06 June 2005

Tylenol PM saved my life

There was an article in the Sunday Times titled "Sleep Anxiety Leads Many to the Medicine Cabinet." It was about the increasing number of women using sleep aids -- especially prescriptions. The article proposes that this might not be a good thing and that finding non-drug related therapies was probably more healthy, beneficial and long-lasting. They may be right, but let me share my story with you now...

Sleep has never come easily to me. I can even remember lying in bed at night playing with my dolls in the dark for what seemed like hours. After my daughter was born -- like all new parents -- my sleep was thrown a huge curveball. By around 8 or 12 weeks my daughter was sleeping a good 6 or seven hour stretch at night which qualified as sleeping through the night in my book, but I found I still couldn't sleep.

When my daughter was just a newborn, the Elizabeth Smart story was all over the news and it fed right into my anxieties. I would lie awake in fear that someone would break into our apartment and try to steal my daughter. I would make my husband check the dead bolt on the door 2 or 3 times. I would go around making sure all the windows were locked. Despite being utterly exhausted -- especially after I returned to work from my maternity leave -- I could not sleep through the night. Even after that fear faded I would just lie there not sleeping. Whatever little tricks and patterns I had created for myself over the years to help me get to sleep were rendered impotent in the face of all the new fears and responsibilities of motherhood -- not to mention trying to maintain my career.

I had quite a long commute at my previous job. Lots of sleep or little sleep, I am a morning person so the affects of a bad night's sleep don't usually catch up with me until the afternoon. That catch-up often coincided with my afternoon commute home -- first stopping to collect Zoë from daycare. Many afternoons I would be so sleepy at the wheel that I would have to blast the radio and pinch myself to make sure my eyes didn't close. I tried chewing gum and drinking diet cokes, but nothing helped much. One afternoon I was so tired that I actually did fall asleep at the wheel. It was probably only 5 seconds before I jerked awake, but it scared me to death. I had to pull over and catch my breath for a good 15 minutes. Not only was I afraid I might wreck the car and kill myself -- what if I hit someone else and hurt or killed them?! What if Zoë had been in the car!? I knew I had to start getting some sleep so I stopped at CVS and bought my first bottle of Tylenol PM. I felt a little self-conscious about it -- like my first time buying tampons or something -- as if what I was doing was somehow wrong. Nevertheless that night I took just one pill even though the recommended dose is two. And I slept. All night. All the way through until morning. It was gorgeous. I felt so much better the next afternoon. My afternoon commute stopped being a struggle to keep my eyes open.

I have continued to take them for almost three years now -- not every night, but any night I suspect I will need it which, I admit, is often. Say what you want, maybe I need therapy, but Tylenol PM kept me from killing myself and others at the wheel of my car.

1 comment:

david said...

i use it too. but recently i've been using SIMPLY SLEEP, by tylenol. it's the same thing without the pain reliever. less is probably more when it comes to sleep aids.

anyway, great writing. loved reading that little story.