I’m a terrible sleeper. It all started when we moved to Colorado and houses didn’t have air conditioning. During the spring and summer, the normal thing was to put a box fan in your window and just let air circulate throughout the house. I became accustomed to the soothing hum of the fan, and soon enough, I found myself not being able to sleep without a fan. Even in the winter.
With the stress of high school and moving around, I started taking melatonin as a natural way to quiet my brain into settling down for the night. That did the trick until I was in my early 20’s when I entered college and life became even more stressful. The fan remained the same, but the medication changed.
When I was about 22 years old, I went to my family doctor, complaining of my sleep troubles. My doctor quickly prescribed me Ambien, which promptly put me into a drug induced stupor of craziness. If I didn’t force myself into bed within seconds of the medicine hitting my system, the pills would have the opposite effect and energize me into some bizarre world of hallucinations and gibberish. I gave it two weeks and flushed the pills down the toilet.
I started taking Tylenol PM but often times woke up feeling hung over. The fan stayed put, like a pacifier of sorts. I increased the amount of melatonin and that helped. (Don’t worry – I asked my doc if my dosage was okay, and it was)
A few years ago, I was prescribed 1mg of Xanax to take at night as a way to “turn my brain” off. Quite literally, I can’t shut my brain off at night and it’s incredibly frustrating. When I used to wait tables and bartend, I would be on the verge of peaceful slumber, only to have my brain startle with “You forgot to take a diet coke to table 54!!” Now I’m plagued with thoughts of “You didn’t e-mail _____ about _____,” or, “you forgot to take the trash out!” The Xanax works just enough to quiet my brain to a manageable noise and it’s been the best thing a tired girl could ask for.
To this day, the fan remains. And if you know me, the fan is a running joke. I went on a 10-day cruise a few years back and bought a little fan to pack in my suitcase because I can’t sleep in silence. Silence is more startling to me than anything – I must have some kind of white noise to sleep with. Sleeping in cars, trains or planes? Forget it. If I can’t stretch out and place myself among my pillow properly, it’s not happening.
I realize that some of this might sound completely ridiculous, but I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried hot bubble baths before bed, I read every night for an hour as a way to wind down, I’ve tried yoga and guided meditation, I’ve had many a cup of chamomile tea, but I just can’t seem to shush my brain.
I wish I could just fall into bed effortlessly each night with little on my mind, but it just hasn’t happened in about 15 years. Maybe one day, but for now, I”ll swallow my little blue pill, be okay with it, and allow myself to sleep.