). It seems to me that all of the qualities listed in the introductiory paragraph are in fact the results of sleep deprivation, rather than underlying personality factors! I believe insomnia can have many causes, but that chronic insomnia is real, has a biological basis, and is as different from occasionally sleeplessness as mania is from a bubbly personality!

    Out of four siblings, three of us have sleep disorders. I have had insomnia for as long as I can remember – both getting to sleep and staying asleep. I am also unable (as someone else posted) to get up and read because that guarantees I’d never get back to sleep that night. There seems to be many levels to my insomnia: stress makes it worse; any kind of noise, movement or light makes it impossible to sleep; if I go past the “window of fatigue”, I’m up all night; and now in my 50’s my general muscle pain, even though not extremely bad, is more than enough to keep me awake; for a while after I’d had an intruder, I had a fear of falling asleep… the sleep clinic said it seems my sleep is so light that almost anything disturbs it.

    When I was married (and I believe that my sleep problems -and his, which were snoring and restless-body syndrome – seriously impacted the marriage) I would get so angry at being awake night after night that I felt like hitting him at times. My moods in general were unpredictable, and I never stayed at a job more than 5 years, which I partly attribute to the insomnia-mood problem, and partly to the insomnia-fatigue problem (I work freelance now). As a writer, I found that the synthesis part of my brain was the first thing to shut down from lack of sleep – really devastating. The only real success I’ve had in sleeping normally came from Ambien, and recently because my primary doctor of 23 years retired, I have had my prescription “threatened” by a series of new doctors who feel sure they know more about this than me, who’s lived with it for 52 years, or than the sleep clinic that originally recommended it as a longterm aid. My livelihood and my health won’t stand up to another year or more of “alternative suggestions” from a doctor who may never have experienced insomnia!

    I believe that anyone who thinks we insomniacs are “pretending” or “over-reacting” should be kept awake for four nights in a row (I’ve gone longer than that, but that should suffice) and then say that it isn’t a big deal! It affected my digestion, my focus and memory, my coordination, my mood and my relationships with everyone. I just read an article that some research suggests lack of sleep can cause organ damage! It does seem that any illness that can’t be subjected to a blood test ior xray brings with it a “suspicion factor” that makes non-sufferers wonder if the sufferer is “making it up” or “doing something wrong”. That’s as foolish and insulting as saying a color blind person just isn’t trying hard enough to see the color.

    I am grateful that in the past 6 months I have reduced some of the worst triggers, and now that it’s extremely quiet, and dark, and I’m sleeping alone, and have been reducing several stressors, I’m having more luck sleeping… but I still have to put an Ambien at my bedside, to take if I don’t get to sleep within 2 hours.

    In response to Cathymclain: I have occasionally had the tongue-biting and the “noise” problem; yes, it is scary, esp. when I’m alone in the house. I don’t know what causes it, and I”m grateful that it’s only occasional.
    Thanks again, all, for sharing – its so nice to know I’m not alone!

  26. LeeEllen

    OK! I can put some of that theory to rest. There are few people in the world more outgoing than I am! There are no strangers for me, just people I haven’t met yet. I can get along with almost anyone (at least for a while 😉 Generally, I can face the world with a smile….BUT I am so crabby and irritable when I have no sleep, I don’t want to see ANYONE. I am depressed and miserable on little sleep. I just want to go back to bed, which I have learned NOT TO DO.

    I would NEVER take a day nap!! It would throw off what little regularity I have; I wouldn’t sleep for 2 nights! As a youth, I could sleep endlessly. Sometimes on Sunday afternoons I would nap so soundly, my father started to be worried about me. A friend even put ice on my back to see if it would wake me. NOPE! BUT NOW…no way?! I long for those days. I LOVE to sleep more than eating of sex. (By the way, I realize that I eat more – a lot more – when I can’t sleep.)

    Why is that person adding comments about casinos? We are discussing SERIOUS problems!!!! How rude. Stop that!!!

  27. HeatherM

    OK, I’ve already outlined my past sleep medication woes and “sucky-doctors” adventures in my post under “Drugs,” but I want to address the set-up quotes above, those defining “insomniacs” at the top of this subject page:

    “Insomniacs are said to be ’emotionally seclusive and socially withdrawn,'”–Actually, I’m an English professor and former theatre major and I’ve a wicked sense of humor, so NOT TRUE in my case!

    “’mentally and physically inactive, uncomfortable, sleepy, indifferent, not enjoying themselves, and depressed.’”–well, gosh, I just LOVE to run 10 miles a day after getting ZERO sleep for the fifth straight night! NOT! If I didn’t feel like I had the flu all the time, I’d probably want to exercise more…sure. So TRUE in my case, except I’m not depressed. When I have my sleep meds and I sleep, I’m a different person. I’m not anxious about sleep at all, and I can go about my day. I feel *ahem* “normal” for a while.

    “They appear to be a ‘distressed, pessimistic, worried group who face the world with apprehension, anxiety, and self-deprecation.'”–Yes, as someone wisely stated in another post above, I’d like to be able to have the power to tap someone on the shoulder and that person can feel the way I do after two-three nights’ sleeplessness for just 5 minutes. I guarantee that this person would go fetal, exclaiming, “Oh, God! THIS is how it feels? Sorry for treating you like a lying, complaining freak! Oopsie!” So, yes, this is TRUE, but only on those days that I don’t sleep (when I don’t have my proper meds). I don’t worry at all when I know my Ambien is waiting for me that evening because I know I’ll sleep more than none! Yay!

    “They have ‘greater difficulty in interpersonal relationships,’ ‘impaired social skills or negative social attitudes.'”–I’ve been married for five years, have a great relationship with my husband who does understand my disability (because it is a disability!), have kids who adore me, and friends who know about my insomnia and still want to know me! I teach and am able to express myself to people out in the public. Also, all of us are posting on this website because we are craving interpersonal human interaction concerning a common illness, not “lacking” this social need for connectivity. Take THAT, naysayers! So guess what? This tidbit is NOT TRUE in my case whatsoever.

    “Since they have a tendency to deny psychological problems, ‘essentially considering sleeplessness to be the entire problem,’ they have a ‘strong resistance to the physician’s exploration of problem areas; a need for control, as expressed in manipulation of medications and lack of compliance with general measures.’ Even when they deny that they’re depressed and insist that sleeplessness is ‘the entire problem,’ they are depressed. –Insomniac”–Oh, my…did this last part piss you guys off as much as it did me? I’ve been to two sleep specialists and a general psychiatrist and a general practitioner who ALL agree that I am NOT a “depressed person,” but that I am, indeed, as all of you who posted, a chronic, extreme insomniac. The psychiatrist, after a half hour into my first session asked me, “Why did your doctor send you to me? I can’t help you because you’re an insomniac not depressed.” She prescribed me sleeping pills for my insomnia, not worthless pills for the condition most doctors want us insomniacs to have: depression. I say they “want us to have” because depression is easier for these doctors to deal with and not honest-to-goodness, crappy insomnia! Yes, some of the posts above belie some other problems (including insomnia, oh, yes, always insomnia), but I don’t read those thinking, “Oh, they’re just crazy.” No way! What we all are experiencing is so similar. We go to doctors to seek help for this, and they treat us as if we want drugs or that we are in denial about our “true problems,” as was stated in the above quote. Like I really want to be a suffering insomniac with no forseeable cure or true help! This part of the quote is probably the main reason why we are all complaining about a real lack of help: doctors want to treat another condition as opposed to treating the true problem because it’s easier and makes them feel smart. So if sleeping pills really work for you or me, then why, why, WHY are we continually denied them and/ or in the doses that truly help? I’m not going to drive my car after taking them; I’m not going to pimp them out to preschoolers with lollypops on their way to the zoo; and I’m not going to sell them on Ebay in order to take one lousy penny from the drugmakers. I’m going to take them once a night and then live my life of quality by going to work helping college students read and write better. I’ll be up in the morning so that I’ll be lucid enough to take my daughter to her high school, to drink my morning coffee (like IN THE MORNING, yeah), to eat breakfast, and then to teach and then be done at a decent time of day to grade and exercise, etc, etc, etc. After 15 years of this illness, I am not “making this up.”

    I’m preaching to the choir, though…

  28. Maherd

    I have had chronic insomnia most of my life. I remember as a child lying in bed at night and listening to the sounds of everyone else in the house sleeping. Sometimes my mind was so active that I would be lying there singing quietly to myself every song I knew. My mother would sometimes have to yell at me several times during the evening to “Shut up and go to sleep!!”. When I was falling in love for the first time in my life I slept about 15 hours per week, so stress greatly aggravated my sleeplessness.

    I’ve had Fibromyalgia for 22 years and there seems to a sleep disorder associated with it. I believe that people like myself may not be absorbing the vitamins and minerals that they need for an efficiently operating body. I didn’t find any relief until I started taking a lot of vitamins. I discovered that taking Calcium and Magnesium at night would allow me to fall asleep naturally with no side effects and I’ve also tried Melatonin. The three supplements have worked very well for me.

  29. Anne M.

    I am currently reading your new book, /Insomniac/. To say it is one of the most important books I have ever read–for me personally–is an understatement. I haven’t finished yet, but I am pushing forward day by day carefully following the notes, underlining passages on every page, and trying not to read it too late at night so as to allow my touchy hyperarousal system time to calm down before I do battle with the bed! Ironically, my husband, who has no understanding of this affliction, gave your book to me for my birthday in April after I mentioned having read a good review about it.
    At first I had to lay the book aside because I had one horrible night after reading chapter 2 about the awful physical toll chronic insomnia takes on one and felt as if I had landed again at the bottom of a deep well and could sink back into the one breakdown (I know of no other term) brought on by insomnia over four years ago. But I am too fascinated to leave it alone for long. I have suffered from chronic insomnia since I was 19 and am now 62. I suffer from depression, too, which came on in late adolescence and which developed into panic attacks, terrible performance anxiety, agoraphobia, and plain anxiety, which in that dark age was misunderstood and considered practically a moral failing, something I should snap out of. I myself had no clue what was going on with me. I have sought help from many different therapists with many different approaches. Two years on the couch was worthless, as was a year spent with a charlatan who claimed to have a 100% cure rate with insomniacs–his answer was to feed me different kinds of benzos for a year. Two years of cognitive therapy also did nothing to solve my deep turmoil and constant sleeplessness. Then I spent 16 years with a psychopharmacologist, who prescribed both Dalmane and Ambien. For ten years Ambien was a dream come true, and I slept well with it. But then I became so habituated to it that I gradually needed more and more and finally, in December 2003, took 10 pills for 6 nights in a row, thus landing me shaking uncontrollably and unable to put a sentence together in the emergency room and from there in rehab. My psychopharmacologist would have nothing to do with me after that, although she was largely responsible for doling out drugs through the years that were habit-forming. I was accused, yes, accused, of being an addict by another psychopharmacologist I went to in desperation and was told I needed to take a leave of absence from work and check myself into the Betty Ford clinic. Despite my severely depleted state (I had had about 7 hours’ sleep in 10 nights), I knew that such a simple, one-size-fits-all category didn’t apply to me, and I was so angry at that supercilious psychiatrist that I clawed my way out of the abyss and found a wonderful psychopharmacologist, who, yes, is treating me for depression but felt that the main problem with me was that *I couldn’t sleep.* Anger was my best friend, and why I wasn’t psychotic instead of just plain angry is a miracle.
    To learn that this trait is heritable is such a relief to me. My mother suffered from it all her life, and so did her mother. In fact, my mother became so addicted to sleeping pills that she made secret trips to Mexico at the end of her life to procure Valium and other psychotropic drugs. She started taking Nembutal, which was over the counter then, because she started sleeping badly around the time she got married at 24. She died overnight with a blood alcohol content of 3.0 and had no doubt taken many sleeping pills too. That specter hangs over me. While I was growing up, the first topic of conversation in the morning was how well my mother slept. She was hospitalized for exhaustion, and our family physician, in those far-off days of house calls, once came to give her a shot so she could sleep.
    I didn’t have childhood insomnia, though I was never a napper. It came on presto one night when I began my sophomore year in college. I knew then that it had descended on me like a black cloud and would never lift. After all these long years I am doing better now, though the cold fear of incapacitating exhaustion never leaves me, and I am taking a cocktail of medications that I sometimes abuse because I am so afraid I won’t go back to sleep. The result is nausea and an awful, long-lasting dragged-out, depressed feeling that makes the next day hardly bearable and also makes me acutely sensitive and easily hurt and upset. However, I continue to hold a responsible job and found, thank goodness, a supervisor who tolerates my insomnia and doesn’t mind that I don’t get to work until about 10:00, especially because I’m very good at what I do and I work late. Luckily, academic publishing is fairly easygoing, so quite a few people keep irregular hours. Getting the work done is what counts here most. But in earlier New York publishing jobs I was criticized for getting to work late. When I working on a Ph.D. , I was sometimes terrified of teaching, which intensified my insomnia. I finally concluded I couldn’t succeed in that competitive world. I commend you for being able to stand up in front of a class, get tenure, publish books, and especially to get it together to do this wonderful book. How you put this particular book together, sat through those long conferences (with breakfast meetings that started as early as 6am!–the thought makes me sick), did all the research and interviewing, and through it all suffered as you do from insomnia is amazing.
    Thank you so much for making me feel less alone.

  30. barberoux

    It started around the time I turned 50. Previously I would occasionally have a bad night’s sleep but sleep became more and more tenuous as I got older. Now it is rare to sleep through the whole night. I will occasionally and I wake up full of energy and feeling wonderful. My usual pattern is to fall asleep early then awaken after midnight and be awake for anywhere between 1 hour and the rest of the night. If anything disturbs my sleep, like a barking dog or noisy neighbors I will be awake most of the night and mightily pissed off. I can usually stand 1 or 2 nights of poor sleep but if it continues longer than that my mood deteriorates quickly. Five nights of little sleep makes me start feeling a bit insane. I can easily understand how chronic, severe insomnia would lead to acts outside of the normal realms of accepted behavior. I have argued with coworkers for minor reasons and I’ve fallen asleep at my desk many times. Insomnia has seriously affected my work relationships and my marriage. Napping feels wonderful but I know if I nap it only leads to poor sleep that night. I try to combat insomnia with all of the classic techniques, like remaining active during the day, not consuming alcohol, (though that is a real temptation, it really worsens the problem), not eating too late, or drinking fluids too late, (BPH is another factor), and no napping. I can minimize the effects of insomnia but never really escape them. I feel for people who suffer insomnia. A week of 1 hour a night’s worth of sleep turns me into a monster. It is horrible. “Nobody died of insomnia”. Ha. They just wanted to.

  31. jliving

    I am 28 years old, and my insomnia began in August 2007 when I moved to a town about 2 hours away and started graduate school. At first, I thought I just couldn’t sleep because it was really hot and there was no air conditioning in my new apartment. Then somehow it became this pattern that I’ve had to live with. I have a problem falling asleep; generally, I can stay asleep once I’ve gone to sleep. I have tried Trazodone 25 mg, which sometimes makes me drowsy and works; other times it doesn’t do anything. I also occasionally take Restoril (a benzo) which occasionally works. I never had any sleep problems before I started grad school; I could go to bed early and sleep till 12 or 1pm!! It seems clear that it is somehow connected to me starting school. I currently live back in my hometown with my boyfriend for the summer (ironically, he also has insomnia). I thought the insomina would resolve once I finished up my 1st year of grad school but so far nothing has changed. I find that my body just isn’t ready for sleep until really late in the night/morning (like 5am!) and that is the time I have to get up and function.

    I think the hardest part of this, in addition to feeling tired all day and having no interest in doing anything but coming home and flopping down on the couch, is that the insomnia is sucking away my personality. That sounds funny but if you’ve had insomnia you know what I mean. I feel like I’m just a shell walking around. It is extremely difficult to function at work. And get this: I work as a social worker at an addiction treatment center in a detox unit!! Here I am, with my sleeping situation in crisis, trying to work in a crisis unit to help others who are in crisis! Crazy, huh? It takes so much energy to even interact with others or respond or be funny or be an interesting person. Before insomina, I was pretty happy with who I was. I liked people and people liked me. Now, people irritate me easily and I isolate myself. Only a couple coworkers know about my insomnia. They are empathic but what can they do? I feel trapped in a box of insomnia. I hope one day I can get out. One of my coworkers has one of those effervescent constantly chipper happy personalities and talks a lot. She has dysomnia, which is some form of sleep disorder. She said the other day that she wished people took her sleep disorder seriously because she constantly felt fatigued. She was talking about one of the doctors in our unit who has insomnia saying “she wasn’t in a good mood today”. I said “I can relate”, and that’s when she said she wished people would take her sleep disorder seriously. I am not sure if she was downplaying the insomnia or just trying to relate. I mean I think it is one thing to not have the deepest quality sleep during the night and another to not sleep for 3 or 4 nights in a row. I really like her and she is excellent at what she does, but I find that it is very taxing to be around her. I want to say “I just don’t have enough energy to interact with you”. But you can’t really say that in the real world. I guess I really don’t talk about the insomina with people because in one sense, I feel like somehow I have failed. What is wrong with me that I cannot sleep? I also feel like I am whining. Like somehow I expect people to minimize the insomina. The insomnia has truly taken over my entire life. Sometimes I have thoughts that I would rather die than continue living my life this way. I have tried the natural stuff-melatonin, herb tea, kava, valerian. I have recently started walking during the day to expose myself to sunlight, as I might have delayed sleep-phase syndrome. Sometimes it seems to make a difference. However I don’t exercise regularly and probably should do that. I got out of the habit when I started school. I read somewhere that a combination of antidepressants and a light box can be helpful. Has anyone else ever experienced delayed sleep phase syndrome? I’ve also taken calcium and magnesium to help; I can’t really tell a difference. I went to see an acupuncturist last week and was given some herbs; the following week I went to the beach and slept really well then “relapsed” when I returned home. It is frustrating that people who have never had insomnia don’t take it seriously. They have no idea how miserable it can make your life. And to the last poster…Yes, sometimes I have wanted to die from insomnia too.

  32. marginal1

    jliving,
    I just want to tell you how much I relate to your statement: “insomnia is sucking away my personality.”

    I feel this way for the first several hours of every day. When I was trying to work “normal” hours, I felt that way all day long. I might have a revival of my personality sometime during the evening for a few hours, but daytimes were pure zombie-mode. I certainly did not feel sharp or quick to take things in, nor able to sustain light-hearted repartee. I truly felt brain-damaged for a big portion of the day. I am OK now, only because I no longer attempt a normal work schedule.

    It’s interesting that your problems started in school, that is when mine became extreme also (I had sleep problems as a kid, but all-nighters cramming for school seemed to lock in the insomnia).

    Sleep phase disorder is also extremely tough, and I think for most hard-core sufferers the remedies are seldom helpful long-term. I know my circadian rhythm has been goofed up since childhood. Sometimes I think that if I’d been able to live on that schedule, instead of forcing myself to try to fit into conventional work/school hours for most of my life…my insomnia might not have been so severe or permanent.

  33. JenT

    First, I want to say how much I love this site. I first heard the author on NPR (OK, I actually listened to my ipod download in the middle of the night) but just didn’t get on the site until now.

    Second, about the description of insomniacs:I’m not only gregarious (I’m a school counselor with many friends) but also in touch with my own psyche (many years of journal-keeping and therapy), and I find the quotation just ridiculous.

    My 10-year struggle with insomnia began when I was pregnant and continues today. 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. The latter is the worst, because it is very difficult to keep my eyes open while listening to students on only 5-6 hours of sleep (I feel really good on 8.5).

    While I’m a single, working mom and so have to be on duty even in the night, most of my friends who are moms sleep horribly. I have no idea if it’s hormonal or situational.

    Here’s how I have to sleep: noise machine, shirt over my face and ears, and eventually a pillow over my head. Very romantic, right?

    I definitely sleep better if I have NO plans, but that is, of course, rare. Even needing to go to the market on the weekend will get me up early.

    Thank you to everyone who has shared on this site. I hope that my comments might helps someone feel less alone.

  34. sorcha

    There’s a song by The Eagles called “Wasted Time.” One line goes: “I could have done so many things, if I could only stop my mind.” Is that an issue for anyone else? I can be exhausted, tired, beat, and all of those other things, but somehow none of that makes me SLEEPY. My brain just constantly works, going down little-known alleys and taking off on weird tangents. I feel I have found a community on this site, since so many of us have had similar experiences. Sleep hygiene, sleep labs, various OTC and prescription remedies, therapy, analysis, blah, blah, blah; most of us have tried it all. The problem with traditional medicine is that doctors feel that they must always have answers. A pathologist who is a friend of mine once told me that what doctors KNOW for certain about our bodies is like a grain of sand on a beach–the rest of the beach being what they don’t know. I would love, just once, to have a doctor say “We don’t know enough about this problem to help you.” Well, why don’t you? Of course, that’s another issue: that there seems to be endless $$$ and interest in drugs for the flaccid to get lead in their pencils, and very time or effort spent on sleep research. Sleep is seriously under-valued. Sleep is a nutrient and our bodies crave it because we need it to live! Sleep deprivation is a common torture technique, and very effective. It’s not that I want or need all kinds of “Poor little you” remarks or sympathy. Let’s just apply some common sense and try to analyze why we as a culture scorn sleep as a necessity. Lack of sleep is not a temporary inconvenience–it’s a sort of half-life for many. I feel that “I could have done so many (more) things, if I could only stop my mind…..”

  35. hikergirl

    I’ve only recently come to terms with my insomnia. I believed doctors and things that I read which said insomnia is just a symptom of other things, so I’ve spent almost 15 of my 34 years working to eliminate or change anything and everything in my life that I thought was causing my insomnia. I finally got a house away from noisy apartment living, I hung thick velvet drapes in my room that block out both light and noise, I get regular massages to help me de-stress, I’ve exercised myself to near exhaustion hoping to “earn” a good night’s sleep, I made my room into a gorgeous retreat that soothes and calms…..and I’m awake all night to enjoy it! I used to think I had a problem being lazy and always felt guilty, then I thought I had a reading problem because the reason I couldn’t sleep was due to that exciting book I couldn’t stop thinking about so I’d eventually get back up to finish reading til my alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. I’m constantly making excuses for missed work days saying that I get sick easily (which people readily believe since students like to share germs with their teachers), when really I just can’t function in front of the classroom without sleep. I know now I have a sleeping problem, but that hasn’t assauged the guilt. I’m a good teacher and am more organized and efficient than most of my colleagues (I have to be since getting by on maybe 2-3 hours a night is done more easily when my classroom runs like a well oiled machine), but I can’t help feeling guilty that if I could just get 8 hours of sleep a night I’d be an even better teacher and able to truly give my students the very best of me. During school holidays and long breaks I’m pretty well rested because I just let my body sleep whenever it can (which is why I never thought I had insomnia…I can sleep, just not 10 p.m,-6 a.m. like the job requires, more like 3 a.m.-11 a.m. which I have yet to find a teaching job that will allow me to do). I don’t have a lot of stories like everyone else about all the drugs and combinations of drugs they’ve taken to help them sleep since I’m only just now starting that trek, but I know one doctor’s advice to me to “just take a Benadryl every night” is utterly ridiculous. I wish it were that simple. I’ve noticed lately that I dread the onset of nighttime because that’s when the battle begins, and as I’m getting older, my ability to function with this problem at work is decreasing and I’m worried how much longer I can hold out. I’m pretty darn proud of myself for succeeding this far in life with what I thought of as “a dirty little secret” but now I’m coming apart at the seams, or maybe now that I can admit what the real problem is I’m just tired of the fight. I’d be interested to know how many sicks days reported every year in America are really due to insomnia and how many jobs have been lost to this terrible condition. Does insomnia make liars of us all? I never think that telling people I can’t make it to something because I haven’t been sleeping is considered a legitimate excuse, so I make stuff up. I actually thought my sleep was the norm for many years because on a day when I’m trying to function on 1-4 hours of sleep I hear others complain about being tired, I figured they must have only had 1-4 hours, too. I’ve since learned that what I mean by “tired” and what others around me mean by “tired” are two different things. My “tired” means I’ve slept 6 hours in three days, and their “tired” means they only slept 6 hours last night instead of their usual 8. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d hid those complainers!

  36. Great site :)
    I have full body spasms and electric shocks as I fall asleep and get frights as a result of biting my tongue. Its been happening for 5 days in a row now and there are 2 factors of ‘changes lifestyle’ which may be contributing to it happening;
    1. I have been taking an over the counter sleep pill called restavit (1/2 to 1 tablet nightly).
    2. I set some speakers up by the head of my bed. They are large and probably have some powerful magnetic properties.

    The best thing I have heard for stopping the biting of the tongue is to cut the mounthguard off a snorkle so I might have to whip in to a cheap sports shop at lunchtime and get one.Either that or I could sleep with the snorkle and goggles on. I am sure that would be really relaxing. :)

  37. JeffW77

    I’m an early 50s male. My sleep problem has been around–or I have been aware of it–since childhood, although I didn’t realize how tired I usually was until early high school. Apparently it’s a brain wave issue, as diagnosed from sleep study data in late 2007–I do not get enough deep, slow wave Stage 3-4 sleep. I have sought help since 1982. Effect on my life? Well, my fellow non-sleepers, being tired all the time causes all kinds of problems. Fortunately, I have dodged the major ones like sleepwalking or falling asleep while driving. I had six good months of feeling refreshed after getting medication post-sleep study. It is easy to ramble here. Lack of deep sleep causes me to feel like I am walking uphill in life, and it has certainly affected every aspect of my life. That said, I am a blessed man, and I have a good life. I just really want to sleep properly–especially since I had my six months of waking up refreshed and finally know how good it feels. Best wishes to us all.

  38. great post hope to see some additional comments here…

  39. annavanderpost

    I believe that sleep problems are more common in women so I feel more needs to be done to see the effect of hormones on sleep. I was never a good sleeper but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son 17 years ago that things really began to deteriorate. I now average 2 hours a night and can go for nights with no sleep. I know people don’t believe me but I get up and do things so I know I am not sleeping. I am so tired that everything in life is an effort. I am struggling at work, struggling at home and really just survive. I no longer feel much joy and just go through the motions of life. I am too tired for fun and find myself blubbing at the drop of a hat or moaning relentlessly when I am hyped up (for you have to go into a hyped state when one is this tired, in order to cope with the chores of life). I have embarrassed myself by poor judgements and over reactions, which when I am not tired would never happen. By nature I am considered and sensible. Not this mad middle aged woman I have become. I found myself yelling at a man in the street recently because he was standing staring at me while I tried to parallel park (something I can do very well when I am not tired) and I couldn’t believe how rude and insensitive he was to stare at someone who was so obviously struggling.
    I am fed up with being so tired and no one really believing how little sleep I have or insinuating that it is a character defect ‘try meditating’ or ‘well you are rather a cross and uptight person aren’t you’. No you fool I am uptight and angry at everything because I am tired not tired because I am uptight.

    I would love to do a documentary where I get to keep someone awake (ideally someone who has been less than kind in their response to me), they would only sleep when I do and let’s see just how well they cope! Ha ha (maniacal laughter) See I have become bitter and twisted .I used to be such a nice, sweet and subservient woman, now I hate everyone and resent the fact that no one seems to understand or be particularly sympathetic. Oh and I rant just in case you hadn’t noticed!!

    So glad for this book.

  40. Thank you for these posts. I wish i had had them when I was writing INSOMNIAC–they’d have gone into the book. Annavenderpost, who just posted–you rant eloquently, you speak for a lot of people, you describe it very well, the attrition of the soul.
    You’re right, more research needs to be done on the effects of hormones on sleep. And on the neurotransmitter. I hope with that new funding Obama is directing to NIH, that some of it goes to insomnia!

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