Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zombie Mommy

My insomnia has been trying to kill me. It had been doing pretty well with my sleep. Being pregnant while working completely wore me out, and I continued to sleep pretty well after Claire was born, but for the last two weeks I have spent nearly every night laying in bed, usually with a sudden headache, absolutely unable to fall asleep.

It sucks. A few inches away JP sleeps soundly and immediately, and I just lay there, struggling to keep my eyes closed and my brain empty, desperately seeking an unconsciousness that won't come. I can't figure out what changed. I don't think there's anything I'm particularly worried about, besides maybe money, but I'm always worried about that on some level. (My student loans combined with our two kids' daycare payments equal over 50% of my take home pay each month. That doesn't include the mortgage, car payments, JP's loan payments, food, health expenses, insurance, and a million other things. It will be better when JP has a job with a paycheck, but that's many months away. But still, we're careful budgeters and I really don't think that's what is keeping me up, it just lurks in the back.)

I've tried reading before bed, not reading before bed, taking over-the-counter sleeping pills, taking benadryl, going to bed earlier, going to bed later, and a few honest attempts at emptying my mind before sleep, but sleep just will. not. come. I don't usually have any trouble staying asleep, I just can't GET to sleep, and it's really started to wear me out. Yesterday I walked around feeling almost hollow on the inside I was so tired. I can't even blame my new baby- she sleeps 11-12 hours at night!

So for those of you who have struggled with insomnia, what works for you? I'm willing to try just about anything.


  1. Hi...Lag Liv,

    When I had my 2nd child I suffered from a similar insomnia. But my OB/GYN told me to take Calcium/Magnesium supplements right before bed. That really helped. Your body has been through a lot chemically and hormonally. I would go through a blood panel and see if they can detect any deficiences.

    Good luck...I've been there.


  2. My doc asked me why having 5 kids at home keeping me very occupied why I could not sleep, well I can sleep in 2 secs flat durring daylight hours! But night time even with a baby/toddler (well one of the twins) that is up alot(needing meds) that I could not fall asleep.

    Then he put me on amitriptyline, which was made as an anit depressent (failed to work for that) but was found to prevent migraine's (YAY!!) and it has the ability to help me fall asleep where as the benadryl over the counter stuff would not! I am able to get up tend to youngest twin and fall back asleep without laying there for hours!
    Hope you find somethign that helps!

  3. I'd taken Ambien pre-child, but wouldn't after I had P - too scary if I needed to wake up. Or what if I did something weird? It just scared me. Klonopin does wonders for anxiety and will knock you out, too. Love that drug. :)

    I remember going through something similar - I spent hours and hours on doing family tree stuff because I just couldn't get to sleep.

    Also, I've heard aerobic exercise around 5 PM is perfect for getting you worn out around the usual bedtime (and has worked when I've done it).

  4. Hi! Super long time reader here, but I seldom comment! I have suffered from sporadic bouts of insomnia for the last five years (I went through law school as well, it probably didn't help).

    I find melatonin helpful- if you want to learn more about that one google it.

    I have also heard that meditation really works well. I am working on this, I think that when I do learn to unwind and stop my mind from racing that is the main thing that will work long term. Yoga is helpful for this as well.

    My thoughts are with you, insomnia is awful!

  5. Dude, your blog layout is the same as mine now. For half a second I was like, "HEY I CLICKED ON A LINK! WHY DIDN'T IT OPEN!" Followed by a tantrum. Then I bothered to look at your masthead. Yeah. I felt dumb. LOL.

    Most otc sleeping aids are just the same active ingredient as benadryl. Look for the Unisom Sleeptabs. They use a different drug and I find it is much better for me. It was safe to take while pregnant as well.

    I was going to say exercise too, just make sure it's plenty of hours before bedtime.

    Good luck, I hope you figure something out!

  6. Hi Lag Liv :) I've had some trouble with insomnia myself, and what ended up helping me was a prescription for Trazodone. Its an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety med, but it helps turn my brain off at night so i can sleep.
    I hope you figure something out so you can get a good night's sleep, I know how much insomnia can mess with you.
    Good luck!

  7. Hi Lag Liv!

    I struggled with falling asleep during law school. Now I struggle on and off. Pure white noise (no annoying sound loops) helped. This machine is perfect. And, it's not so loud that it will drown out the baby monitor or anything.

    "Sound Conditioner Sound Screen SleepMate Electro-Mechanical White Noise Machine" (found on amazon)

    Also, sudoku before bed (the easy kind in the $.99 books at the supermarket). Empties the mind without over-stimulating it!

  8. I second melatonin. I have always had a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night, but the one thing that usually works for me is listening to a book on tape as I fall asleep. Should be one you already know so that you aren't excited to see what happens next. I listen a lot to Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter books :-) Of course that would depend on JP- luckily my husband is very tolerant and lets me listen to something quietly next to the bed, but I guess you could also use headphones.

  9. Insomnia struck for me when Harry was EXACTLY Claire's age. I think it is hormones. Mine went away, but Ben and I could not sleep together for awhile. I wanted to kill him when he was asleep and I wasn't.

    I really liked Lisa Gardner books-- exciting enough to keep me occupied but also pretty mindless. My Dr. wrote me a script for sleeping pills, and I filled it but didn't take them-- the bottle in the cabinet made me feel better, though.

  10. Geez, I remember being so exhausted after my first daughter was born but just being totally unable to sleep. Unfortunately, I didn't know then what I know now.

    I would also suggest the melatonin (if you're not familiar with it, it's a "natural" supplement often recommended by doctors.) Try that first.

    If that doesn't work, try the amitriptyline (Elavil). I take one pill a night (10 mg) and it really makes a difference in helping me sleep. I went off it for a while and the doctor asked me if I noticed any difference. Yes, yes I did. He told me to go back on it and asked why, if that little extra bit of seratonin lying around made my life easier, I would punish myself like that. [Amitriptyline is one of those SRI (serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) drugs.]

    One word of warning though - it seems like some people can absolutely not take this drug. It makes them totally stoned and they never adjust to it. But then there are other people like me who swear by it. It's definitely worth a try. YMMV.

    Good luck - it totally sucks when you don't get enough sleep. Speaking of which, I really need to go take a nap! :D

  11. I second the magnesium. I take a liquid one called "Mega-Mag 400" I think the brand is "Trace Minerals" and it comes in a cobalt blue glass vial.

  12. So... one reason the insomnia might be making a comeback is that you're really recovered from the whole childbirth thing now, so your body is no longer drained by the effort of healing. And maybe you're fretting a little over going back to work? (Not a good/bad thing, just a fretting-about-change thing.)


    It pains me to say it, but exercise is always a good idea. (We're not going to discuss whether I take my own advice.) There are a million suggestions for insomniacs, many already mentioned here. Fwiw, I'm one of those who become a zombie on amitriptyline, and I find that state does not combine well with motherhood.

    My number one cure for insomnia? Don't go to bed until the last minute, and then read Paradise Lost. I swear, Milton is The Best Cure Ever. Plus you get to feel all intellectual-y with this epic poem on your bedside table.

  13. I struggle with insomnia, too. It seems as if the tireder I get, the worse it gets. So my new goal is to try not to get so tired. Ha. The best thing I can do is go lie on the sofa surrounded by lots of pillows and stare out the window. Listening to a meditation on my IPod works sometimes, when I have the energy to get up and retrieve the IPod.

  14. Try to keep the same bedtime everynight, even weekends.

    Nothing with caffiene after 2ish in the afternoon.

    Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet (except maybe a very light white noise maker), and cool.

    Keep a pad of paper and pen next to your bed... helps me because if I can't get something off my mind I jot it down so that I can remember to address it the next day. That way I can relax a little and let it go.

    I've also heard good things about melatonin.

  15. I've had success with Unisom, the one with Doxylamine succinate. Also, taking multiple Benadryls at a time works for me--usually three. I asked my doctor about it, and he said it was fine to take that many at once, but I don't know if that applies to everyone. I hope you get some sleep soon!

  16. Are you taking any medication regularly? I went through a stint like that, and then started putting 2 and 2 together. I realized that my insomnia began shortly after I was prescribed a new allergy medication. I started googling the side effects of the medication, and insomnia was one of them (albeit only about 1%). I stopped taking it, and my insomnia disappeared.

  17. If you need to take the medication route (and there's nothing wrong with that if you're a true insomniac) then Ambien works great. If you don't want something that "strong" (I take half a pill) then Xanax also works great.
    I have a friend who's always been an insomniac and probably always will be. Her doctor put her on Ambien and told her that she'd probably have to take it the rest of her life, which was fine. Not getting sleep is one of the worst things that happens to our bodies and it affects so many areas of your health and life. Please don't be afraid to see your doctor and try something different.
    One Who's Been There

  18. Melatonin can work, and I think regular exercise helps me too! I try to minimize use or not use any electronic devices at least 1/2 hr before going to bed (no TV, no email, etc.).

    Having caffeine anytime after mid-afternoon really affects the quality of my sleep too. Along the same lines, being disciplined about NOT taking naps past a certain point in the day can help as well (for me, naps after early-to-mid afternoon are a bad idea).

    I've never tried it myself, but I've heard good things about white noise machines, especially if you tend to be a light sleeper (I am, and use earplugs on occasion, especially when traveling). I think there are white noise apps you can get for the iPhone? Good luck!!

  19. Melatonin has worked for me as well.

  20. Is it hormonal? didn't you say you just got Mirena? Mirena kept me up like nobody's business.

    I dont have much direct advice but Amalah did a thread on it a few months back and got 300 comments. Might be worth checking out.

  21. Have you tried a change in scenery? When I can't sleep, I go sleep in the guest bedroom, and I'm usually out in about 5 mins. Staying in my bed with DH further stresses me out that I'm not sleeping, but he is! I also use an eye mask (wearing it forces my face to relax), and earplugs ... not necessarily for eliminating sound, but for the seashell effect/whitenoise sort of thing).

  22. I have a trick that I developed from various bits of therapy and self-help books over the years that helps when my mind won't calm down and I can't seem to keep my eyes closed...

    * Close your eyes
    * Focus your mind on your breathing in and out
    * Try to notice that brief pause between inhaling and exhaling (where you aren't breathing at all)
    * As you do this, count backward from 100 to 0, one number per breath.

    This doesn't always put me to sleep, but it often gets me to that twilight just before falling alseep, and almost always calms my mind down. Good luck!

  23. I've struggled with the same thing at times, and found that doing yoga before bed works for me.

    Before you stop reading here -- I'm not twisting myself into a pretzel for hours or anything --- I use a short simple DVD called "P.M. Yoga" with Patricia Walden - it's only 20 minutes so it's easier to fit into a busy mommy schedule.

    My kids even sometimes do it with me. It's quick, not too difficult, and the benefits are tremendous. I fall asleep faster, stay asleep, sleep more deeply when I do it. Good luck.

  24. I have tried melatonin before, and I think it works but gives me bad dreams. Like every time.

    I also was on Trazodone for a while like another commenter, and I think that worked but you need a prescription (I think).

    But really, as a chronic insomniac, I would have to agree that exercise generally works.

  25. Oh my, I'm sorry, that would stink to not be able to sleep. :( I used to be a champion sleeper until about six months ago, and now I have trouble sleeping through the night, so I feel your pain.

    I have three non-medical suggestions, all of which have worked for me:

    1) I know you hate yoga, but seriously, bikram yoga works wonders. I had the worst time sleeping early on this summer, and I started doing bikram and became a zombie to the world. Now I feel comfortable doing it at all hours, but for your first time, I'd try it after work - literally the first time I did it I went home and immediately fell into the deepest sleep ever.

    2) More fun - massage! Might that help your body relax a bit more? Or if headaches are an issue, maybe acupuncture? I've not tried it myself, but my friend just cured her asthma, which has been a lifelong issue, with acupuncture, so now it intrigues me.

    3) Finally, and this is not a joke - a boring textbook. In retirement, my dad is a college economics professor, and while he was working, he was an adjunct at the college. Once when I was home visiting, I just could not stay asleep, to the point where it was really upsetting. I woke up my dad, he handed me an econ textbook, and told me to give it a try. No joke, I didn't even get past the introduction before I was out like a light.

    Good luck!

  26. Meditation/prayer works best for me. I do mine in a conversation with the universe style. After I've individually wished all the people in my life peace, harmony, and release from all their specific wants, needs, hopes, fears, and otherwise, I'm ready to pass out. (This actually works to distract you from your own subconscious thoughts keeping you up.)

    Other nights I just drink a bottle of wine. Both are effective. ;-)

    I'll add you to my list.

  27. I have had success with doing progressive muscle relaxation right before bed. I like the "Progressive Relaxation Exercise" from this website:


  28. Have you tried cutting down on "screen time" before bed? TV and computer screens (maybe even smartphones?) give off blue light which apparently suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

    I've struggled with insomnia FOREVER, and getting off the computer at least an hour before bed helps.

    I've also started taking Valerian root -- that's helped a ton.

    Best of luck -- I know it's SO frustrating!

  29. Don't know how this will fit into you schedule and just recently having a baby . . . for me intimacy with my husband has always been the best thing for me when I cannot sleep, fortunatly my husband is very accomodating and has encouraged me to wake him up anytime if I need help getting to sleep . . . poor guy if I am sleeping he knows not to wake me up . . . just a thought . . . sometimes with little ones around a young mother has had her quota of human contact and this would be the last thing on her mind . . . Good luck!

  30. After years of fatigue, I realized one day that I it was because I was sleeping poorly (I had slept poorly as long as I could remember, and assumed everyone slept that way). I went to a sleep clinic during grad school and after an interview, some surveys of my energy levels and waking patterns throughout the night, and an overnight stay with wires all over my body, I was diagnosed with conditional longterm insomnia. Essentialy I sleep WORSE in familiar conditions (ie in my own bed) because my body has taught itself to ramp up in energy when it recognizes that I'm getting ready for bed. Of course the more I'd worry about sleep (better rest for that test tomorrow!), the worse I'd sleep. I was referred to a sleep psychiatrist, with whom I never met because I had no $$$. I just essentially had to perfect all recommended measures for improving sleep. Eat healthy, but not too close to bedtime. Exercise often, but not too close to bedtime. No caffeine ever (caffeine can stay in your system for a long time). Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. Don't do anything in your bedroom except sleep, sex, and maybe bedtime reading (ie a chapter a night of a fun bedtime novel, NEVER work or study). If you associate your bedroom with other activities, it will be more difficult for you to sleep. Make sure to stop working I'd say at least an hour before going to bed. This doesn't just mean law firm work- this also means making to-do lists and organizing closets. Spend that last hour relaxing and slowing down. Reading a fun book, watching TV, chatting with your husband. If you don't give yourself enough time to transition to sleep, your brain will still be turning around ideas. Of course when you have a busy life, it's difficult to find the time to exercise and relax for an hour before bed and still be waking up at the same time every day, but that's what you should shoot for. It's 3 years since diagnosis, and I have since dropped the amended the no caffeine rule to tea once a day in the mornings, but I still stick to relaxing before bed and trying to get up at the same time every day. I also often drink Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea while reading before bed (essentially chamomile with some extra stuff). I think I sleep much better now, with only the occasional bouts of insomnia (a few days every couple months rather than pretty much constantly as it was before).

  31. Also, I would mention that sleeping pills are only effective treatment for trauma-induced insomnia (ie it's a temporary fix, so only good for temporary insomnia), and in fact many are addictive. I would try to avoid relying on medication.
    And someone mentioned white noise machines. My husband bought me this alarm clock:
    Quite expensive, but I like it. It covers up any snoring or other distracting noises. A cheaper alternative is to just have a fan on in your room.

  32. Some good suggestions above. If you want to avoid drugs, though, consider acupuncture-- iy;ts wonderful.


  33. I've had this on and off, too, and for me it's either hormonal or stress-based. At certain times of the month, I'm almost guaranteed to have some level of insomnia; but also, for years and years it took me at least an hour and more often two to fall asleep at night. The only thing that's helped me are the hypnosis tracks I've listened to for childbirth. They're largely based on relaxation techniques, and corny as it sounds, they're like magic. There's a HypnoBabies store with a CD called Peaceful Sleep for ALL - I haven't tried that one specifically because I just used their birthing CDs, but those got me to sleep more quickly than I had ever experienced and seem to have even broken some of my body's insomnia habits (I have a much easier time going to sleep now). Here's a link:

    I hope you find something that works for you!

  34. I forgot an easy tip -- taking Advil. I think it just makes me less achy and it slightly lowers your body temperature. If I take it within 5 minutes of trying to fall asleep, it helps a little bit.

  35. Just want to support the Melatonin suggestion. It works on your body's natural clock, so you have to take it every day at the same time for best results.

  36. This comment is really late to the party, but I was wondering if you sleep with a mouth guard. I remember that you mentioned grinding your teeth, and my dentist recommended that I use a mouth guard when I sleep. It has made my nights so much more pleasant--I don't wake up anymore from grinding my teeth. (Although sometimes I chew on it in a half-awake state dreaming that I am eating.) Anyway, I didn't like the ones that you boil, but I like the Sleep Right brand. (My dentist can also make my a custom mouth guard, but it is really expensive, and he recommended trying over-the-counter ones first.)