Decade of Insomnia and it keeps getting worse!

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.

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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.