Friday, September 7, 2012

Enter Sandman...please

A study that came out in late February scared the hell out of me.

Published in the medical journal BMJ Open, it claims that people who use prescription sleeping pills are more likely to die or get cancer than those who don't. To be precise, people turning to the sleep aids are four times more likely to kick it.

Not what I wanted to hear.

Then, I see this story from USA Today, saying people who are lacking in sleep are more likely to have a stroke.

And the other day, my favorite fitness guru, Jillian Michaels, sends out an email linking to this piece, which says that seven hours of sleep a night is not a luxury, but a necessity. That you're more likely to get diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, blah, blah, blah.

Just take me out back now and shoot me.

I have struggled to get a quality night's sleep for years. I am one of those people who needs a solid seven to eight hours to really be at my best. Anything below that, I can't make any promises. Given I go to bed about 1 or 2 a.m. and get up at 7 to get the kids on the school bus, I find myself napping well into the day. I feel like a bum at times -- a 30-something-year-old mother of two should surely be baking cookies and mopping floors during the day, not be facedown in a pillow -- but I need it to function. You don't want to be around me when I'm comatose.

I've should have seen the signs as a child. My maternal grandparents never slept well. Neither did my mom. Or my dad. My sister struggles, too. And I distinctly recall a road trip from Chicago to Florida when I was a kid. Thanks to a snorer who shall remain nameless, we would actually load a big beige box fan into our van and truck it down to Disney World. (I still remember pulling up to the Beach Club resort and unloading that thing. What the bellhop must have been thinking. "Don't these people know we have air conditioning here?") But it was a must to drown out the noise and let the rest of the family get a good night's sleep.

If I were to pinpoint a moment in time, I'd say it really unleashed about ten years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child. Having something the size of a small turkey constantly pushing on your bladder, rendering you unable to sleep on your stomach set me up for the shock of my life -- having to wake up to a wailing  infant every one to four hours a night. Add a second shift schedule into the mix and you've got a hot mess. (I still don't know how nurses work those 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shifts. They are my heroes.)

I really tried. I've turned to Tylenol PM. Knockoff sleep aid. Benadryl. Benadryl with wine.

Luckily, my spouse completely understands. "I've slept on bowling balls," he's said of himself.

I've pulled into my driveway to find my father-in-law there, sleeping upright in a chair in the blazing Florida heat. He even does it shirtless to get his deep Sunshine State tan working (my daughter once informed my parents, when she was about 4, that "Grandpa's naked in the driveway."). How he can slumber as he bakes to a crisp is beyond me. There used to be a photo on my in-laws' fridge of him, gussied up in a suit at a family wedding, sitting at a table at the reception -- in a dead sleep.

I've chatted with my mother-in-law late at night on the couch, turned away for a few moments, only to turn back and see her sitting up, asleep.

My daughter seems to inherited her father's ability to slumber through anything. I come home from work after midnight and it sounds like a frat party. It's her radio, inches from her head, on full blast. And my son -- we've got to have a kids' Christmas mix CD cranked up. Every. Single. Night.

There must be something seriously wrong with me. 

I can't stand distracting noises. Like a clicking ceiling fan. So, I'm come to rely on "white noise." An air purifier, usually on medium speed. Full blast only during the day if someone's mowing the lawn or something. Tony calls it "the 747."

I do not appreciate humor from someone who can catnap on sporting gear.

I remember first asking for a prescription sleep aid when my daughter was a toddler. I needed something to help turn off my brain at night.  He warned me not to drive after taking it. I asked him if I'd be able to get up in the middle of the night and function with a toddler. He said I'd be fine.

Night One. I took one. Woke up refreshed. Then my husband told me.

"She was up screaming. I can't believe you didn't hear her. I checked to make sure you were breathing.

"I thought you were dead."

So much for that.

I've tried another sleep aid but discontinued it after the scary studies. Maybe I'm being ridiculous. I mean, are these people dying because of the Rx or are they dying because they have other health issues, of which sleeplessness is a side effect?Who knows.

For now, I turn to Benadryl. I'm groggy the next day, but I can't complain. I still have a pulse.
Last weekend, I shot up to Chicago for a family function. I'd worked the night before and hopped on the plane with three hours of sleep in me.

One would think I could nap.

But no. I was frozen in bed that afternoon, determined to get a couple hours in before the party. I even utilized my dad's sound machine. I discovered that while it was nice to feel you might be sprawled out in the middle of a rainforest, it simply wasn't the same as my beloved 747.

I eventually dozed off, woke up semi-refreshed and rallied for the party.

And two days later, before the sun even rose, I crept through the family room past my sleeping father and his backup sound machine. And I realized that he must have it worse than me. Because I don't find it very soothing to drift off as it sounds like you're being drowned in the surf as angry seagulls peck you to death.

But that's just me.


jared p said...

I have dealt with acute/semi-chronic insomnia on multiple occasions, but typically i can sleep on commnand. Except when i need to. I struggle all day to stay awake, then i get home and can't unwind until 11. I blame the fact that the human circadian rythm is set to a 25hr cycle despite our social convention which mandates we forfeit an hour to appease the Illuminati or something. I once lay in bed on a work night until midnight trying to fall asleep, a few days after coming home from surgery. Realizing i was getting nowhere, i popped 7500mg of hydrocodone despite the lack of any justifying pain. That didn't help, so at 1am I got up and decided to watch futurama. I then popped two benadryl, and waited....but nothing. So then i broke the doctor's rules and downed 32oz of coors. Finally, i started feeling like i could sleep. But still....i have to wonder if my drug stacking finally kicked in, or if i just finally got tired because it was 4am by this point. So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I'm cautioning anyone who may be plotting to drug me and put me in a van, that they may be in for a rough road trip. Also, I'm just babbling because relaying this story is putting me to sleep finally.

Sara said...

Jared, you crack me up. I'm glad I'm not alone!

Mark said...

The study is so alarming. Thanks for the info.