No matter what I tried, I couldn’t force myself to sleep. Forcing seemed to backfire. I began to get increasingly desperate, because I felt helpless in the face of this insomnia. It controlled me.
Groping for a solution, I began trying various substances to force sleep. I searched for that magic pill, which I now know doesn’t exist.
First I tried a “natural” sleep aid alternative: melatonin. That helped a little, but I awoke feeling groggy. Even using melatonin, after a week or so I regressed back to my old pattern of difficulty falling and staying asleep. Like many people, melatonin gave me mixed results. In the end it was ineffective. I stopped using it because I didn’t want to develop a dependency – physical or psychological.
Next I tried something stronger – diphenhydramine, an over-the-counter anti-histamine allergy medication that is also used to induce drowsiness. This ingredient is commonly found in non-prescription sleeping pills.
I did sleep on that, but awoke feeling uncomfortably groggy and thick-headed the next day. That feeling lasted throughout the day, and for me it was awful, worse than the insomnia. I only lasted two nights on that drug.
Then I felt more helpless than ever, completely frustrated, and didn’t know what to do next. That was the worst part of it for me, the lack of control, not knowing.
Finally, in desperation, I made an appointment with my doctor. My intent was to get a prescription for what was then a relatively new class of sleeping pills, a sedative hypnotic drug. I had read about these, seen the advertisements, and wanted to try it. I told my doctor I wanted something to basically “press the reset button” on my sleeping habits.
My thought was perhaps I could take the prescription drug for a couple of weeks to in effect reset my sleep system, then stop the pills and be a normal sleeper again.
Too bad it doesn’t work that way.
I didn’t realize then what I know now – sleeping pills would have in no way addressed the root cause of my insomnia, only the symptoms. The source would still be there. In treating only the symptoms, I would have risked an unhealthy psychological or even physical dependency on drugs.
My doctor had good news and bad news. The good news, as it turned out for me, was that she refused to prescribe a sleeping pill. She explained her concern about dependency, possible abuse, and especially the potential impact on long-term mental function from these hypnotics. She wondered about the possibility of these drugs contributing to premature senility or Alzheimer’s disease if used long term.