Ambien + Me = A Sleep Story for the Ages

This post is part of an editorial series, “Sweet Sleep,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and insight as your navigate your family’s sleep journey.

woman sleeping in lavender

“You know what my mom loves to do?” I cringed, imagining the laundry list of unsavory activities about to spill forth from my daughter’s mouth: Drink vodka, vacuum perfect lines in the carpet, eat Nutella straight from the jar, or talk about why my dog’s feet smell like Fritos. (Like, why? Surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed this?)

“Sleeping. My mom loves to sleep,” she says. 

Well, she’s not wrong. There are a few things in this world that I love more than a solid night sleep. And for most of my life, I have been chasing a decent night’s sleep like a dog chases its tail. That is, incessantly and with minimal success.

My very favorite time of the day is bedtime. It’s the time where I can actually slow down enough to process the whirlwind of my days, the time when I can feel true contentedness. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wake up in the morning calculating the time remaining until I could crawl back into bed. It’s my reprieve, my chance to start anew. And yeah, I pretty much love it.

I’ve had difficulty sleeping my entire life. And believe me, I’ve tried all the tricks: I’ve slept with earplugs. I’ve slept with fans oscillating in the distance and white noise machines roaring into the darkness. I’ve filled essential oil diffusers with enough lavender to sedate a small horse. I’ve got weighted blankets and a Tempur-Pedic mattress. At one point my Benadryl intake rivaled Rush Limbaugh’s pill popping, but even those little pink pills couldn’t bring me the sweet release of sleep. I’ve sent my husband out in the middle of the night to buy NyQuil. And NOT the imposter NyQuil they’re slinging now without the alcohol. He knows better than to come home with alcohol-free NyQuil. (For goodness sake.)

But now that I’ve got these kids to take care of and the responsibilities of a full-time job, I really cannot afford a week of sleepless nights. While I loathed the idea of reaching out to my doctor for a prescription sleep aid, I felt as if I’d exhausted (literally) all of my options. I was fearful of addiction, as I’ve been blessed with a textbook addictive personality. But after spending three days crying intermittently throughout the workday and falling asleep on the floor behind my desk using a hand-me-down pair of snow pants as a pillow, I swallowed my pride and called the good doctor.

sweet sleep editorial seriesY’all, I know there are reports of users nocturnally ordering 21 cases of Larabars and a Roomba while on Ambien and being shocked when the boxes start piling up on the doorstep. I know people report eating a pound of deli meat and a box of Velvetta shells and cheese while under its sleepy spell. But when my doctor suggested a trial, I agreed. I mean, what did I have to lose?

She carefully outlined the benefits and potential risks. She created a monthly dosing schedule to ensure I not take the pills too many consecutive nights to avoid the potential for developing dependence. She procured a release to which I signed on the dotted line acknowledging my understand that Ambien is a controlled substance. I left her office feeling equal parts excited and like a drug addict.

But, that first night. Oh, what a night. I feel asleep in record time and didn’t stir for eight hours. This was absolutely unprecedented, and I was over the moon. I felt refreshed and rested, and according to my husband, didn’t experience any weird sleeping-walking episodes. I must’ve shared my sleep success with anyone and everyone who would listen the following day; I was that excited. I continued to follow my physician’s dosing schedule to a T — at least for the first few weeks.

I confess: I got sleep greedy. I loved that warm, sleepy solace so deeply that I start to crave it every night.  

pills in bottleFor me, Ambien is like wrapping myself in my coziest blanket, like the most comforting presence. I feel peaceful and safe, and most of all, drowsy. I love the heavy feeling that spreads throughout my body and lulls me to sleep. What harm could it cause if I took it everyday? Surely they wouldn’t prescribe something harmful.

And besides, I was in control. A glass of water and down the hatch. A few days later, I realized I had used my 30-day supply in less than 20 days. Whoops. It wasn’t that my physician had prescribed something harmful; it was that I had failed to adhere to her instructions.

Listen, I get it. It’s a controlled substance. It’s potentially addicting. There are pro and cons to any and every medication out there, especially this one. But it’s also the only tool in my toolbox that consistently affords me enough rest to function, and I simply can’t lose that security.

This experience was eye-opening for me. I refilled my prescription and returned to carefully following my doctors guidelines, no questions asked. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have found something that finally works. But, now I am respectful of it’s power and potential for addiction. Will I give it up?  

Nope. But, I won’t allow myself to misuse it again.

Amanda is a New York girl living in a Texas world. In 2009, she followed her heart to the Lone Star state to Mansfield. She is wife to Timothy, and mother to Ryann and Grey. They love traveling and hunkering down at home with equal passion. Amanda is a speech pathologist by day and the maker of snacks, giver of baths, and the reader of bedtime stories by night. A lover of food and health, she spends an alarming amount of time researching plant-based recipes, experimenting in her perpetually messy kitchen, and of course, subjecting her family to the fruits of her labor. When not portioning out perfectly even snacks, you can find her at Orange Theory Fitness, in the Starbucks drive-thru line, reading anything, daydreaming about date nights, and planning the Fyfe family’s next adventure.


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