Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh That I Might Sleep!

My gynecologist’s voice sounded petulantly condescending as she conceded, “I’ll fill the prescription for you this time, but you must discuss your sleep disorder with your primary care physician.”

“Sleep disorder” sounds positively schizophrenic. How can my condition rate the “disorder” classification when nigh on 95% of my similarly menopause-challenged friends suffer from the same malady? Oh sleep! Who would have thought that I’d view this undervalued cycle as the Holy Grail?

As I wept and worried my way through what should have been a smooth and happy summer, I realized after months of wide-awake nights that sleep deprivation played a significant role in my fragility. I gained new respect for forced sleeplessness as a torture device where before I’d thought, “Well, at least it doesn’t hurt.” And of course, it doesn’t, but fears and burdens grow and glower in the absence of a good night’s rest.

This was yet another zinger launched by diminishing estrogen. It seems unfair that wrapping up my biological usefulness as a reproductive organism carries so many residual penalties. Goodbye to babies, juicy sexiness and supple skin. Hello anxiety, low self-esteem and perennial fatigue. While I know that some of these losses are beyond salvage, there are means to tackle others.

I started with the gynecologist in my search for answers. Her suggestions - routine bedtimes, bedtime routines, no TV at bedtime - made sense, but simply weren’t going to happen. I accepted the wisdom of her offerings, but countered with one of my own - Ambien.

I’d heard raves about the sleep-inducing properties of this tiny miracle and hoped it would work for me. With a supercilious raising of eyebrows and steepling of fingertips, the doctor agreed to submit the prescription, but cautioned, “Take it only twice a week to avoid addiction.” Rats! What to do about the other days?

I have always been a Nyquil fan, even before the onset of menopause. What a divine giving-over - to lie cozy beneath the blankets, cocooned deaf and snuffly in my sneezy world, awaiting the comforting tingle in my fingers that presaged Nyquil’s transport to peaceful sleep. I saw the dangers in my appreciation of the licorice elixir, however, and never allowed myself a swig unless a scratchy throat or mild congestion heralded a dawning cold. “Yes! I’m getting sick! Bring on the Nyquil!” Friends and coworkers laughed, but my enthusiasm did not go unheeded. I’ve noticed a new anticipation in those around me upon experiencing the onset of sniffles. I know I’ve played a role in boosting Nyquil sales.

So I’m covered two nights a week and on sick days, but this is far from sufficient. As an experienced nurse practitioner, my sister-in-law Deb was able to extend yet another avenue - Valerian, an herbal remedy as old as witches. An odd reference perhaps, but Dave and I saw samples of the plant itself in an exhibit at the Salem Witch Museum. It’s a medicinal herb used by ancient healers.

I had high hopes for Valerian and it does seem to work when my mind is at rest, if I go to bed at a decent hour, and if I allow for a little peaceful reading time - thus, only on rare occasions. Dave, on the other hand, who will never experience menopause and has no idea what long-term sleeplessness is, takes one Valerian and is gone. How I envy his peaceful snores.

There is no tidy resolution to this tirade. I sit at night, propped against my pillows, eyeing that alluring green bottle. Does tomorrow appear demanding enough to warrant the ease of Ambien? I am reminded of “Seinfeld’s” Elaine, evaluating potential sex partners as “sponge-worthy” or not. Sooooo, Wednesday, are you Ambien-able?


peacepeddler said...

Hi Lea! My name is Jamie and our mutual friend, Ruth, shared your sleep piece to me. I, too, enjoyed your writing.
Listen, on the days that you can't justify Ambien or Nyquil try these natural and homeopathic 'cures'. Eat more sweet potato during the week and/or get natural anise seeds from any natural food store and chew on a pinch of them once a day. Flossing after is optional. These are some tried and true comforts to both pre-menopausal insomnia and related incontenance. Sweet dreams!
Jamie at

Lea said...

Thanks Jamie! I will give them a shot.

Anonymous said...

Being only 25 and recently encountering my first ever sleep problems, I have turned (without hesitation) to swigs of nyquil...or benedryl or anything else with that magic ingredient.
I hope they come out with some wonderful cure before I hit menopause!!!

Anonymous said...

Ambien, mmm-mmm, good!! No one told me only 2x a week, but still, I don't allow myself the pleasure every night. But on those nights that I do indulge, I plan and enjoy all day long that 'tonight is the night'! You have mirrored the thoughts of so many of us and so beautifully put them down on paper. Sleep well, friend!! xoxo, Joanne

Anonymous said...

The highly popular sleep medication ambien is used for short term sleep treatment only, i.e. for 7 to 10 days and it is known that Ambien is a prescription-based drug and hence should be used only after getting hold of a doctor’s prescription. Use Ambien as per the instructions of the doctor to cure your sleep problems and bear in mind that this medicine is likely to become ineffective if used for a long term and hence the use of this drug should be strictly supervised by a physician.

Unknown said...

A good Sleep keeps the mind and body fresh. The beginning for all the problems in the body is lack of sleep. If a person does not have proper sleep, then throughout the day the person feels sleepy and tired. Sleep apnea is basically a condition that affects most people causing them to stop breathing for around 10-20 seconds as they sleep. The sleep apnea cannot be identified by the same person since it occurs during sleep. So if someone complaints about you for snoring, inform your partner or your family member who sleeps along with you to notice your sleeping condition during sleep. If you had sleep apnea, there are lots of medical procedures and devices to cure sleep apnea in a natural way.