Parent Q&A

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  • Marijuana for Insomnia

    (3 replies)

    I have dealt with debilitating insomnia (with attendant peaks and valleys) for over a decade. I've tried the gamut, even a couple of marijuana strains. No results, except increased agitation in one instance. My body is stubbornly resistant to many treatments, unfortunately. I am curious as to whether others in similar straits have had success with marijuana, whether specific strains have worked best, or if working with a medical marijuana practitioner has helped to guide selection and success. My husband found a woman on Solano who charges $200 ( for an initial consult, but I am leery of spending that when I have already tried this modality. Counsel eagerly sought. Thank you.

    Insomnia can be caused by many things. You may be allergic to something you are eating or drinking. Or even smelling. I suggest going fragrance-free. Mint toothpaste can wake you up when it is time to start becoming drowsy. Have you tried melatonin? Magnesium? Benedryl? CBD? THC? Smoking? Drops? Do you have room-darkening curtains? 

    Someone at Harborside recommended a tincture containing THC that is specifically formulated for sleep. I have not tried it, but my friend who bought it said it's doing great things for her insomnia. Before spending money for a consult, maybe go to Harborside and ask someone there about their magical sleep tincture :) Good luck!

    I'm sorry you are struggling with insomnia. My young adult son and I both struggle with insomnia and have tried different approaches (many more for me with decades of it coming and going). Before doing anything else, it is important to rule out sleep apnea, particularly if you snore. There are many sleep clinics around, Stanford's is particularly good.

    My son is convinced marijuana helps him and gets his product from legitimate producers who test their products. However, I am dubious, as his sleep seems very erratic and he is often up in the middle of the night for long periods of time. This has been going on for many months since he started relying on pot to sleep. 

    I researched both scientific and popular sources which I will briefly summarize here: Today's marijuana products are significantly higher in THC content, and significantly lower in CBD content, than in marijuana of the past. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana and has potential to become habit forming. Initially, it can help one relax to fall asleep. However, with continued use, it appears to have a rebound effect where sleep becomes increasingly short and disrupted. (To which my son has responded by increasing of frequency of use throughout the night to get back to sleep.) It also appears to ease anxiety initially, yet increase anxiety with continued use. CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive and does not appear to have potential to become habit forming. It shows promise of calming properties with potential for sustainable sleep support. So, if you'd like to go the cannabis route, I'd suggest going to a good independent market (such as Country Sun in Palo Alto) that carries high quality supplements and give a CBD capsule formulated for sleep properties a try.

    For myself, what I have found helpful is working on improving my sleep hygiene, as well as taking a few supplements. I have ruled out sleep apnea. What works for me is taking calcium, L-Theanine, and Gaia Herbs "SleepThu" and hour or so before bed, consistently for several weeks, then weening off as sleep improves. Various sleep hygiene approaches can be found online (very popular concept these days). What I find particularly helpful is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (if you have an iPhone, Bedtime mode is helpful with this), weekends included (as much as possible), finishing my last light meal of the day at least three hours before going to bed, and turning off all electronics and dimming lights an hour before bed. I keep my bedroom dark and cool. When I wake during the night, I do not look at the clock or turn on a light. I use the bathroom if necessary, then meditate until I either fall back asleep (typically) or keep myself resting until it's time to wake (on a really bad night). There are various meditation apps and classes available, find one that works for you.

    This is all very difficult if you have small children or disruptive teens or non-supportive spouses in the house! 

    Wishing you a good night's sleep.

  • Help for grandfather's Insomnia/Anxiety

    (3 replies)

    Can anyone recommend a therapist who specializes in insomnia/anxiety for a 75 year old?  My father has struggled with insomnia for the past 7 months and can't seem to find anything that helps, he has tried everything!  The struggle has led to what now seems to be a big part of the problem - Anxiety.  He has also been a worrier, slightly anxious person but this has tipped him into a new place with more full blown anxiety.  

    Any wisdom/advice would be greatly appreciated. 

    First the obvious. Does this person drink coffee, tea, cola, etc? As we age, it is more difficult to clear caffeine from the body. Something that was fine at 20 or 30, like drinking a cup of coffee with breakfast, may be too much at 70. Eliminate all caffeine. Then fragrances can cause insomnia. Air fresheners, perfume, cologne, even shampoo and lotion. Eliminate all fragrances.

    Make sure the room is dark. Seems like they put in more and brighter street lights all the time. Also try progressive muscular relaxation. There are many youtube guides, but this will gie you the general idea,

    Kaiser has wonderful mindfulness classes, including some specifically aimed at insomnia. I loved taking the course. It was a broad spectrum of ages but mostly older folks about the age of your father. 

    I had terrible insomnia about two years ago. And I would get so anxious about having  insomnia that it actually gave me panic attacks...which made the insomnia much worse. The whole thing became a really debilitating cycle that I couldn’t get out of by myself. 

    I had already cut out caffeine and done all the “sleep hygiene” tips that are recommended for sleep. I also tried talk therapy about the situation. But the only thing that made a real difference - and it was a life changer - was starting exposure therapy. This is a kind of therapy that’s used for people with OCD who have phobias to help them work through their intense fear/panic. I hadn’t thought of insomnia as a phobia before - but it really was for me. So my therapist and I worked on facing the fear and panic that having insomnia brought up for me and I had just tremendous results. I worked with Emily Berner, MFT, at the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy. (It’s located in rock ridge.) it was expensive because she wasn’t in my insurance network. But it was with every penny. Good luck to your dad!

  • Friend with Ambien Addiction

    (4 replies)

    I have a friend who I believe is addicted to Ambien. She's been taking it for 10+ years. I've spoken to her about it for years and though she acknowledges she should get off of it, she has not done so. She tried only once--and she lasted 3 months, and went back on. It is greatly impacting her life--she always looks tired, she has bags under her eyes, she is low on energy. She recently lost her job and has trouble finding another job, and I think it is because of her general demeanor--she looks like a zombie. What resources are there out there for someone who has had a 10+ year addiction? Are there counselors who specialize on that? I'm willing to pay for a few sessions if it will help her get off the pill. I think she has Kaiser insurance. Recs in the East Bay/Oakland area ideal. Any suggestions are welcome, personal stories, recommendations, anything to get her on the right track.

    Hi I am sure you are well meaning in your post. Have you ever suffered from insomnia? It is conpletely debilitating and it is so hard to fix especially for women. I suffered from insomnia and it took me years and years of working  with different doctors and a ton of my own research and experimentation of different ideas to rebalance my hormones naturally to fix my sleep problem. I tried ambien but it didn’t work for me at all and ultimately I wanted a natural solution.  Once you start on ambien your body adjusts to it and makes it hard to come off it. Your friend is no doubt suffering but doing the best she can. It isn’t easy to come off something if it means you can’t sleep. It isn’t psychological as much as physiological and so complicated to fix. Lack of sleep is a horrible way to exist. 

    I had severe insomnia and an Ambien dependence for a while and it was a really rough time for me. I eventually found an amazing CBT specialist who helped me learn mindfulness and relaxation techniques. After about 6 months of sessions and practice, something clicked and I was able to sleep (unaided) better than I had in two years. I haven't taken a sleeping pill since then. I'm so grateful to the therapist I found, but along the way I saw some therapists who were not a good fit and one psychiatrist who casually prescribed me strong benzodiazepines (that I ultimately didn't take due to their high dependence potential).

    I'm not sure what your relationship with your friend is like, but if you're very close, you could say something like "Friend, I care about you and I've noticed how hard your insomnia has been on you. Can I help you find resources or providers that could help you? I know you are exhausted and I'm willing to do the legwork for you." If she agrees and has Kaiser, she may have to see her primary care doc or a social worker and ask for a referral. If she declines your offer, I wouldn't push it.

    It sounds like your friend has a two-pronged issue. One is the addiction, and the other is a lack of healthy sleep, which is likely the other problematic element that drives your friend back to Ambien once she has gotten off. I wish I knew of more actual resources, but in terms of the latter challenge, Matthew Walker's book Why We Sleep has a ton of really good information about the mechanics and functions of sleep, and he talks about why medications don't actually help us SLEEP, but mostly help us lose consciousness or forget. CBT-I, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is one of the most effective treatments for sleep troubles (moreso than medication). It may be that if you support healthy sleep, the physiological elements of the addiction will be easier to deal with. Heck, with two little ones and chronic sleep deprivation, I KNOW I am more resilient on every level - emotional, attentional, cognitive - when I get more sleep; and I still don't prioritize it as much as I should. In that vein, I should add that despite your commendable impulse, you can only help your friend as much as she is willing to accept, because no matter what the path, she has to do the very, very hard work of walking down it. I wish you and your friend the best of luck.

    I so understand this, it was me a few years ago.  10 years ago doctors were prescribing Ambienlike candy because they thought it was “non-addictive.”  Not only is it addictive, for a while you get a high from it.  You are always chasing that high which wears off after a while. In the meantime you (or you friend) is slowly becoming dependent on the drug.  It then feels like you can never sleep without it.  It’s scary and I’m sure that’s how your friends feels now. I would have a conservation with her but honestly she is probably going to be blnaturallt defensive and angry with you.  But bring it to her attention that others are noticing.  The only real way she is going to stop is if her doctor cuts her off or she has an ephiny herself.  And it’s not really THAT bad getting off Ambien.  The thought and anxiety is way worse.  Yes, there are sleepless nights but the payoff is so great in the end.  Good luck!

  • Hello BPNer's,

    I have been struggling with insomnia for almost a decade now. At one point, it was so bad that I had to quit my job, so serious stuff. I am looking to hear stories and strategies from those who have also been there, and perhaps still are. Here are some of the things that I have tried/am doing: zero caffeine or alcohol, excellent sleep hygiene, including no screen time, blue light, quiet meditation, white noise, delta sleep system recording, and regular yoga, along with running. I have tried acupuncture and herbs (still going), hypnosis, massage, craniosacral, psych meds like lunesta, ambien and trazadone, homeopathic remedies like Calms Forte, and probably a bunch of other things that I can't recall at the moment. It used to be that I had no trouble falling asleep, just staying asleep, but now it is both. Sometimes I struggle to fall asleep, only to wake up an hour later, wide awake. I can be up from anywhere from 1 1/2-4 1/2 hours throughout the night, and sometimes I just call it a wrap at 2 AM!

    Also, I seem to be getting warmer while I sleep, so sometimes wake up with an uncomfortably hot pillow that needs flipping over. At times, my body pulses strangely, like it is just teeming with too much energy and can't wind down. If the sleep deprivation persists intensely for many days in a row, I begin to feel like there are bugs crawling inside of my body: weird, science fiction type stuff.

    I am 40, and have two small children, and am just so so tired. Most of the time, my body feels like I am 70, or what I imagine 70 feels like, though it's hard to imagine feeling worse than I do now. I am constantly sick, as my immune system and adrenals are both exhausted from the lack of sleep. Short of running away from my family and finding a peaceful refuge in the mountains, what else can I do? I feel like I am going crazy!

    Thanks for reading.

    Have you tried any anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax, or any antidepressants like Lexapro? 

    Have you had an overnight sleep study? That can help diagnose conditions which lead to insomnia. Your primary care physician can refer you to a neurologist or a sleep specialist and he or she could order a sleep study for you.

    I agree with the poster who said to get yourself into a sleep study, stat. Sleep deprivation is like torture. The only thing I would add to that long list of remedies you have tried is medical cannabis. It's the only thing that helps me -- but I never had the severe problem you have. I hope you find help soon! 

    Have you tried going completely wheat free? I could have written your post three months ago and I feel like a new person without wheat in my life. I've also cut out sugar, potatoes, rice, oats, barley, etc. I have unlimited energy and wonderful sleep after years of no sleep. I haven't been tested for celiac, but it doesn't matter. My quality of life is so good now...I have a sense of well being that I never had before, ever, even as a kid! I had to stop eating wheat completely...Cutting back doesn't give me the same results because even one bite of wheat stimulates my appetite to eat more. The lucky thing is that when you cut out wheat and other processed white carbs, you totally stop craving them and they actually seem "poisonous". My insomnia, migraines and depression have completely cleared up. I know going gluten free might seem like a silly trend but it really can work wonders. Give it a try! You can contact me through the moderator if you'd like. Try reading Grain Brain and/or Wheatbelly as a guide.

    Strongly suggest you look into cannabis. Google cannabis and insomnia and you'll get plenty of hits. A medical marijuana card is easy to get in California.

    Have you been checked for hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (sometimes low thyroid presents with some of the same symptoms as too much thyroid).  Just a thought after years of being treated for thyroid issues.  Best of  luck.

    Ageing really sucks, and the 40th decade just feels so insulting. Sorry you are experiencing this. First, not to be alarmist, but if your body is unable to regulate night-time body temperature you should make a doctor's appointment and discuss this. This is one of several symptoms of serious illness and so it would be good to rule these out. That said,  it may be that at the age of 40 you are entering peri-menopause - a bit early, but not unheard of. The night-time agitation, hot body, feelings of pulsing and "numbeliness" is something I experienced in my early 40s at around the same time my menstrual cycle became less predictable. This coincided with when I stopped breastfeeding my baby, who was born when I was 40. I started having short uncomfortable episodes of heart racing too, which would wake me up at night. My doctor said that these were typical symptoms of peri-menopause and suggested birth control pills (which I did not take). I also started having to get up to pee a lot at night. What I started doing was taking an ice-bottle to bed with me and sleeping with the window open. Two other things to think about - have your AC1 blood glucose level and vitamin B12 blood levels checked. For me, the night-time urgency to pee is linked to having  borderline diabetic blood-sugar levels, and the "numbeliness" in my hands feet and legs came with daytime balance issues, it was traced to very low B12 levels. I take gabapentin for pains associated with lasting peripheral nerve damage (because of chronic low B12- a creeping secretive issue to be mindful of, really!). A low gabapentin dose seems to help with disordered sleep as well, and there are no negative effects,so you and your doctor could discuss a gabapentin low- ose as a sleep-aid treatment. I'd try that before Xanax or Lexapro.  Worked like a charm for me and I haven't taken a single sleep aid in seven years.  It has helped other insomniacs I know.

    Transendental meditation. There are classes in Berkeley. Maybe you are focusing on it so much it's making it your reality, in a way. Maybe try to focus on something else-hobby, family, etc...

    Best of luck!!

    Have you tried a magnesium supplement? Many women are deficient in magnesium, which can cause insomnia. I love the Calm brand, I drink it after dinner, a few hours before bed.

    Oh I m so so sorry!  I also have suffered from periodic insomnia- there is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.

    I have found that a nightly magnesium supplement has helped (although I still occasionally have trouble sleeping); the brand I use is called "Natural Calm" and is available on Amazon.  Guided meditations on YouTube also help (most of the time).

    Other suggestions include the Whole30 diet to try an identify if there's a food group that is triggering your sleep problems, or an OTC progesterone cream if you think it might be hormonal.  Neither of those worked for me, but causes of insomnia are many (or even ideopathic!). Good luck!

    you have just described my life.  or i should say my old life.  thankfully tby way of googling for answers i came upon a little something called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) or syndrome as it can be called.  I have it and the only thing that made a difference is a 10,000 Lux lamp for bright light therapy.  basically it is light therapy used for the better known SADD (seasonal affective disorder).

    i don't know if DSPD is your issue, but you might give light therapy a try.  it does no harm and if it doesn't work it, i would suggest getting yourself a comprehensive work up, perhaps by a neurologist and get to the bottom of things.  i let so bad for you reading your post and it sounds like pure hell.  you have my complete empathy on that.  you deserve to be rested and happy and free from this.

    recommendation:  i bought my small purse size light at costco and a previous desk model on eBay.  IT CHANGED MY LIFE!!!!!   no more melatonin, no more magnesium drinks, no more running after the school bus, no more feeling like an alien living on a planet of morning people...   life changing.  period.  yes, for less than $60 bucks.  game changer.  

    because i was concerned about eye health with respect to the bright light, i drilled down until i found a specialist (not found in your regular sleep clinic by the way) in the neurology department of kaiser oakland.  she rocked!  and patted me on the back for self diagnosing what many spend their lives in misery with not to mention years or decades of pharmaceuticals.  ironic because my 'zero sleep problem' afforded me countless hours to research until i stumbled on DSPD.   yay me!  lol.  DSPD is only now making the mainstream media as computer & technology usage is causing the problem in folks artificially.  some folks like me are just born with this.  

    the beauty of light therapy is you do it at home.  for DSPD you blast yourself in the early am.  i don't even open my eyes as for me 10,000 lumens works right through my eyelids (yes it is like the sun).  within a day or two, i can't stay awake past 10pm.  start off slow as you can overdose the time and make yourself manic, i accidentally did it this week when i fell asleep with out setting the timer... i know, ironic.   some folks do it frequently.  for myself once a month or less is usually enough.  

    i'm rooting for you!

    (fun fact: folks with the opposite problem Early Sleep Phase Disorder (ESPD), people who nod off in the afternoon/early eve, can use the light in the pm, to correct that problem)

    I just wanted to let you know that I am right there with you. I am 40 with two small kids whose insomnia has been getting worse. I am a faithful Ambien user - it's the only thing that I know will work. I usually can go a couple weeks sleeping fine and then at least a couple weeks of horrendous insomnia where I have to take Ambien. My doctor says I should listen to a really boring book on my phone but I find that doesn't work for me. 

    My insomniac friend is really wanting me to try Magnesium. She bought it on Amazon and says it has really helped her sleeping. 

    Hope you find a solution!! I have no experience with this but your post made me think of this article I read recently. Best of luck. 

    Deep sympathy for you, how truly awful!  

    Have you ever asked your doctor for a full hormone panel? A sleep study also sounds like a worthy option at this point. 

    Some of what you are describing also sounds like what I've experienced in the past during periods of situational anxiety. Not even the type tied to a trauma or intense happening, just anxiety over seemingly average life things. I've also found hypaogogic sleep medications to make things worse. Even herbal/homeopathic options have a negative effect on me if used long term.

    I hope you give yourself a little grace. Even the UN recognizes sleep deprivation as a serious form torture, and the Geneva convention protects against it. Sleeplessness is no joke! Wishing you relief. 


    have you had your doctor check hormone levels?

    hornone replacement therapy can help.  Especially if used with evening progesterone 


    I feel for you - I had a nearly identical situation a few years back until I finally made the connection that certain foods were related to my insomnia! I eliminated all foods with Aspartame and MSG (Glutamic Acid). These are both ExcitoNeuroToxins and in some people can cause major insomnia - that "wired but tired" feeling. Read ingredient labels and eliminate everything with Aspartame (examples are sugar-free drinks, yogurts, gum, toothpaste, etc.) and Glutamic Acid (aka MSG) which is not just in Chinese Food but also in most processed foods. Try eating just whole foods without pre-made sauces or seasonings and see if your sleep improves. Mind did! It was day and night after years of insomnia that no doctor or any medications could remedy!!

    Yup, been there, for years now.

    Here's how I've managed: exhaustive exercise (helps, does not cure), no caffeine or alcohol (which you are already doing), and alternating prescription sleep meds with a lights-out strain of prescription Cannibas. I have always hated pot, just made me paranoid, but at home late at night in your own bed, with the right strain, it can do the trick. You can Vape if you're worried about your kids and the smell, but I haven't found there to be as many strains available for Vaping as smoking.

    Don't mistake me -- this was a last resort. I find that taking sleep meds occasionally, when your body hasn't built up a tolerance, can be more effective than using them every night, which worries me for my long term brain function.

    But it sounds as though you might have some underlying physical issue causing your sleeplessness. The comment about your adrenals being shot was telling. Have you had an exhaustive Thyroid workup? I would have every paranoid test known to man (or doctor) just to see if there's not something sneaking around in your system. Google "underlying physical causes of sleeplessness" and see what pops up.

    Last thought, though very unlikely -- is there early menopause in your family? Your hot temperature at night could be part of a hormone crash. A hormone workup should be part of your tests. I would be Postal without my hormone patch.

    Good luck. I feel for you.

    I'm so sorry, it sounds truly awful. I noticed you didn't mention anything about your hormone levels. When mine starting shifting post- kids and pre-menopause my sleep changed - though not as dramatically- have you had your levels checked? Maybe there is something that can be done to regulate them - they certainly affect sleep. I'm wishing you ALL the best in figuring it out and fixing it. Peace.

    have you thought about seeing a medical marijuana (sleep) specialist--there are drugs specifically for sleep deprivation

    Really sorry about what you're going through. I suffer from much milder insomnia issues, and it is torture. Maybe this is obvious and you already tried, but have you done a sleep study? Have you ruled out sleep apnea? 

    I'm surprised you didn't get more responses to this already as anecdotally this is a modern day epedemic for middle aged women. Most of the women I know suffer from insomnia. I ultimately worked out that the cause of my insomnia was adrenal fatigue which intense exercise made a lot worse so I gave up everything except regular walking (a few miles a day). When I supplemented with adrenal support it fixed my sleep problems (I was doing all the good sleep hygiene and eating clean and mediatating and everything else too). If I did everything right I would sleep well. But when I got stressed it would go to hell again. More recently I have been exploring resistant starch and the impact on sleep. So far so good as it allowed me to get off all of my adrenal support. My sleep isn't as good but my energy is good and I am thrilled to ditch the supplements after so many years. 

    Sounds like you need a anti-anxiety medication like Ativan or Klonopin. They can be good sleep agents. Also, I agree with the below poster, try to do a sleep study and see if they can diagnose you with anything.

    So sorry to hear of your struggles. Lowering your body temp before going to bed helps trigger sleep. Colder air, drinking cold water before bed.  Also a couple of health possibilities come to mind. I'm not a doc and suggest you follow up with a health care professional. In addition, Lyme and babesia can cause many of the symptoms you mentioned including night sweats, odd dreams, exhaustion (besides sleep deprivation), etc. you might want to check in with a Lyme literate doc regarding testing. 

    I am so sorry.  I have battled this too, but to a smaller degree and it is miserable.  You did not indicate your gender, but I am female (age 48) and discovered by keeping a sleep/health log that since my mid-20s my sleep woes are largely tied to my menstrual cycle -- several nights of insomnia near ovulation and again just before my period.  Keeping a log helps me because now I can anticipate and prepare for the worst nights.  (I try not to schedule anything important during the days around those times and ask in advance for help from hubby/friends.)  Birth control pills helped a little, but after blood clots following my son's birth I cannot use them anymore.  Breathable bedding and sleepwear helps (natural fibers) as does keeping our thermostat at the same temperature all night long and using a ceiling fan.  If I wake up really hot, I go outside for a few minutes to cool off.  If it is rainy or an unseasonably hot summer night, a "hot water bottle" filled with cool water helps me cool off more quickly.  Finally, the real key for me was that I learned I was sleeping too much on nights that I could sleep.  I dutifully tried to get 8.5 hours a night but find that a very consistent schedule and 7 hours works much, much better.  I go to bed at the same time and get up in the morning at the same time regardless of what is going on.  I had to give up sleeping in on weekends, which felt like a real sacrifice, but it has been so much better since then!  Best of luck to you!  

    I would recommend you see a doctor specializing in sleep issues.  I go to the Stanford Sleep Clinic and they are wonderful.  They will schedule a sleep study if they feel that is appropriate.  I had insomnia that really kicked in when my son was a baby.  They think I am prone to insomnia and I think my sleep apnea (waking up multiple times in the night, sometimes with hot sweats) precipitated the insomnia.  When I first saw the sleep doctor she was pretty sure that I had sleep apnea even though I am not overweight.  You will have to get a referral to the sleep clinic from your primary care physician even if you have a PPO.  Also, it takes along time to get an appointment, get the results, etc. so be patient.

    I wish I had "the" answer for you, but I know you aren't expecting that. What you describe relates somewhat to what's happened for me as I've gotten a little older. I'm in my early 50s, but it may be that despite your "youth" you're experiencing some hormonal shifts. These are often related to sleeping more poorly and getting warmer at night.

    Here's what made a noticeable difference for me: More exercise. Specifically, lifting weights (at home) 3 days per week. Exercise and building muscle help your body produce the hormones we lose as we age. It made a real difference for me. I sleep better and some of the skin irritation I had been experiencing went away. Good luck! It may well be that there's more going on for you but regular exercise and muscle-strengthening will help.

    A few suggestions. 

    Could be a magnesium deficiency. Try taking magnesium.  The powder is best. You may want to take calcium with it.

    Could be a food allergy. Try an elimination diet.

    Could be a sensitivity. Use no perfume and only fragrance-free products. Use only baking soda, vinegar and fragrance-free soap when cleaning.

    I hope you figure out something soon.

    Perimenopausal symptoms affected me in many ways (for a dozen years!), one of which was insomnia. A blend of herbs that treat menopausal symptoms which included Black Cohosh helped me. Best wishes.

    Hi, I have been thinking about you and your post the past several nights as I lie awake for my usual 1 hour wake up. I am so sorry that you are going through this. My insomnia was the worst when I was 40 and had just had my second child. It is better now, but obviously not perfect! Here are some things that worked for me -- many have already been mentioned by other posters:

    1. L-tryptophan -- it's an amino acid (the same stuff in turkey), but it only lasts in your system for 4 hours, so you don't wake up groggy like with sleeping pills or benedryl. I usually take one 500mg pill before bed and then one or two more if I wake up in the middle of the night. It seems to help me get back to sleep quicker.
    2. Magnesium -- I take a teaspoon of the powdered stuff before bed. I get Natural Calm magnesium with calcium. It says to take more, but it can make you have loose bowels, so scale back if that happens. On the other hand, it really does help if you're constipated!
    3. Diet -- I agree with the other posters to try eliminating certain foods. I would start with wheat and dairy and see how it does. It really improved my general mood and sleep issues.
    4. Tests -- Again, agreeing with other posters to have your adrenals, hormone, and thyroid levels checked if you haven't already. Also, a sleep study would give you some good info.

    Good luck to you! I hope that it gets better ... getting older stinks!

    It sounds miserable. As someone who has struggled with insomnia, I feel for you. I recently found a doctor (Andrew Greenberg in Oakland) who helped me with my insomnia. He had two directives: First, read "No More Sleepless Nights" (Hauri) and follow its recommendations for improving sleep hygiene. And second (if that doesn't completely work): take small doses of doxepin (a type of antidepressant called a tricyclic) before bed. These have worked for me and it might work for you as well. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Ending My 10-year-long Insomnia

May 2010

I have had insomnia for the last 10 years. Before that I slept well throughout the night. For the past few years I have taken a variety of over the counter sleeping pills. I still wake up many times throughout the night, but because I am drugged I go back to sleep fairly easily. If I don't take anything it will take a long time to fall asleep. Then I cannot stay asleep for very long. I am really tired of feeling groggy in the morning and waking up so often. I don't think I have sleep apnea because I don't snore. I have never taken prescription sleeping pilss. I want to do something, anything, that will make me sleep like I used to. I am interested in a therapist, acupuncture, a sleep clinic, books... anything that will help me sleep through the night. My lack of sleep affects my life. I really want to spend the summer working on changing things. Does anybody have recommendations of who I can see or something I can do? -Desperate for a good night sleep

I understand! I've had insomnia my whole adult life (as had my mother) and it used to wreck havoc on my life. I've got a few recommendations. 1. Acupuncture. After having a particularly bad summer last year, I found someone to work with who has really made headway on the problem (Denise Daniel, Healthy Family Acupunture in Montclair). We've been doing acupuncture as well as herbs (in tablet form) since October and it has helped tremendously. 2. Prescription Pills. Don't be scared of trying them (now of course my acupunturist wouldn't agree). I got a prescription for Ambien when my kids were toddlers. I took it when things got bad and it works great and (oddly enough) I felt less drugged then with any over the counter meds or herbal rememdies I had tried. Generally just a half dose works for me and I could deal with kids waking in the night and deal with them and then go right back to sleep. 3. Read Insomniac by Gayle Greene. She is an insomniac herself and covers all the current issues and studies. Most importantly she critiqued the standard advice that is centered around blaming insomniacs for having ''poor sleep hygiene'' and discusses it as a physiological issue. Good luck - and it does feel much better to have it under control! roxanne
I sleep much better since I gave up all fragrances and perfumes. Scented laundry detergent, air fresheners, scented personal care products, scented candles all destroy my sleep. Anon
I too have suffered from Insomnia since 2000. It was the stress of being pregnant, becoming a first time parent, Sept. 11, 2001, balancing family and working full-time, the birth of my second child, job loss...basically.....modern life kept me up most nights from 1-5 or 2-5. The only thing that has worked for me is 3-4 x a week very very demanding physical exercise. I am talking Stairmaster at the top of my aerobic range for 35-45 minutes. I still get it sometimes, but being up every 2-3 weeks is a marked improvement from where I was. Good Luck
I've read several posts about ending insomnia, and the general feeling seems to be very anti-presciption medication. While it's great if you can cure your insomnia with herbs or acupuncture or the like, if you can't, you shouldn't be concerned about taking medication for it. Insomnia is a medical condition. Taking medicine is ok. I take a low dose of trazadone for my insomnia. It has helped tremendously. It irritates my tummy, so I take it with food, and I drink a latte in the morning to help with the morning grogginess. It's a small trade-off for being able to sleep at night. Trazadone is also not habit forming. I've gone off it no problem at different times when my insomnia wasn't so bad. Insomnia is pure torture. I wish you well. Sarah

I think I suffer from 'learned' insomnia

Sept 2009

I think I suffer from 'learned' insomnia. Every once in awhile (maybe once or twice a year), an incident occurs that keeps me from sleeping that night.

It's usually not that big a deal - sometimes it's an argument I had with someone that day, or, even more inconsequentially, it's just that something 'big' is happening the next day where I feel I need a real full night's sleep (like, a wedding I'm in, a family trip, etc). The next day, the issue that kept me up might be resolved. However, I still worry about sleeping. My thinking goes something like, ''OK, I hardly slept last night, so I *must* sleep tonight, or else I'll feel absolutely sleep-deprived and terrible''.

I freak myself out to the point that I don't sleep well that night, either. Often, I sleep even worse than my initial night of insomnia. The next day, I'm even more tired and out of it, and even more worried about getting sleep. And the cycle keeps repeating, often for a couple of weeks or even a month. (During my longer bouts, I will sometimes get a prescription for Ambien from my doctor; however, I would rather not take a sleeping pill.)

I've looked through the archives for past advice, and I noticed a lot of people mentioning undiagnosed depression. I'm pretty sure that I'm not depressed; I feel happy with myself and my life. However I can often become depressed if my insomnia continues for days on end. I'm thinking that hypnotherapy or guided relaxation or something of that nature might help with my form of insomnia. I'd like to learn some techniques that I can employ when my sleeplessness strikes, so I don't have nights and nights of not sleeping unless I pop an Ambien. Any recommendations for a quality hypnotherapist, or even a book to check out? I'm also willing to try other methods that might work (acupuncture? etc.). Insomniac

First, it's not truly insomnia and it's disappointing that your doc would give you meds since it's not. The poor sleep must last for over a month to be diagnosed as insomnia.

That aside, your point is well taken - you have anxiety about your sleep which makes you loose sleep. If your doc is so willing to prescribe sleep meds, he should also be willing to give you a referral for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is very effective for this sort of insomnia and a few visits to a therapist will likely give you strategies to address your anxieties when it repeats in the future.

Since your issue is very mild, short lived, if you're skilled in literature searches, you might be able to read up on the various strategies CBT promotes for improved sleep.

Make sure, too, that you address the obvious - do you have good sleep habits: no tv, reading, etc right before bed. Good sleep environment. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (weekends and weekdays). Avoid caffeine. And, it's really an anxiety problem not sleep problem directly - so be sure you're dealing with other anxieties in your life, including this, in a healthy way - exercise, positive social influences, etc. Sleep pro

I have had similar problems with insomnia over the years. Then I read the book ''Say Good Night to Insomnia: The Six-Week, Drug- Free Program Developed At Harvard Medical School'' by Gregg D. Jacobs. Yeah, I know the title is corny, but the book contains a lot of sound advice based on scientific research--re. learned behaviors, the long-term undesirability and ineffectiveness of sleeping pills, automatic negative thoughts about sleep and cognitive restructuring, relaxation techniques, etc. I no longer use sleeping pills; and when I do have occasional difficulty getting to sleep, it is no longer the big deal that it used to be. The book sells on Amazon for $11 (and is available at Berkeley Public Library)--definitely worth a try! Good luck. Anne
Dear Insomniac, I have had great luck working with Dr. Robert Avenson. I don't have the number handy, but he's located on San Pablo in Albany. I'm sure you can look him up. He is not a hypnotherapist, but he concentrates on helping his patients with strategies for relaxation and calming. In addition to his in-person sessions, he provides his patients with CDs to guide them through practicing on their own. I am generally HIGHLY skeptical about non-traditional therapies, and frankly I would take sleeping pills forever if I didn't think they'd do more harm than good in the long run. But I really really noticed the benefits of working with Dr. Avenson. Strong recommendation. Good luck! Tamara
I too feel that I have ''learned'' or habitual insomnia. Since having a baby 2yrs ago my sleep patterns seem to have been reprogrammed to anticipate my baby daughter's waking. Even when she didn't wake up, I would wake up in anticipation and had difficulty going back to sleep. My sleep debt was mounting!

I have had success with acupuncture to break the frustrating insomnia cycle. Occasionally I start the cycle again but I just go back for another session of acupunture & the cycle is stopped. I can highly recommend acupuncturist Joseph Carter. He is a calming, caring person & the acupuncture has been amazingly effective for me. Even before I had the insomnia problem, I went to Joseph Carter for gynecological issues & I'm convinced Joseph Carter's care is part of why I have a happy, healthy baby to keep me awake at nights. You can reach Joseph at 510-524-4151 or acudude [at] Good luck & sweet dreams! a Well-Rested Mom

I think this is just the book for you.... Say Good Night to Insomnia by Gregg Jacobs. It has a chapter (chapter 5) on how you view your sleep / insomnia and ways to overcome that mental reaction of ''oh no, I'm awake, I'll never get back to sleep''. It helped me overcome insomnia that was way worse that what you describe. good luck!

Difficulty staying asleep at night

April 2008

I have trouble staying asleep at night. I can fall asleep asleep easily, but then in the middle of the night (around 3AM), I wake up and cannot go back to sleep until about 5AM when it is time to get up! This is very annoying because I feel sleepy during the day, at work (meaning I don't get enough sleep). This has been going on for a while now and I would like to kick out this bad habit. I don't want to use sleep pills. Do you have some good remedy that could help me sleep through the night (herbs, tea, etc.)? Thanks for your advice. Sleepy

I've had the same problem for 20+ years. Recently I tried acupuncture and, lo and behold, I've been sleeping much better! Give it a try. John
I used to have trouble falling asleep as well as staying asleep. There are two things that I do now that have completely taken care of the issue.

1. I listen to books on tape when I am falling asleep. I always have a large supply of books to listen to and a walkman at the ready. I realized that when I was trying to fall asleep and when I woke up in the middle of the night my mind was racing about things that are going on or that need to be done and it was keeping me awake. The book takes your mind off of things that may be going on in your life. It may sound strange, but it works for me! When I first started this ritual I would usually get through one side of a tape sometimes more. Now it only takes about 5 minutes before I fall asleep. You can buy books on CD too. These kind of books are a little expensive, but you can buy them used on the internet for a lot less. Then you can return the ones that you have already listened to.

2. I sleep with eye shades (a sleeping mask). When I first started using them I lived in an apartment that had a street lamp directly outside my bedroom window. I realized that the light was making it difficult for me to fall asleep. Now I use them because when I do wake up in the middle of the night my mind wakes, but my eyes remain closed. That somehow makes it easier to go back to sleep.

Ok, sleeping mask and headphones probably don't make a pretty picture, but you won't care when you start sleeping really well and falling easily back to sleep when you wake up in the night. Good luck! Anon

Have you thought about why this happens? When did it start? What was going on in your life when it started? I'd recommend some sort of hypnosis or regression therapy for a long-term cure, but in the short time, you can get Calms Forte (a homeopathic remedy for sleeplessness) and a bottle of Valerian herbal tincture. Try the Calms Forte first. If it doesn't work after a couple of doses (and 30 minutes) then try a dropper full of the Valerian. sound asleep
Yeah, they don't tell you about this one, do they? I remember this stage--the baby sleeping through the night but not me. It takes some readjusting on so many levels! You might try learning about different relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, etc. Many places in the Bay Area have knowledgeable teachers who could teach you practices specific for sleep. Make sure you are getting enough aerobic exercise during the day--I've heard that vigorous exercise around 4:00 pm is best for helping you sleep. You might try seeing an acupuncturist, herbalist, or homeopath to help with staying asleep. I've had good success with these. I've also taken over-the-counter homeopathic remedies for sleep during times of high stress. Ask at Elephant or Pharmaca. And most of all, try not to freak out when you wake up and can't sleep. That's a vicious circle with the anxiety of not sleeping actually keeping you awake. When I can't sleep, I try to calmly tell myself, I am not sleeping now, but I will be soon. that really helps. sleeping better now
I'm sorry but all the herbs in the world will not help you stay asleep at night. My best advice since you don't want to take sleeping pills would be to see a therapist and find out what's making you wake up in the middle of the night. Meditation might also help. If you wake up at 3 am, instead of lying awake, you could meditate until you fall back asleep. Anon
Hello sleepy My advice: chamomile before bedtime, two or three cups of it, is magic. On the other hand very effective, lettuce on a cup of hot water, let it sit and wait until you can drink it, and your are gone, all night!!!!!! WORKS! Good luck anon
Try Moon Drops. You can buy a box of 30 at Vitamin Express on Shattuck @ Rose for $4.99. They've worked very well for me as I've been going through menopause and waking during the night. Sweet dreamer
You don't give your age, but anecdotally speaking, the occurrence of insomnia seems to increase with age and especially after menopause. I've found that taking 600 to 1000 mgs of calcium in the evening, PLUS 600 mgs of magnesium--whether it's included in the calcium or as a separate dose--helps with sleeplessness. So does melatonin. (As far as I know, all these supplements are harmless, although magnesium can cause mushy stools in the morning. You might check with your doctor to see what he/she thinks of these methods and dosages.) Melanie
Have you ever been checked out for a deviated septum? I was always an early riser, and I feel like I sleep better after surgery to correct it. Of course, I don't feel like the surgery was 100 percent successful, so now I sleep with a clothes pin up my nose. Yes, really. Sounds nuts, but guess what? I sleep longer. Dave
When I can't sleep, I swear by melatonin. It is a natural sleep hormone your body produces, and you can get the pills at any health food store. It is the ONLY thing that beats jet lag, in my experience, and it is said to have a lot of other health benefits too. Do start at the minimum dosage, though, because it affects everyone differently. Lisa T
Say Goodnight to insomnia by Gregg Jacobs is the best insomnia treatment I found (accupunctune didn't help me). I have needed to reread it when the insomnia reoccurs but it is the best treatment out there in my opinion. Particularily chapter 5 on the whole area of ''negative sleep thoughts''.
I have exactly the same problem and have struggled with this for years. Basically, I find that it's best if I don't get upset while I'm awake, and I sometimes read, or sometimes just try to lie there thinking meditatively. And then I get up at my regular time and go through the day and in a day or so, I'm so tired that I sleep a good sleep all through the night. This seems to be somewhat cyclical for me, and I suspect it's related to hormones. I also find that lots of vigorous exercise REALLY helps. Most I just send you sympathy and look forward to the other responses. Elizabeth

My husband's insomnia is really impacting his life

May 2007

My husband has never been a good sleeper, but lately he's been troubled by insomnia, and for the last week or so it's been so bad that it's really impacting his life -- he says he feels as if his brain is in a fog. He tried sleeping pills (Ambien) for a long time, but they've stopped working. I want to help him explore alternative therapies and approaches, and I'd like some advice about where to start. I've heard that some things that can help are relaxation techniques, massage, and cognitive behavioral therapy, and I'm sure there are other approaches too. I'm not sure exactly where to begin to find help for my husband. Should he start by seeing his doctor (who would probably just prescribe another pill, which is not what I think he needs), or a sleep consultant (if there is such a thing)? Or a cognitive therapist? Any advice or recommendations of practitioners in the area (we live in Berkeley) would be much appreciated! Eager to help my husband sleep

I am a husband and I also have insomnia. It drives my wife crazy when I keep getting up from bed in the middle of the night and then tell her I couldn't sleep when she gets up in the morning. This is the second time in my life that I have suffered from it. My advice is to see a good therapist. The emotions are one factor that keep me up at night and they can be strong at times especially at 3 am when I need to sleep. Taking a sleeping pill is only a temporary solution. All the things you mentioned: Cognitive Behavior Therapy, relaxation techniques, etc. are of limited use because they don't solve the problems that are causing the insomnia. Talking about my emotions in therapy as well as experiencing them in front of my therapist seems to be the best treatment. When I'm able to release my emotions and feel more in control of my life, I'm much sleepier at night. Also, having meaning and purpose in life and a less stressful job can do wonders in solving insomnia. I am currently trying to leave an unhappy and stressful work situation so that is no doubt one of the chief causes of my insomnia. It may very well be career issues that are keeping your husband up at night. But it can also be so many other things as well which is why he should see a therapist. In my case, it's also the emotions that keep me up. One other piece of advice for your husband: Don't let him nap during the day if he can't sleep at night. I know it's miserable to be up all night and then have to go to work and stay awake, but if he can wait until the following night, he's more likely to keep a reasonable sleep schedule. If he gives in and sleeps during the day, he definitely won't be able to sleep at night. Another Husband With Insomnia
Insomnia will certainly cause many daytime problems including being in a fog, dangerous driving due to the risk of falling asleep, memory problems, etc so he should certainly look into something other than Ambien.

He wont be able to see a real ''sleep consultant'' without a referal from his doctor. You maybe thinking of a sleep study which is done at sleep labs, but they typically aren't going to record sleep for potential insomnia unless they think there is some other sleep disturbance that might be showing up as insomnia, unlikely. One reason that a sleep study (in which they basically record sleep in a laboratory for a night or two) could be helpful is to demonstrate that he's actually getting more sleep than he thinks he is. This is not uncommon and that information alone can ease the anxiety that he is getting insufficient sleep.

I recommend two routes simultaneously:

1) Push the doctor more. Go in educated. It is possible that other meds will work better and it might be a worthwhile temporary solution that you can phase out as you start the behavioral solutions below. You could also request a referal to specialist (psychologist or sleep specialist) who knows cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

2) Underlying CBT for insomnia is practicing good sleep hygene. These include things like - never watch tv, read, or anything in bed other than sleep and sex. Don't watch or read anything at the end of the day that will heighten your anxiety (i.e, watching the evening news!). Go to bed sleepy but not exhausted. Etc. Of course easing other underlying anxiety is key. It's worth seeing a specialist who can give a very thorough plan of attack.

Your doctor should know who to refer you to. There are sleep clinics in Alameda, at UCSF, and the top one is at Stanford. There are many options for the CBT.

Good luck. Sleep Pro

You could be ME writing that email! Unfortunately I don't know of any solutions because we have tried ear plugs, noise machines, melatonin...

We have had the same problems with insomnia! I say ''we'' because his waking up at 4:30am and not being able to go back to sleep has affected both of us. For him, he is obviously exhausted and drained, getting by on sometimes only 4-5 hrs of interupted sleep. For me, I start becoming annoyed with him for needing to nap on the weekends and constantly complaining of being tired. Then I feel bad for him also because he obviously can't help it.

He finally went to Kaiser, and the NP just prescribed an anti-anxiety/sleep aid. He went in, asking for accupuncture because our friend really recommended it. Well, Kaiser only will let you do accupuncture for pain relief. Which is so frustrating because it is quite expensive - about $75-100 per session.

The medication she prescribed didn't help much , other than leaving him a bit groggy in the morning.

We know that he needs to be able to handle work stress better because that is the main cause of his sleep problems. However, he has always been a light sleeper, and seems to require fewer hours than, let's say, I do at 8 hrs a night! If the dog barks or the kids have a nightmare in the middle of the night, he has trouble falling back asleep. The weekend late afternoon naps probably don't help his cycles, either.

If anyone knows of any herbal remedies, or an accupuncturist (we will pay out of pocket at this point!)...please help!

I feel your pain....hopefully we will both have happier, better rested husbands in the near future! --tired of his being tired

Seeking help for anxiety-related insomnia

Feb 2007

I have had terrible insomnia for years, always triggered by anxiety and the long and stressful to-do list of juggling motherhood, a demanding career, and everything else. I've been relying on drugs to help me sleep and would like to look at other options. I'm hoping there are therapists out there who can work with someone like me on relaxation techniques, as well as talking through the things causing the anxiety. Recommendations? Tired of feeling tired

I identify completely with your situation, and perhaps my experience could be of help. I spent six years, also as a new mother, struggling with severe insomnia. I tried relaxation techniques, herbal remedies, talk therapy, acupuncture, and many other possible remedies, including a course at the Stanford sleep disorders clinic.

Some of these worked a bit, or for a while, but nothing resolved the situation. I heard along the way that insomnia is frequently a symptom of depression, but I didn't want to take anti-depressants -- I was convinced that I wan't depressed! I tried them a couple of times -- and voila!! -- my insomnia went away, but because I didn't want to be taking anti-depressants I never stayed on them and the insomnia and anxiety came back.

Finally, after six years, I gave in and stayed on an anti-depressant. It has been ever so much better for me, not to mention for my daughters and husband. There are excellent anti-depressants now, with minimal or no side-effects, and some work well for anxiety/insomnia. Maybe it's not a ''perfect'' solution, but for me it's a whole lot better than not sleeping and the pain of worrying constantly and excessively. It also makes any therapy you decide to do more effective, as therapy also takes energy and if you're exhausted, it's hard to make it work for you.

Once I was on the anti-depressant for a few months, by the way, it was easy to wean myself from the sleep medications. I rarely need sleep medication now -- perhaps a couple of times a year when I'm exceptionally stressed.

You may not need an anti-depressant. However, from your description, I'd highly reccommend getting an evaluation from a medical professional to see if this might be an appropriate solution for you. In my case, I'm so glad I did, as is the rest of my family. Sleeping Mom

A great alternative for anxiety related insomnia is John Nieters, Licensed Acupuncturist. His practice is in Alameda and with acupuncture he is able to reset your central nervous system, then the herbs seem to maintain that calm. After I had my son, I found that a visit to John would help me regain my perspective and it seems to keep my hormones balanced. His office number is 510-814-6900, Jen

My boyfriend can't sleep, is getting depressed

Oct 2005

My BF (age 32) has always had an extremely difficult time falling asleep and has been using alcohol to facilitate sleeping. He is often up until 3:00 a.m., drinking/thinking and then gets up at 7:00 a.m. to go to work. When work is stressful, he may even be up later obsessing. He can't seem to turn off his head and is getting more depressed. He has agreed to see a therapist and I am looking for a recommendation for probably a male therapist, preferably around Oakland, with evening hours. Thanks

Sounds like your boyfriend's sleep problem would be helped tremendously by a prescription sleep aid that's geared toward anxiety issues.

''Klonopin'' comes to mind: it helps users to turn off their brain before bed so that they get a restful sleep.

Of course you'll need a therapist to prescribe the medication, and I don't know any I'd necessarily recommend.

In any case, having difficulty winding down at night due to racing thoughts seems to be a common problem, and a low-dose medication can often help -- in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy and/or changes in night-time routine. anon

Insomnia relief

Sept 2004

I have had insomnia issues through much of my life (as do many of my family members) and recently this problem has been exacerbated by the stresses of a move, new job, big life changes--stress. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to alleviate this? I get good exercise, do not partake of caffeine, and, when sleepless, get up and do something until I am tired again. I also keep pretty regular hours. I am afraid to take sleeping pills because I am very sensitive to drugs and cannot afford to wake up groggy. But if anyone can suggest a mild sleeping pill or possibly a gentle homeopathic sleeping aid, I'd be interested to hear about it. Thanks! Tired

I suffered severe insomnia due to a thyroid disorder (have you had your's checked?), and my wife suffered too, due to post menopause. We both take antidepressants. She takes a low dose of Trazodone, and I take Sinequan. These medicines correct brain chemistry to allow natural sleep to happen, and we wake up refreshed. I wasn't keen on taking a med for sleeping, but I realized a good night's sleep was too important to miss out on. I too am sensitive to meds, but after many tries, I found one that worked for me. Before Sinequan, I tried Ambien and Xanax, and I felt more knocked out, and groggy the next day, not to mention the addicting nature of those meds. Also, have you had a sleep study for sleep apnea? Good luck. Anon
I have had the same problem for years. I usually drink a very strong , yet small cup of chamomile tea before bed(if I drink a whole cup i wake up in the middle of the night to pee)...on bad nights i take a tablet or half tablet of Melatonin (the timed release kind). Melatonin works wonders but I worry about taking it daily...check it out...:-0 been there
I have chronic insomnia and have tried everything you mention. I'm currently taking trazodone, 1/2 the lowest recommended dose, and it's helping. (Trazodone is an antidepressant, and the dose for insomnia is a small fraction of the dosage for depression.) I do feel a bit buzzed during the day, I admit, but also less tired. I don't sleep soundly with such a low dose, but, when I wake up, I fall back asleep easily. Good luck. Wish there were better solutions!
Try Valerian Root tincture (available in Whole Foods, etc). It works quite well. Take it about an hour before bedtime. Also, believe it or not, I count backwards, starting with odd numbers such as 147. It can help, too. Good luck. kim
I have also suffered from insomnia all my adult life and it seems to run in my family. This year (with the pressing needs of 2 little ones at home) I commited myself to really trying to find some solutions because it had become such a quality of life issue. You already mentioned some good things that you do and there are a couple of other issues to consider. If you haven't already, then I'd recommend reading some insomnia books where I got some good points.

One issue that I learned (from my reading) is that you have to accurately assess how much sleep you really need and only try to sleep for that long. If you regularly need 7 hours of sleep but are in bed from 10-6 over time your sleep will become disrupted/disjointed and will deteriorate seriously... this has been tested.

Another helpful tip is to keep a sleep journal for a few months keeping track of your sleep as well as any issues that you think might be effecting it such as stress at work, sporadic exercise, diet, etc. In doing this I discovered that my insomnia was partly caused by monthly hormonal cycles.

For a mild sleeping pill, try melatonin. Both my mom and I have recently tried and found it works well. My doctor said it was fine to use and it has been tested in double-blind studies in Germany and found to be safe. I take a low dosage (.5 mg) when I'm really have problems and at least at that level it feels pretty natural and is very helpful. Good luck. roxanne

Try Hyland's Calms Forte (it is a homeopathic remedy), available at Whole Foods (and I'm sure at other health food stores as well). It certainly isn't as powerful as a sleeping pill, but it often takes the edge off sleeplessness and helps me to relax when I'm having trouble sleeping. an occasional insomniac
Standford Hospital's sleep clinic has a cognitive behavior insomnia treatment program which I found faily helpful and many people found extremely helpful. Its a 9 week program and at least it was a relief to be among insomniacs. Good Luck anon
It is nice to know that you are willing to try natural methods. But it is difficult to say that a handful of Homeopathic medicine will help you without actually taking your case. It would be wise if you approach a professional Homeopath who would be able to take your whole case and then prescribe you the right constitutional medicine. You will be surprised that it will not only help you in your insomnia but also in the overall health. You can contact me as a Homeopath. Hope I might be able to help you in sleeping well!!! You can either give me a call at 510.684.4248 or e-mail me at anamikastoller [at] Anamika

Time to do something about my insomnia

Feb 2004

So the baby is sleeping great, but I've decided it's finally time to do something about the fact that I'm not. I've been an insomniac since I was about 8 years old and I want to know about serious solutions. Please-- no folk remedies, I've tried 'em all. I'm interested in taking things up a notch. I've heard about sleep centers that diagnose problems, but I'm also curious to hear about other things. Medications? A little gentle brain surgery? Bring on the big guns! Thanks for your help. sleepy

Boy, do I remember that stage--seemed my body just wasn't able to relax after the months of having to wake because of the baby. My sympathies to you. For me, it was a stage that did not last that long-- maybe at most a month, month and a half. Though I know going through it is torture. Since I was still nursing, i tried the over-the-counter homeopathic remedies. For me, the Hyland Brand, Insomnia formula worked best, same brand, Calms Forte, second best. If you're still nursing, check with your doctor about what's okay to take. You might also check out a book called, The Promise of Sleep. It's a huge, comprehensive book on just about everything related to sleep. Lot's of information and very readable. Good luck and Sweet Dreams. Carolyn
I've had trouble with insomnia during three periods in my life, and it's been really hard. I really sympathize. There are probably books on the subject. Since you have had the problem for so long, perhaps a sleep clinic would be good. But, in terms of medication, I've recently had great luck with paxil. Apparently, one of the side effects is that it makes you drowsy in the evening. Also, if (like me) you believe that stress or anxiety over other issues may contribute to the insomnia, paxil reportedly is helpful on that front as well. (As I understand it, paxil is generally prescribed for anxiety or depression. In my case, I was not having anxiety attacks per se, but just feeling generally overwhelmed by a number of issues that were simultaneously demanding my attention.) I also have been prescribed an antedepressant (I think trazadone) to use on the evenings that I find myself having trouble falling asleep. I understand that it is not addictive, as other sleep medications may be, but again has the side-effect of causing drowsiness. While trazadone has worked well for me, I try not to use it too often, because it does leave me feeling drowsy the following morning. Finally, if you have Kaiser, I think that it offers classes by a sleep specialist on dealing with insomnia, and those classes offer a lot of practical real world help (not simply meditation techniques). Good luck to you! Anon
Oh, boy, do I know what you are going through all too well! I am also an insomiac and have been for many years. At times, though, I have had excellent sleep patterns, but they never last too long. After having two kids 17 months apart in the last! three years, I am completely unable to sleep on my own without any drugs. What I do now is take a normal dose of Benedryl (or generic brand of the same thing) every night before bedtime, and it works like magic for me. If you don't function well the next day and feel really groggy, then it may not work for you. I don't have that problem so it's working for me. My doctor also was quite delighted at the fact that I can actually take Benedryl and still have a clear head in the morning. She much prefers that I take that instead of sleeping pills. You might want to talk to your doctor and see if you can try taking antihistamine to go to sleep. Sleeping Again
To the insomniac: Unlike you, I have not suffered from insomnia all my life, just postpartum, and until recently, it was hell!! I was terrified. I also tried many ''folk remedies'' as well as turning to sleeping pills. I also went to a sleep center for an initial consultation, and felt very dismissed, though many do indeed have in-depth studies done on them there. It's part of Summit. If you have been suffering from this for decades, HELL YES, it's worth getting a serious analysis done. You'll have to start with your regular doctor, who can then refer you. If you want more of my story and how it was ''solved,'' feel free to email me directly. allison
I have found a great solution to my insomnia problem. There's a drug called Remeron, an atypical antidepressant originally developed as an anti-histamine. At high doses (45mg) it works as an anti-depressant, but at very, very low doses (3.5mg) taken at night before bedtime, it is a huge help with sleep. I take this tiny amount nightly (1/4 of a pill) and sleep like a baby after many years of horrible sleep. It has been truly amazing. If you do decide to look into it, you will find out that moderate or high doses can cause weight gain in some people. I almost refused to try it for fear that I would inflate, but have had no problem whatsoever. My appetite and weight have remained normal, and I've been taking the drug for going on two years. If you are ready for sleep and want a non-addictive, non- addling drug to help you get there, give it a try (you'll need to visit a shrink or GP for the prescription). Good luck! Rested, former insomniac

Husband has insomnia

July 2002

My husband has recurring problems with insomnia. It goes away and then returns with no predictable pattern. Work stress doesn't always bring it on, and exercise doesn't seem to help stave it off. Sometimes he'll be really tired, will go to sleep for 20 minutes at bedtime, then wake up unable to go back to sleep for several hours. He has tried Ambien (an MD's prescription) which usually--but not always--helps him sleep but he feels groggy in the morning. Do any of you have experience with alternative medicine and sleep? Any other techniques? We have 3 kids and it's hard to keep the house quiet so he can sleep in the afternoons when he hasn't slept all night... Thanks for your advice!

I have no experience with alternative medicine and sleep myself, but I know that Homeopathic medicine can help a great deal with that. There is a Homeopathic educational center in Berkeley, on Blake street, that can surely help you more than I can (they have books and some remedies). Reut
Your husband may be interested to read a new book called LIGHTS OUT by TS Wiley. Therein, Ms. Wiley gives some helpful understandings of our sleep cycle and ways to get back on track. I personally find 5-HTP (5 hydroxy tryptophan, a metabolite of L-tryptophan) works really well. Also, taking a warm Epsom salts bath relaxes my body. Finally, acupuncture and other body work can rebalance the body to ''get with the program'' to sleep when it's time. If your husband's pattern is easily disrupted by stress, some helpful herbal formulae are available. They are tailored to address the ''stressed and wired'' or ''stressed and tired'' types. Avoiding stimulants and sedatives and getting moderate exercise (not too late in the day) can also help recover a lost sleep pattern. Sleep disturbances can disrupt 10 hormones, so it's primary to find a solution soon. Nori