Saturday, August 30, 2014
"I can get to sleep but I cannot stay asleep", I told my doctor last spring. We talked about all the reasons why sleep is so important. But I already knew. And I still couldn't sleep. My internal clock woke me in the darkest hours before dawn and there I would toss and turn for two or more hours only to fall into a blessed deep sleep just moments before my alarm sounded.
Lunchtime car naps became de rigueur and helped me survive my daytime grogginess. I equipped my car with blankets, a pillow, and earplugs. While my brief nap revived me for a while, I found myself dead on my feet later at home. And then...lather...rinse...repeat - the same pattern all over again.
So I was grateful when my doctor prescribed me a sleep aid. A small dose, but a central nervous system depressant nonetheless. It worked right away and my sleep began to last until the alarm went off. The mild hangover headache was worth it. But after a few weeks, on the nights I was truly exhausted, I tried to sleep without my med only to discover I couldn't even get to sleep which was never my problem. Was I addicted? Probably. I didn't increase my dose but a trickle of panic would set in as I saw the number of pills in the bottle dwindling. I tried to order the refill early only to discover that because it was a controlled substance, the pharmacy wouldn't replenish until 30 days had passed. One night I found myself driving to my 24 hour pharmacy after midnight on the 30th day, knowing I wouldn't get to sleep without my pill. I had to ask myself what I was doing.
Distress really set in when my doctor's office merged with a larger practice and it began to take days for the pharmacy to reach my doctor for another prescription. I was tormented on those pill-less nights and thought about going to my other doctor for a new script. It was all just too much. My work was suffering - I couldn't remember certain words when I typed; I couldn't find things. I was cranky in a "don't even..." way. I wasn't me.
And then recently, a groups of friends and I had a lovely summer day together. Naturally sleep or the lack of, came up in our discussions. A friend who sleeps well suggested that since I am such a creature of my rituals, I should incorporate warm milk in my nighttime routine - the hope being that the tryptophan in milk would help me sleep. When I balked at drinking milk, my friend told me to buy a frother and some honey, perhaps a little nutmeg or allspice. "Turn it into a self-care ceremony", she said. It seemed so simple. I tried it. And it worked. Just before bed, I heat up a cup of skim milk in the microwave. Swirl in a dollop of honey and then froth it carefully. I dust fragrant allspice on the top, place the mug on a small pretty tray and take it to bed. As I read a few pages of my bedside book, I sip my nocturnal potion. The spell of my pill was broken at last.
I don't know if it's the loving ceremony or if it's actually the tryptophan. But it doesn't really matter. I threw my pills out last week. All thirty of them.