The Cost of Insomnia

sleepFor several months now, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night. I’ll look at my clock, and it’ll be 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., and I’ll close my eyes and lay still, hoping to doze off again to wake up at a reasonable hour. Sometimes it’ll take 40 minutes, or it’ll take two hours. Monday was particularly egregious because I woke up at 2 and then wasn’t able to sleep again until 7:15, and then I woke up a half-hour later to get up and go to the office. I had essentially given up during those five hours of trying to go back to bed and got up and grabbed my laptop and did some work.

“I got an email from you at 3 a.m.—what was that about?” a friend asked me.

“Couldn’t sleep,” I’d explain.

Here are things I’ve tried:

• Sominex caplets ($7) which contain a sedative, Diphenhydramine. It’s made me feel funny—I wake up extremely thirsty, and it’s given me bad dreams. “Side effects include hallucination” it says. I stopped taking them.

• Running at night (free). I’ve run three, four, five miles before going to bed, hoping to tire myself out, to little effect.

• Tea ($5). “Drink some tea!” a friend says. “It’s natural and relaxing. I think you just need to relax.” The tea is great; the sleeplessness the same.

The needing to relax part is true. When I’m trying to fall back asleep, I’ll try to clear my mind, find that zen. But sometimes, if it’s taking too long, I’ll think about what I need to get done the next day. Or I’ll imagine Meaghan awake with the baby and how I’d make use of my insomnia by hanging out with the baby for her. I’ll run song lyrics through my head.

When I brought up my insomnia up at the office yesterday, someone said, “You should try melatonin supplements—it’s all natural.”

We are awake during daylight, and mostly spend our time in the darkness asleep, he explained. Melatonin naturally occurs in the body, helping to regulate this pattern. Also: Side effects are limited.

• Melatonin supplements from the drug store ($10). We’ll see how it works out.

Photo: Ella Mullins

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