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.