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?

A Mom Never Sleeps

In my line of work — I do children’s music — I get to meet lots of sweet kids who like to give me their art work as gifts.  One such precious piece of art was drawn by 4-year old Evan.  He drew a picture of his house for me, depicting everyone in his family in their own rooms.  All of them were peacefully asleep in their own beds.  However, I noticed that he drew one person somewhat resembling a female, definitely not asleep, in the middle of their house.  “That’s my mom,” explained Evan.  “She never sleeps.”

What an astute little boy is Evan!  Yup, a mom never sleeps.  She’s always busy in the kitchen, laundry, or family room busily cooking for everyone, washing their clothes, or picking up after them.  She’s the last person up and the first one awake, so Evan never sees his mom sleeping.  He could have been talking about me.

A few years ago, we had some friends over for dinner.  As they were admiring our comfy leather couch and love seat in our newly redecorated family room, the wife asked me, “So which one is your favorite seat?”  After thinking about it for too long, I realized that I really didn’t have a favorite seat, because I’m never seated.  In fact, I pretty much had not sat down anywhere in about five years!  The last time I sat down on that couch was when we tried it on for size in the furniture showroom.  The only exception was when I occasionally used my bottom to stuff a wayward cushion back into place.

Actually, there were two places where I did sit.  A lot.  One was the driver’s seat of our family swagger wagon, and the other is the office chair at my desk to surf WebMD, find out the train schedule (see my previous post on choo choos), or Amazon.com for the latest baby gadgets.  But relaxing and kicking up my feet to watch TV?  Nope.

One night several years ago, I had just put down both our toddler and the baby to sleep and was busy in the kitchen finishing up for the evening.  I figured I had about twenty minutes before I had to get to bed to face an early morning the next day.  I was busily unloading the dishwasher and doing the Kitchen Dance.  Do you ever do the Kitchen Dance?  I grab a couple of cups from the dishwasher, twirl around to face the cabinet to put them away, twirl back around to grab the clean pot, squat down to put it away in the lower cabinet, do another spin with a roundhouse kick to close the lower cabinet door, leap to the sink to grab some dirty dishes, twirl back to the now-unloaded dishwasher to start loading them again, etc. I’m not a dancer, but I was really on a roll that night as I leaped around the house doing my chores.  I used all of my limbs like an octopus to put things away.  I didn’t realize that I was making a lot of noise opening and closing the cabinets and throwing knives and shoving plates into the dishwasher until my husband came down the stairs.

“What are you doing?” he asked, innocently.

“I’m just finishing up in the kitchen, honey,” I replied breathlessly.  The Kitchen Dance gets your heart rate up.

“Can you keep it down?” requested David.

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  Here I am working my tail off, sacrificing my sleep for the good of the family, and my husband is asking me to KEEP IT DOWN?

Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned.

* * * *

Thanks to Evan’s little drawing, I realized that I was that busy mom…but as much as I hated to admit, my kindness and patience had begun to erode over my busyness.  While trying to be the virtuous Proverbs 31 wife, I was ignoring pretty much all but verse 18: “Her lamp does not go out at night.”  Yikes!

Do you ever do the Kitchen Dance? How are you at balancing duty and kindness? Tell me about it in the comments below!