I struggle with insomnia and have for quite some time. I remember my mother telling me even when I was still a teenager, that for many women, insomnia worsens around menopause, and that the older you get, the more difficult sleeping becomes. So far, dear old mother was spot on.
I talked to my doctor and a therapist about insomnia many years ago. The therapist talked to me about my “sleep hygiene,” a term that was foreign to me. Sleep hygiene is simply just good sleeping habits. The therapist also recommended a book called Insomnia Cures: Sleep Hygiene Practice Makes Permanent. I purchased the book, read it, and found it to be helpful. It was a good book that I’d kinda like to reread again but unfortunately, I loaned it to a fellow book club member who also suffered from insomnia, and I never got it back.
I can’t really brag on my sleep hygiene as there’s probably lots of room for improvement where that’s concerned. For one thing, I’m a night owl and I’ve never been able to get that turned around. I developed terrible sleeping habits in veterinary school. I can’t begin to tell you how many nights I never even made it to bed because I just never could seem to “finish” studying. I’ve said before, that I simply just feel better at night. Around 10 pm is when I come alive and want to clean house and do other productive stuff. I remember the book also said the only two things you should do in your bed is sleep and have sex. Well, I read in bed and I do crossword puzzles in bed and apparently, that’s a big no-no. I’m the type person who has to “wind down” before going to bed. My husband and both my sons can walk in a bedroom, turn out the light, climb in bed, and be snoring within minutes. Literally within minutes. Come to think of it, my dad was the same way. Maybe that’s a “man thing” because I’ve NEVER been able to do that. I always have to read a while in bed.
My primary care doctor has tried sleep aid medications on me. He’s tried both Ambien and Lunesta. I hated the way Ambien made me feel. I felt goofy while on it. Apparently, one night I talked to a good friend on the phone after taking it and the next day that friend said I was talking all crazy. I didn’t even remember the conversation! I did other things on it that I had no recollection of the following day (like eating, doing laundry and ordering things off the Internet). It got to be scary. I got off of it when a lady at my church told me there really was such a thing called “Ambien sex” where a person taking Ambien has incredible sex within about 10-15 minutes of taking Ambien, but then has no recollection of even having sex the next day!
I tried Lunesta, a sedative hypnotic drug used to treat insomnia. Lunesta is supposed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Lunesta made me have horrible, vivid nightmares. Those nightmares were always extremely violent and I was usually being chased, attacked, or assaulted in those Lunesta dreams. My husband was losing sleep while I was on Lunesta because he was forever having to shake me awake because I was usually screaming out in those very scary nightmares.
One night after taking the Lunesta, I was dreaming I was in Australia and I was being chased by dingoes (an Australian canine). I have NO idea why I dreamed that particular dream. In the dream, there was a circle of dingoes around my body and they were biting at my ankles and lower legs. This was a very vivid and colorful dream. I still remember the red blood squirting from the dingo bites I received. My gray and white geriatric cat, Bigfoot, always slept between my feet and legs in the bed with me and he was sleeping there on the night I had this dream. In the dream, I was trying to beat at the dingoes with my fists and I actually woke up from that dream screaming and beating at poor Bigfoot. That poor cat was so traumatized and the look on his face was just one of pure shock and horror as he jumped off the bed and went running. I can’t begin to tell you how terrible I felt. I had hurt my own cat while acting out this Lunesta dream! After that, I told my doctor I was stopping the Lunesta and I never wanted it prescribed to me again. I told him I would rather have insomnia than those vivid, violent nightmares. It was weeks before my Bigfoot kitty even had the nerve to get back in bed with me but bless his heart, he did start sleeping with me again. I remember my doctor telling me the most common side effect his patients complained about while on Lunesta, was a bad taste in their mouth upon awakening. He had never heard a patient (until me) complain about nightmares. I had looked it up though and read that Lunesta could cause vivid and “abnormal” dreams. I had them almost nightly while taking Lunesta and I was reaching the point where I didn’t want to go to sleep at night! I mean, who wants to have nightmares every single time they fall asleep? Not me!
Recently, I’ve been taking Melatonin which a lot of people seem to have good success with. Some nights it works well, other times it doesn’t seem to work at all. I started out with a fairly small dose and will gradually increase it until I find which dose works for me.
Do you have trouble with insomnia? What has worked for you? Have you ever tried Ambien or Lunesta? Any luck with Melatonin?