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. 


  1. Oh what a great post. I have issues with sleep from time to time, the past two weeks were pretty bad with not getting much sleep at all. Maybe I will give this a try. I don't take any sleep medications and really don't want to!

  2. Great (and important) post! I suffered from this for months - my sleep issues were stress and age-related. I found the sleep aids were short term helpful, but really for me the only solution was dealing with eliminating the stress and meditation. I also had to make sure not to drink more than 1 glass of wine. That made a HUGE difference! So happy the warm milk is working for you!