O sleep! O gentle sleep!
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum’d chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull’d with sound of sweetest melody?
2 Henry IV (3.1.7-16)
I've been following the adventures of my friend, Rosie, on Live Journal as she struggles to sleep through a night. This has, of course, struck a chord in me since I'm a chronic insomniac. She and I talk regularly and I've been following her online sleep log with interest. She has quite the sense of humor:
"so back to the zzzzz pills. finally i got the ROZEREM. you might know it as the commerical with Abe Lincoln and the groundhog. i carefully read (with a magiflier) the directions.
"do NOT use your bed for watching tv or reading. use your bed for sleeping and sex."
i swear that was in the instructions. a bed for sex? who would have thought to try that. i mean back of a car, kitchen table, pool table, sofa, WALMART, but in a BED? oh for pete's sake."
She's up to day three now and still struggling to sleep more than a half hour at a time. There seems to be some progress, but we won't know for sure until she's taken the full course of the medication.
Like Rosie, my brain simply will not shut off at night. My husband is snoring a forest down 10 minutes after he hits the pillow while I toss and turn most of the night away. It's just not fair.
I've had this problem all my life. My dad would rock and rock me to sleep as a baby (yes, he was an incredible caretaker, particularly in those 1950s gender-role days). My eyes would slowly close. Then they'd pop open the minute he stopped rocking. Nap-time was torture in kindergarten. The rest of the kids would be sleeping and I'd be lying there staring at the ceiling feeling bored out of my mind. I never slept through grade school or high school. These days I have permanent dark circles under my eyes. I've tried relaxation exercises, acupuncture, biofeedback, hot baths, long walks, medications up the wazoo and it's still no-go.
A few years ago menopause hit. Hot flash! Okay, I'm up. Shut up, honey, I'm trying to sleep. More tossing and turning, or "pancaking" as Rosie would describe it. I know every feature in my ceiling and can find anything in the dark. Do you ever notice how everything goes completely black when you first turn off the lights, before your eyes have had a chance to adjust? I find it absolutely amazing that I can go from total black, to light-dark, to object identification in less than 10 minutes. First, nothing and then – oh! – there's my dresser. The eyes are amazing things.
I'm using Ambien now, trying to find a dosage that gets me to sleep without inducing a hangover the next morning. I've been moderately successful, but still wake up feeling very tired from the medication. This is a strange sensation: feeling somewhat more rested and, at the same time, tired. I've taken other medications over the years and may switch back to them. Ambien does induce some strange effects before bed, though. Normally I would just get drowsy. This stuff goes beyond drowsy. My head "buzzes." That's the only way I can describe it. I'm not dizzy per se, but I do have balance problems once I take the stuff. I almost fell over once with a higher dosage. I was in the shower when suddenly everything went topsy-turvy. Things "looked" different, they way they might with a bad head cold – but not quite. Again, it's in the eyes and in the way the brain interprets the signals they send. Look at something with a clear head and it appears one way, the "normal" way. Then look at it again when the brain is processing it differently. It's at a distance somehow. It's more difficult to make sense of its actual identity and place in space.
I experience that visual vertigo when I get a migraine, too. Clearly there's an eye-to-brain process that's affected by all this.
I'll give the Ambien a little time. Perhaps I just need to catch up on more sleep and will give it a try this weekend when I don't have to be up for work. It does seem to be helping to shut off my brain, so maybe I'll stick with it and see what happens over the next few months. I don't see Abe Lincoln playing chess with a gopher in my attic, but I am remembering some pretty wild dreams. What's Eric Clapton doing here? Uh oh!
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