How this Panda Mom Went Off Sleeping Pills

It was so insidious.  I needed to get some precious rest when my babies were asleep at night, but my sleep pattern had gotten so disrupted during my seasons with newborns that I could no longer fall asleep on my own. So, how harmful is a little Tylenol PM, right?

I took one little pill my first night and was knocked out. Welcome, sleep! As long as the kids continued sleeping until morning, that is.  If they fussed at 2 or 3AM, I myself couldn’t going back to sleep.  I tried popping another pill at that hour, but it left me groggy all morning.  No worries — nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t fix!

After taking Tylenol PM a few more times, I noticed that it wasn’t as effective as it once was, so I upped the dosage.  Then after a while, that wouldn’t work as well either, so I upped it some more…until I quickly reached my max.

I tried a few other options such as Ambien and Codeine.  I only used Ambien for a short while, because I read about weird things that people did while sleeping: walking, driving, eating, and shopping.  I myself reportedly had a full telephone conversation from Japan with my husband and kids back home which I totally could not remember.

This went on for several years.  I didn’t take a sleeping pill every night, but it did concern me that I was needing an increasing amount and that I was — gulp — starting to form a habit.

My true wake-up call happened one weekend when I attended a women’s retreat with my church.  I was in a cabin with about 8 other women, and at bed time we were all popping Tylenol PM like they were M&Ms!  While I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one with sleeping issues, it woke me up to the fact that I, along with about half of humanity, had become dependent on sleep aid.

So I decided to quit cold turkey.  Here’s how I did it:

1.  I increased my physical exercise routine

I began taking classes at the gym which were not only more fun but also pushed me much harder than working out by myself.  I would collapse into bed at night from utter physical exhaustion.  I used to work out (er, dawdled) about three times a week, but I upped it to five or six.  I also liked the effect that it had on my bathroom scale.

2.  I took steps to lower my stress level

Mental exhaustion has the opposite effect of physical exhaustion: stressful thoughts keep me awake at night!  I was volunteering at my kids’ school and at church but was facing some difficult circumstances which often kept me up at 3AM.  All this for zero pay?  I did a complete reassessment of how I was using my time and energy.  If things could be pruned, then I prune I would.  It was hard for me to let go of my many activities, but I just kept my goal on one thing: sanity.  With less stress, I was able to sleep more.

3.  I cut out all caffeine after noon

I was in denial for so long about the effect caffeine had on me.  When I stopped all caffeine intake after my two cups of coffee in the morning and iced tea at lunch, the difference was dramatic.  Hello, sleep! And this time, all clean!

These days, I usually (9 out of 10 nights?) have no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  Sometimes my husband’s snoring wakes me up in the middle of the night, but I poke him to turn over and am able to quickly fall back asleep.

A good night’s rest is a tremendous gift, and I’m very grateful for it everyday and night.

Jesus said, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30 NIV)

So, tell me — do you have sleep issues?  What do you do about it?

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