Posts Tagged ‘insomnia’

Sleepless in Everyplace

I have suffered from insomnia for years with no relief in sight.

I think many women suffer from interrupted sleep from the time they are teenagers.  When they are teenagers, they’re out all night and sleep all day.

Then women get married, and they must get used to the body in bed next to them, shifting position and tossing and turning and stealing the blankets.

From there it segues into when women are pregnant, and they wake up several times during the night to empty their bladders.

When they are young mothers, women’s sleep is interrupted from middle-of-the-night feedings with their infants and by nightmares and bedwetting accidents when the kids are toddlers.

When the kids are teenagers, moms are up all night worrying about where their kids are (and remembering where they went when they were teenagers themselves).

Then menopause sets in and women are awakened by night sweats and hot flashes.

My mom, who had Alzheimers, came to live with me.  Taking care of her at night left me with an average of 2 – 4 hours a night of interrupted sleep.

By the time the kids are out of the nest and the menopause symptoms have abated and one’s elderly parents have passed from this world, women like me have been victims of interrupted sleep for almost 50 years!  So it’s not hard to understand why a “normal” sleep pattern is nearly impossible to obtain, because “normal” until now has meant something totally different from getting a good night’s sleep.

I also think it is a personality thing.  I am always “on.”  I am someone who is very observant of my surroundings, and conscious of even the minutest details.  I am easily overstimulated by sights and sounds and events.  My brain is always filled with “chatter,” even in the middle of the night, and I need to learn to turn off the “chatter.”  But this could take years of expensive therapy.

Here are some of the insomnia remedies suggested to me:

  • Melatonin:  works if your body has trouble transitioning from day to night.  Not my problem, which explains why this hormone was not helpful for me.
  • Ambien: my doctor refused to prescribe this for me, so I can’t say if it would work.  But after hearing about people who did some major sleepwalking across state lines and when they “woke up” had no idea how they got there, I realized that Ambien was probably not a good idea for me after all.
  • Benadryl:  about a 50% success rate, but leaves me very drowsy the next day.
  • Nyquil:  oh bliss – yes it works – but you are left in a complete fog for several hours the next morning, and it is loaded with alcohol, so probably not a good idea on a regular basis unless you can foresee joining Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Recorded tapes:  I think I’d rather die of insomnia than die of boredom from listening to these monotone actors.
  • Husband:  It’s true.  He can talk me to sleep.  Especially when he starts talking tech-speak about computers and ham radios.  But I started to really hate him, so this was not a long-term solution.
  • Exercise:  I tried increasing the amount I exercise, but instead of making me sleepy, it got my adrenalin rolling.  Moral of the story:  couch potatoes rule!
  • Food: Tried warm milk at bedtime,  protein with fruit for a late night snack, meat and wine, and not eating after 6 pm.  None of them worked.
  • Herbal Tea: Various flavors are soothing and relaxing, especially lemon verbena, but didn’t prevent wakefulness.
  • Sleep study:  I learned that I do not have sleep apnea, nor any physical cause that keeps me awake.
  • Dark room:  Went through several pair of eye shades until I found a great fuzzy padded one made by Brookstone  – these were the only comfortable ones that I could wear.  Alas, they proved great for naps but not for sleeping through the entire night.
  • White noise:  Didn’t work, despite trying the sound of  running water and rain (made me get up even more, to use the bathroom), birds, wind, etc.
  • Self-hypnosis:  Didn’t work.
  • Mattress:  At great expense, I’ve tried soft mattresses, I’ve tried hard mattresses, but unlike Goldilocks, I have yet to find the one that was “just right.”  I guess I relate better to the Princess and the Pea.
  • Aromatherapy:  lavender smells great, and it may help with relaxation, but it just doesn’t work for insomnia.
  • Breathing exercises:  helped my lungs but not my insomnia.

But then . . . MAGIC!


I started taking 2 capsules of Reishi Mushroom supplements an hour before bedtime.  And, after 2 tries:  I SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!!  I have now been taking the Reishi Mushroom supplements for 3 weeks.  On the rare occasion that I have awoken during the night, I was able to get RIGHT BACK TO SLEEP!!!!  This is nothing short of miraculous.  It has absolutely no side effects, it is not addictive, and not overly expensive (a 2-month supply is $45).  It is produced by one of the leading micologists (mushroom experts) in the US, Paul Stamets, through his company, Host Defense.  Paul has been doing some major mushroom research, and created different supplements based on the properties of individual types of mushrooms.

I also gave it to my skeptical 14-year-old grandson, who often wakes during the night (I guess it runs in the family).  After 2 tries, he too is a Reishi mushroom convert!

(Full disclosure:  I am familiar and have used other Host Defense mushroom products.  I give Turkey Tail mushrooms to my dog, who is now in remission from his cancer.  Turkey Tail mushrooms are a great immunity booster, and have demonstrably helped human subjects who are undergoing chemotherapy from being immune-compromised and greatly reducing/relieving side effects of chemo.  It appears also to help achieve remission from the disease, though no one is claiming a cure.  From the personal experience of myself and my husband, it definitely works to prevent common illness.  When we feel a cold or virus coming on, we take Turkey Tail mushroom and the symptoms disappear within hours.  I’ve heard from people who take it prophylactically on a daily basis that they haven’t been sick from cold or flu in years.)


So if you are a fellow insomniac, I highly recommend Reishi mushroom supplements.

Here is a link about the different mushroom products the Host Defense Company offers:

Click to access HD_ProductGuide_2015-web.pdf







Late Night Visitors

11:15 p.m. 

Plagued by my usual insomnia, I am listening to sounds from the woods.  I hear a loon’s cry in the distance – – probably from either Kezar Lake (2 miles away) or Horseshoe Pond (3 miles away):  sound travels far here.  A pair of owls call to one another, hooting “hoo-hoo-hoo-HOO.”  And then I hear the sound of something traipsing through grass.  Something big.  Something loud.  Right under my bedroom window.

“Wake up!” I whisper to my husband.  “Get the flashlight!  I hear something!”

We run to the dining room window, peering outside into the night’s blackness, moving the flashlight to and fro towards the direction of the sound.  I am worried it’s a bear, making its way to our beehives.

Suddenly, a glow:  two pairs of eyes stare back at us.  It’s a cow moose and her calf, munching leaves from trees and bushes!  They stop and survey us with interest, and decide we are a threat.  They quickly move back into the woods.  I am glad they have circumvented my apple tree saplings, because my homespun fence (poles with a few wires strung across) is certainly not moose-proof.

“Well, they’re gone now.  I am sure they won’t be back tonight.  Instead of counting sheep, try counting moose,” my husband says, referring to my insomnia.  I scowl and he quickly falls back to sleep.

Sleep?  How can he sleep?  We just had TWO MOOSE under our bedroom window!  My adrenalin is pumping, my insomnia is roaring.

“Wake up!  I think they’re back!” I say, an hour later.

My husband groans, but dutifully he follows me back to the window.  Yep, the same two moose are munching away.  They don’t like the glare of the flashlight, and so they move back into the woods.

I am happy with the knowledge that while we sleep, unbeknownst to us, our property is pulsing with activity. Despite our physical presence, humans can really never conquer the woods.   I feel almost childlike, like those storybooks about children whose lives are scheduled, patterned, innocuous.  But at night, when the child’s  parents go to sleep, all the toys and stuffed animals in the child’s bedroom spring to life.  The child shares a secret experience with the toys that are his and his alone.   At night there is an entirely different reality but it’s one to which only he is privy.  It quietly empowers him.

This time I fall asleep quickly,  smiling softly to myself.  Even the owls can’t keep me awake.

Survival of the Quickest

I was suffering from a bad bout of insomnia for several nights and finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  So Friday night, which was layl Shabbat, after dinner and some reading and endless tossing and turning, I made a l’chaim with Nyquil when the clock hit midnight.  I didn’t take more than the recommended dose because one shlug is all it takes for a wonderful night of uninterrupted sleep.

A Nyquil-induced sleep is a beautiful thing, but woe to anyone who is forcefully awakened out of this drug-induced slumber!  If you try to wake before your body is truly ready to be woken, you will feel yourself moving in a slow-mo fog, completely disoriented as you strive to greet the day.  Alarm clocks and previous-night Nyquil do not mix.  But the following day was Shabbat, and I had nowhere that I had to go and other than serving up my cholent, no real obligations to meet, so Nyquil and I had a midnight meeting.

Within moments the Nyquil had its intended effect; I slept a blissful sleep.  When I awoke at 9:30 on Shabbat morning I felt rested and well.  I still had plenty of time to daven the Shabbat morning prayers before kiddush and lunch, so I got dressed at a slowpoke pace and wandered into our dining/living room, where my husband had just finished davening shacharis.

“You aren’t going to believe what I saw!” he said excitedly.  “I didn’t know if I should wake you, but I was worried that by the time you’d get to the window, it would have been too late anyhow!”

It turns out that while davening, out of the corner of his eye, he sensed movement outside the window.  He looked at a tall tree 30′ from the window, and running up the tree was a squirrel.  Chasing the squirrel was a Canada lynx!  The Canada lynx was hot on the heels of the squirrel (do squirrels even have heels?) and my husband thought, “Okay, that’s it for the squirrel – he’s a goner.”  But at the very last second, the squirrel jumped across to a neighboring tree, which stopped the lynx in its tracks – the branch at the top of the other tree was far too thin to support the lynx’s weight.  Slowly, while looking across at the squirrel, the lynx inched its way back down the tree to the bottom, and then scampered off in search of breakfast elsewhere.

Canada lynx are extremely rare – in fact they are on the endangered list – – and many rural Mainers, including outdoorsmen who spend a great deal of time in the woods, will go their whole lives without ever having the privilege of seeing one.  This is our third lynx sighting in 3 years, although the 2 previous sightings were fleeting and at night.  It’s probably the same lynx that is calling this general area its territory, but wow!  It was actually on our property and in broad daylight!  I am so happy my husband was able to witness this natural drama.

“Are you upset I didn’t wake you?”  he asked, feeling a little guilty.

“I am sorry I missed it,” I replied, “but in the life-and-death battle of Nature, animals and mankind . . . Nyquil wins.”

You can find out more about Canada lynx in Maine, and how to tell the difference between a lynx and a bobcat,  by clicking here.