Thursday, January 8, 2009

Walkin' After Midnight

(Courtesy of

Writer's block has kept me from posting for a while. I've been dealing with a distinct lack of creativity this week, mostly because I can't sleep. The not-sleeping thing is not new, but it's getting worse, and I can't explain it. I do all the things those "Get Better Sleep Now" articles advise: no caffeine after 2 pm; no heavy meals in the evening; keep a regular bedtime; wind down with relaxing activities prior to bedtime, etc. I don't do regular exercise every day, but I seldom sit down before 8 pm (chores), and I get up at 5 am during the week. That should make for a solid seven or eight hours of shut-eye, right? Wrong. I've been lucky to sleep three hours a night for the past two weeks.

Now, I have heard that doctors are handing out sleeping pills like candy these days. I'm sure I could see a GP and get Ambien, or Lunesta, or something like that, but I'm really wary about taking those things. A quick Google searched for Ambien produced a lengthy and alarming list of side effects, including "new thinking or behavior abnormalities." What? New thinking or behavior abnormalities? As if I'm not abnormal enough already? No, thanks. Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth are all pretty standard drug warnings, and I could deal with them. This was the real kicker, though (courtesy of
  • Complex behaviors such as “sleep-driving” (i.e., driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic, with amnesia for the event)
  • Other complex behaviors (e.g., preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) have been reported in patients who are not fully awake after taking a sedative-hypnotic
It's the chance of "complex behaviors" during sleep that will prevent me from taking one of these drugs. You see, I'm a sleepwalker. My subconscious does pretty well on its own; it doesn't really need any assistance in making me do bizarre things at night.

If you're a sleepwalker, then you are probably as alarmed as I am at the thought of making that condition any worse; if you're not a sleepwalker, well...just be thankful. Sleepwalking episodes can produce some pretty amusing stories, but it can also be deeply unnerving. My mom found me standing in the kitchen one night when I was about eight, with a butcher knife in my hand. I wanted to cut some watermelon. She also found me in her closet once, about to pee on her shoes, because I thought I was in the bathroom. During my teenage years, I woke Mom up one night just convinced that someone had plastered and painted all the walls in our house. Since I seemed so coherent, she didn't realize that I was asleep at first; she must have thought I was losing my mind. I scared my poor husband nearly to death when we first moved in together. He had no experience with sleepwalkers, and came into the bedroom one night because he heard p0unding. He found me on my hands and knees, beating the carpet. When he asked what I was doing, I told him, "Somebody has to kill all these snakes!" At one point, he got concerned that I might leave the house while I was asleep, so he started sleeping on the living room sofa to guard the door. I've also showered in the middle of the night more than once, as well as falling out of bed many, many times.

With a history of incidents like this, you can see why I would be a bit hesitant to take a pill that could make me do something even crazier. Preparing and eating food? I did NOT work my butt off (literally) on Weight Watchers just so I could gain the poundage back by sleep-eating. Making phone calls? I hate talking on the phone...I can't imagine that I would want to make calls in my sleep. Sending emails (or Facebooking) in my sleep, maybe, since I have adopted those forms of communication as a way to avoid the hated phone. I can't imagine, however, what kind of lunatic emails I would produce in a sleepwalking, Ambien-addled state. It looks like I should probably try to find a way to get some sleep without pharmaceutical assistance.

In the meantime, I'll be covering my dark circles with concealer, trying to make sure I stay awake at work, and cursing Mother Nature. I've read that some women develop problems sleeping as they get older, because of hormonal changes. It's not enough that I have gray hair, crow's feet, sagging skin, and creaky I'm supposed to make it through my days on three hours' sleep, too? And I'm not even 40 yet?! Thanks a big fat freakin' lot, Mother Nature. If I wasn't so tired, I would kick you in the shins.


JD at I Do Things said...

Oh, man. I'm so sorry you're having problems sleeping. There is nothing worse. I'm very lucky in that I rarely have trouble, but when I do, it ruins everything.

Your sleepwalking stories have blown my mind! That is some wild stuff there. Butcher knives? Snakes? Showers? I did some minor sleepwalking as a child, but I don't do it anymore. Wow.

I agree that you should try to avoid those sleeping pills. Have you tried melatonin? It's completely natural, non-habit-forming, and it works.

JD at I Do Things

absepa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
absepa said...

JD: Thanks for the sympathy! I've heard about melatonin, but I've never talked to anyone who tried it. If things don't improve I may give it a shot. I'm fortunate that I'm one of those people who can (more or less) get by without a lot of sleep. It makes me kind of loopy after a while, though.

I haven't walked in my sleep in the past few years, and I am GLAD. It's kind of scary.

Kathy at The Junk Drawer said...

OMG. Like JD, I'm blown away by your sleep walking stories. The image of a young girl with a butcher knife in the middle of the night is the stuff of nightmares. I really feel for you. A friend is having the same problem you are (she's in her mid-50s). She can get to sleep, but she can't stay asleep. She got Ambien but doesn't like it, so she returned to regular Tylenol PM. You're lucky you function well during the day. My friend has such trouble, she sometimes needs to take off work, which she hates having to do.

Oh, good luck with this. It sounds like you're trying every remedy possible!

absepa said...

Kathy: For the longest time, I didn't realize that the sleepwalking thing was weird. There are several people in my family who do it, so it was a pretty common thing to me when I was a kid.

I feel for your friend. It's been nine days without my good friend Tylenol PM, and I think things are starting to get a bit better. Hopefully she will have some improvement, too. I am blessed to be able to get by on little sleep.