A Cure for Insomnia

February 16th, 2009

I’ve actually found something that works

If you know me, or you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I occasionally have huge issues with sleeplessness.  Which I know makes me unique: no one else in this country ever suffers from insomnia, right?

Sarcasm aside, there are multiple industries devoted to curing people’s insomnia, and I haven’t had success with any of them.  For a while, I got into the pill idea: I mean, what’s better than popping an allergy pill at bedtime and being oblivious to the world until the alarm goes off the next morning?  That’s my definition of bliss.

You know what isn’t my definition of bliss?  The hangover you get the morning after you’ve taken some kind of sleep aid.  No matter which one I try, I always feel like I only got about two hours of sleep.  The night is great: the next day’s a real bitch, as I stumble around, sucking down coffee and eating way too much in the hopes that “more nourishment will give me more energy.”  (Note: eating more does not give you more energy.  It gives you more hip.)

Speaking of eating, I’ve been a little wary of Ambien ever since I read articles about how people were gaining weight on it and discovered that they were “sleep eating” without knowing it.  Call me crazy, but if I’m going to overeat, I want to be awake and enjoying every second of it. 

Lunesta buys me a full night’s sleep and not too bad a hangover–but my mouth tastes like I was sucking on a metal hubcap all night long. 

So I don’t love the pharmaceutical solutions. 

I’ve tried some more sensory-related types of things.  For a while I had a lavender plant on my night stand because I read an article saying lavender is conducive to sleep.  I forgot to water it and the lavender plant got all dried up.  It didn’t help me sleep.  It just depressed me.

What else?  Oh, I have  a white noise machine.  For a long time I put that on “rain” every night.   It sounded like rain, if rain made a loud staticky noise and didn’t actually drip on anything, but if I made it loud enough to block out sounds like the dog’s snoring and walking around, it felt like it was just BLARING, and if I lowered it, it didn’t block anything out.  I’d wake up and start playing around with the volumen.  Oh,  it also has a bright light on the front of it that keeps me up: what genius thought “I’ll make something to help people sleep at night, and by the way, I think I’ll just throw on this one extra part of it THAT LIGHTS UP THEIR ENTIRE ROOM”? 

Anyway, recently I discovered something that really does help my insomnia.  I mean, it’ s not going to solve it entirely: as long as I live in the real world and not HappyLaLa Land, there will be nights when the anxiety overrides everything else no matter what.  But it helps.

And that is: having a cat sleep on top of me.

This probably doesn’t work with just any cat.  Or just any human, for that matter.  My sisters, for instance, all have horrible cat allergies, so I have to figure that having a cat sit on their stomachs would lead to a lot more sneezing and wheezing than any actual SLEEP.  And I’ve had cats who can go from sitting and purring into attack mode with no warning or provocation.  Again, not conducive to sleep.

Ah, but our new cat, the one we got in September . . .  He’s a living stuffed animal, this guy.  Now, when I can’t sleep, I roll onto my back and pat my stomach.  He climbs onboard, sneezes gently into my face once or twice, then settles down in a big old furry circle of purring contentment.  As I lie there, idly stroking him, feeling the heavy warmth and quiet cat motor noise kind of permeating my body, I start to relax.  I mean, I really start to relax. 

That’s HUGE for me.  I never relax in the middle of the night.  As far as I’m concerned, the middle of the night is when you realize that none of your kids will ever get into a good college, and your husband clearly prefers to be anywhere but with you, and your next book is going to be such a huge failure no one will ever publish you again, and you said the stupidest thing when you were out with friends the previous weekend and only now realize how stupid it was . . .

I could go on and on and on and on–but you get the point.

Anyway, the warm and furry cat curls up on me and it’s like clutching a teddy bear when you’re little, only a thousand times better because he purrs and shifts when I do.   Eventually, after some patting and snuggling,  I’m sleepy enough to turn onto my side in sleeping position.  The cat usually finds a new place to perch, somewhere in the crook of my hip or partially turned back.  It feels good and safe having him there.  And I drift off to sleep . . .

Until one of the kids comes in, scared from a nightmare, or the dog jumps up and barks, or the next-door neighbor’s house buzzes (I still don’t know what that buzzing noise is), or a car goes by with a radio blaring or Rob gets up because he can’t sleep and I’m already using the cat so he can’t have him . . .

Oh, well.   Whatever.  When it comes to sleep, I’ll take what I can get and be grateful for it.

  • Maralle says:

    I loved your story. Actually you put a smile in my face and after reading this blogs I feel that I am not the only LOCA that cannot sleep. Although I have this problem since last october. Tried melatonin, music therapy, lavender, simply sleep pills and NOTHING, just a few hours but never enought. I haven’t sleep more than five hours in months!! A cat will not do it for me but I am going to try CBTherpy and see how it goes.

    Good luck and I hope the cat keeps you safe and sound.

  • Claire says:

    Thanks, Maralle! I’m actually a huge believer in cognitive-behavioral therapy. I haven’t done it for my sleep issues yet, but I’ve been reading about it and it really relates to the kinds of behavioral interventions we did for my son with autism. I think you’re smart to go in that direction.

    And, sadly, last night I couldn’t sleep at all. The cat was no use. Of course, it didn’t help that my 8 year old crawled into bed in the middle of the night and then fidgeted restlessly for the rest of the night!

  • dsh says:

    I guess there are two of us. I was just about to blog about the cat I live with and how I fall asleep within 5 minutes or so after it has taken over my lap. It doesn’t matter if I’m well-rested or tired, sitting in a comfortable position or contorted in the most uncomfortable position possible.

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