I am tired of not sleeping. It exhausts me, the tossing, the turning, the waiting precisely one hour after taking the appropriate amount of antipsychotic medication to shut off the lights so that I can lay in bed for yet another hour to see if my brain will give me the luxury of falling asleep.

I read somewhere once that people who take longer than seven minutes to fall asleep can be considered insomniacs. I have been an insomniac my entire life, as 10pm becomes 11pm becomes midnight becomes 1am. I have greeted 3ams and 4ams, and songbirds and dawns. I hate it, hate it all.

Tonight, the experiment begins. I have taken a third pill, a never before heard of amount. I am scared of the amount of medication I have had to consume this year. I lasted this long without changing meds. Now, at 30, I am titrating psychopharmaceuticals like a mad chemist to keep up with the changing midwest weather. A bit too cloudy requires extra antidepressants. A bit too sunny requires extra antipsychotics. Somewhere among it all I become blindsided with raging migraines that leave me grinding my teeth and numb to the world, its own mood disorder in and of itself. What did I do to deserve the gray matter I inherited?

I just want the racing thoughts to stop. At 10pm, I want a pass, a break, a way to muffle them so they shut up, so they stop haranguing me with their endless tirades of hatred, fear, anxiety. What is their point? What good do they do me? I do not need the barrage of reminders, the nagging doubt, the inner voice, the singsonging, clanging, nutso, rhyming, chyming chatter in my brain that goes on and on, cyclonic, taunting and cruel. Useless, all of it. I want to be knocked out flat, cold, lifeless at 10pm. Turn me off, shut me down.

Maybe I need new pills. Maybe I should convince the doctor the ones I have are not good enough. Maybe I play too good a game at the shrink’s office, talk myself up too well. Maybe I do not appear crazy enough. Maybe I need to talk about how long it takes me to fall asleep, how plagued I am, how bad its gotten this year, how worried I am about the increasing doses. Maybe I should make a pitch for a new prn, a benzo, perhaps, or maybe a nice sleeping pill. Maybe she’ll suggest lithium instead. Or depakote, or zyprexa, and those all make you fat, and damage your liver, and make you blind and tremor and lose your hair, and then I’ll have to laugh and say: Just kidding! Haha! Not really that crazy! I was just testing you. To see what you’d do. No, really, I am just fine. Just fine. Just fine, indeed.



  1. Charlotte said,

    April 22, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Seven minutes? If that statistic is true, then I would be considered an insomniac. It takes me at least 15-20 minutes to fall asleep.

  2. AnnieMcPhee said,

    April 23, 2008 at 2:18 am

    I’m a lifelong insomniac and can stay up for days at a time. It’s horrible. No idea what the cure is (no one does), but a couple benzos will buy you a real good night’s sleep so you can think straight the next day. Oh, and give the documentary “Wide Awake” by Alan Berliner a try. He’s the only one who I ever saw who had it as bad as me. I figured out that to fix my internal clock and live by day I’d have to move to Dubai. I settle for a second shift job and sunblocking shades on my windows instead. And benzos. C’est la vie.

  3. Meowser said,

    April 23, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Yeah, second the second shift stuff (edging into third). I tried and tried and tried for decades to maintain a “normal” (morning person) sleep schedule. The insomnia damn near killed me; this lying around in bed terrified that you won’t fall asleep soon enough to wake up in time is a form of torture I know all too well. I was a frickin’ zombiewoman.

    And yeah, psychopharms can screw with circadian rhythms something fierce, too. No benzodiazepines here — they never worked well for me — but I do take fistfuls of (prescribed) amino acids. I’d really recommend a chiropractic neurologist if you have one nearby (you can look at the American Chiropractic Neurology site to see if you do, Mine literally made it possible for me to aspire to some kind of real life. Seriously.

  4. Cindy said,

    April 23, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I’ve never grappled with real insomnia, but ever since the beginning of 2007, I lie awak for at least an hour, mind humming with anxiety. I’m stretched too thin with volunteer service that’s become way too intense. But I usually drop off after an hour to two hours of tossing and turning. This explains why I have felt exhausted since last July.

  5. Cindy said,

    April 23, 2008 at 6:56 am

    I did mean to type “awake.”

  6. damnsle said,

    April 23, 2008 at 8:19 am

    I’ve had insomnia as long as I can remember, too. I’ve had nights where I wanted to slam my head against the wall and knock myself out, just so I could be unconscious for awhile. It’s gotten better lately. I think that between the depression meds and taking walks in the evening my brain is starting to relax enough to STFU at night. Sunday nights are still hell for some reason, though. I don’t really think of my job being that stressful but apparently my brain thinks differently and freaks out about going back on Monday mornings.

  7. Piffle said,

    April 23, 2008 at 8:26 am

    My husband’s migraines got a lot less common when he went on Topomax. He still takes Maxalt when one comes on, but the frequency went from twice or more a week to once a month or less. Topomax is serious medicine too, some people have real problems with it; but for my husband the side effects were more bearable than the migraines.

    Good luck with the insomnia, I have mild insomnia; but it’s worlds away from your experience.

  8. Karen said,

    April 23, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Actually, the standard is that if it takes you longer than 20 minutes to go to sleep you probably have a sleeping problem, but it could be either that you don’t get enough or that you get too much.

    The entire point of going to the doctor is to get solutions to your problems. S/he needs to know that you can’t sleep, and, also, needs to know that you have an anxiety problem that will affect your ability to take medications with scary side effects. The biggest thing is that when you are telling your doctor your reasons for something is that you stay calm. Hysterical won’t get them on your side, and some people have a very, very low threshold for what they’ll believe is hysterical. But your doctor really does need to know that the problem is so bad that you’re at least thinking about doing your own concocting.

    The absolute worst thing he’s going to do is not change anything, and you’re dealing with that already. State your concerns clearly and calmly, and don’t ignore them when you see a problem that may be related. Even if s/he’s the best doctor ever, you still have to do you part and give appropriate information if the relationship is going to work out to better your overall health.

  9. Ally said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I’ve also been an insomniac pretty much my entire life – I was a 6-year-old up until 3 am reading kinda kid. I lie down in bed, and suddenly I have to think about everything I didn’t want to think about during the day, and it just doesn’t stop.

    A few years ago, I started listening to books on tape/CD and found that really helps with the racing thoughts. You have to choose something that is interesting, but not too interesting (otherwise, you end up excited to hear the next bit). A book you like and have read a few times works very well. I’ve got most of the Harry Potter books, and Jim Dale’s voice is quite soothing (but I have to stop by the final few chapters of book 6).

    If you have an MP3 player, your local library may have downloadable books available, so you don’t have to drop a bunch of money on audiobooks.

    Hope you get a good night’s sleep soon!

  10. Piffle said,

    April 23, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Our library has books on tape and CD too, if that’s useful.

  11. Lala said,

    April 23, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I second the idea of listening to something to fall asleep. I’ve found that if I do that, I’m able to fall asleep much faster because I don’t get so distracted by my thoughts. I usually listen to podcasts, and always ones that I’ve heard before so that I’m not too into what they’re saying. My iPod has been a godsend as far as going to sleep in a reasonable time frame!

  12. GoingLoopy said,

    April 23, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Ambien, and Court TV. The narrators talk in nice, soothing, regular patterns – even though they’re talking about generally bad stuff, their voices never get fast or excited. Also, watching the same stupid movie over and over at bedtime helps – after about viewing #5, you never make it past the first half hour. The sleep timer on the TV is your friend.

    Also, when I was in junior high, my mom bought this stupid weight-loss self-hypnosis tape. It was utterly dumb as far as actual weight loss, but the relaxation techniques put me out long before the voice started talking about “being the master of your mind”. (I listened to it once fully awake, and laughed until my stomach hurt.)

    I’ve been an insomniac since I was a kid, too. I’d love to work second shift, but unfortunately, not too many jobs in my chosen field allow that.

    Good luck. Nothing is worse than not sleeping. 😦

  13. Harriet said,

    April 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I’m going to join the insomnia party. Lifelong insomnia for me, starting around age 8. Parents never believed I was really awake. Long tortured nights. Now I just get up and work, which probably isn’t the best thing in the world. But I can’t stand the feeling of lying in bed wishing I was asleep. So I get up and work until I can’t stop yawning. Last night that happened at 3 a.m. So I’m feeling your pain.

  14. Stef said,

    April 24, 2008 at 3:14 am

    I just had a sleep study and the doctor said I took 13 minutes to fall asleep and that was “average”. So 7 minutes sounds too low to me for an insomniac diagnosis.

    If and when you are up for trying something different, I would recommend stress-reduction mindfulness meditation (googling on those terms should point you at some resources). It’s directed specifically at learning new approaches to a mind buzzing with thoughts.

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