So now you know what was causing my sleep problems….what helped?
If the problem is a stressor outside of your control, unfortunately there isn’t much to be done. Doctors and health websites will tell you to practice good sleep hygiene, which means having consistent bedtimes and waking times, only allowing yourself a certain amount of time (I want to say they recommend 10 minutes?) to fall asleep, and to not be in bed or even in your bedroom if you aren’t sleeping. It is also generally advised to keep the room as dark as possible, the room temperature on the cooler side, and to run a fan or some sort of white noise. We did that – now I can’t even sleep with a digital alarm clock in the room because it’s too bright J and my husband and I are both officially addicted to sleeping with a fan running. Consuming no caffiene is also advised – I cut it out completely for several months. It didn’t help me, but it might help you. Some recommend a sleepy-time tea (containing lavender and chamomile) or warm milk close to bedtime. This didn’t help me much either.
Medications were a last resort for me and I reached that last resort. I was desparate. Unfortunately, diphenhydramine +NSAIDS is a migraine trigger for me, so most OTC meds like Tylenol PM and Advil PM weren't options. Melatonin helped for a little while, but it eventually lost its effect. I also tried Hyland’s sleeping pills, which like the Melatonin, worked for a week or so and then ceased to be effective. After about seven months of this I saw a doctor. We discussed both the infertility and the insomnia. She sent me home with Ambien and did a ton of bloodwork. The Ambien didn’t seem to help much. I’d sleep, but it still took me quite awhile to relax and I didn’t feel like it was restful sleep. The bloodwork showed nothing abnormal, of course. I felt as though we had paid $800 for nothing. I pressed on. Ten months later I saw a different practitioner – a physician’s assistant (P.A.) that had come highly recommended. The first thing she did was a depression assessment and lo and behold, I tested the in the ‘borderline severe depression’ range. Had I been a few points higher they would have hospitalized me. She prescribed Trazodone and Prozac.
(Disclaimer, I am not a doctor or medical practitioner in any way, just a young woman sharing her experiences.)
The Trazodone was a God-send. I slept twelve hours that night and wasn’t drowsy in the morning. The next day I took a three-hour nap and still got twelve hours of sleep the next night. I continued with that pattern for many weeks. It was absolute bliss, not only to finally get some good rest, but to escape from the world for over half the day and just let my mind reset. Now I had been on Prozac before (major depressive episode during my college years) and it had worked beautifully then, but I started having anxiety symptoms during the day. A few follow-up visits later, my PA switched me to Zoloft and that solved the problem. I wasn’t jittery or panicky anymore and I continued to sleep well. I also made the necessary change and quit my job. It was hard to leave my kids, but the administration had very unrealistic expectations of me that weren’t changing. I switched to being a special ed. para in our local school district. The hours were less, the pay was significantly less, but I do not regret this decision at all. It was a desperate and necessary move to stabilize my mental health. It certainly wasn’t stress-free, but having consistent work days, hours, and a consistent daily schedule was very helpful for my psyche.
I stayed on the Zoloft for about a year total. I still have a prescription for the Trazodone (it’s been two years now) but have been using it only intermittently/as needed for that last fourteen months or so and haven't taken any of it for the last four months.
That concludes the story of my struggles with insomnia. Do you have any sleep issues? I’d love to hear what helped you and how you are doing.