How to cure insomnia

It’s a foggy summer morning in California, and I just kissed the kids goodbye for their weekend at their Dad’s house. It’s one town over, but there, where they call home for half of every week, they live an entirely separate life. The mad rush of mornings always ends up to be less than a postcard perfect start to the day. My youngest child is a night owl. Her most intense bouts of creativity and energy come out after midnight, a rhythm no doubt picked up early in life by her mom, me. Back in the day before computers were in every home, cell phones in every hand, social media and an internet connection graced our lives and connected us to the universe, being a stay at home mom was virtually a dead zone, socially speaking. In the lonely and long days, weeks, months and years, raising my children solo the cycle of parenthood and lack of sleep made time feel elastic. Was it Sunday or Wednesday, who even knew?  Every day seemed exactly like the last and there was nothing beyond my field of vision that could make it feel any other way. My husband at the time was absent, not a deadbeat dad, but more like a shadow that passed in the night leaving me to be both mom and dad 24/7 for 15 years of marriage.  As a young mother with insomnia, (whose husband was always away from home and didn’t participate in our family life,) Rather than the world being my oyster, I felt isolated and the world seemed smaller than small. While the other moms in my life were savoring every moment of parenthood with their husbands, spending nights rejoicing the tiny accomplishments of first steps, first words or tiny milestones, I was passing this news to my husband who listened with empty ears, distracted annoyance and uninterested stares. I quickly realized that this parenthood thing would be a solo gig and despite my lack of sleep, the show must go on. Over the next 15 years I saw myself pushed up against the limits of what a human could accomplish on 3 hours of sleep and dragging through life with overwhelming exhaustion. Being a mom was a dream come true and I craved the opportunity to immerse myself and my children in the experiences of a well lived and enriched life. Trips to the park, museum, beach and library electrified my children’s senses. But for me, my brain was numb and I moved through the days and experiences in a trance like a sleepwalker. Each day I awoke craving a nap, and something else, but I couldn’t pin point just what that something else was. If I am searching for meaning, or solace or even a bit of clarity about those years of motherhood I know I won’t find it. It all fades into the landscape of my life. If I put those years into a word, the word would be “cheated.” But not cheated for me, cheated for my children. Had they been given a mother who could sleep, they could have enjoyed so many more experiences like going to the county fair, swimming with friends every summer day, camping at the beach every weekend, taking dance classes, participating in sports teams and having a mom who would sit down in the evening meticulously helping to solve each homework question before bedtime stories. Having a Dad who wanted to be a participant in their lives, they could have had a person to fill in the empty spaces left blank by my disability. But no, I was too exhausted to do make any of those things happen and Dad just wasn’t interested in anything relating to the children. My social life suffered. In a zombie existence, it feels impossible to nurture relationships with friends and loved ones therefore my children and I were homebodies making cameo appearances at birthday parties and holiday celebrations. It took me nearly fifteen years to seek help for my insomnia. At first I was reluctant to share my concern with my physician. I had no idea that roughly 60 million Americans are affected by the sleep disorder each year. I was certain that my case was hopeless and more than that, now that my children were older, I felt that any relief for me would be too late to reverse all the years I felt I had been cheated out of my kids’ childhood. Even if I could learn to sleep, I would always live with the regrets of not being the kind of mother I wish I could have been for them. Since my divorce from my kids’ father 10 years ago, I have taken my quest to find relief for this insomnia to a new level. Working with my family doctor I have tried numerous medications. Some such as Ambien and Zoloft had such extreme side effects that I quickly rejected them. While others such as over the counter sleep aids only accentuated my insomnia. I learned that whatever worries or stresses that crossed my mind by day, compounded my insomnia at night. While that alone didn’t explain my complex issue with sleep, it was a window into this debilitation condition. After 48 years battling this awful condition I am fortunate to have a small arsenal of pills, tips and tricks that provide me with a bit of relief most nights of the week (I’d be happy to share the prescription details with you, just drop me an email.) While not perfect, I feel more alive than I have ever been. The years have a way of slipping away. I am no longer the isolated lonely young mom I was 23 years ago when I first became a mom. Nowadays I am married to the man of my dreams who is the ideal step dad to my children. I have to work hard not to spend too much time imagining how perfect our lives would have been parenting our children together since day one. I really must let go of those types of thoughts and embrace the idea that we get to create the life we want for our children from this day forward, no matter how old they are. The internet and social media make me feel more connected to my friends and family and have cultivated new friendships and nurtured old ones and made my tiny world into an endless ocean. I am so thankful for the invention of the internet and cell phones. Besides putting the world at my fingertips, it gives me something to do on those sleepless nights when the pills and sleep techniques fail me. If you want to fix your insomnia i have four tips for you. 1. Ditch the heavy baggage. My ex husband and his withholding of love and support was such a weight on my subconscious and worked as a poison in my head. That type of burden effects your body more than you realize. 2) create routines. Organize things before bed. Set your alarm, lay out the clothes you intend to wear the next day, pack your lunch the night before, set your bags or purse you plan to take to work by the front door and make lists if you’re worried about forgetting something. Do whatever it takes to clear your mind before bed. 3) avoid caffeine 8-10 hours before bed. Even tea. Learn that although alcohol initially makes you sleepy, it may impair sleep. 4) seek medical advice. A prescription might be just what you need. I share this hard learned knowledge with anyone who will listen, especially my kids. I see it in my little one, her insomnia and struggles but I have confidence that it will not be so debilitating for her. She has a world of knowledge about handing the disability. She can scout the internet for the best careers for those who never sleep such as firefighting, paramedics, law enforcement. She spends her sleepless nights watching YouTube videos and scrolling through her social media feeds. I’m sure her Dad notices these things on the nights she spends with him across town. She never complains about her insomnia and I feel like she has accepted it as a normal part of her life. I try not to worry for her. If anything, at least she knows there’s someone else awake who is always a phone call away at any hour of the night. Thank you for reading my story. If you’d like to share your experience with insomnia or parenthood, please leave a comment or feel free to email me at

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