I’ve received some emails and comments about where I am with my sleep. An Ambien soaked couple of days lead me into over-the-counter territory and I haven’t looked back. At first, I went to the standby, a half tablet of a generic version of Unisom. This is a great med, but only if you can sleep until it wears off. With a kid, that is not an option and you wake up more groggy than if you slept less. Although my mood improved and I was getting sleep, if I missed the window, it would be disastrous the next morning. I have to take it at 8:30 pm and then by 10:15 pm, I’m ready to pass out. If I take it later and sleep, I’m groggy for twelve hours after I take it. Leta gets up at 6 or 6:30, so that means a couple hours of grog versus four or five. We like to have breakfast as a family after easing into the day.

Once hay fever hit, I gave up on the Unisom and started taking Benadryl, which is essentially the same thing as Unisom but has the allergy season benefit of antihistamine, although it seemed to have a faster ramp up than the Unisom. However, I’m still groggy until 8 or 9 in the morning. Even coffee doesn’t jump start me. It’s not until the daytime allergy meds (OTC Claritin with a couple of 10mg non-pseudephedrine Sudafeds) kick in that I feel normal.

Last night I wasn’t tired until 11:30. With the summer waking of Leta, that’s still about 6.5-7 hours, which is definitely more than I was getting during the winter. It’s just that first wake at 6 or 6:15 is so brutal when you go to bed at midnight. I’m currently trying to get to sleep in the 10:30 – 11:00 pm realm so I get 7-7.5 hours, as I think that fits our current lifestyle and is a good amount of sleep for me.

Also, I advise to avoid switching your main browser at bedtime, exporting bookmarks and importing them. Then testing the new browser. Too much stimulation.

  • rivetergirl

    Sleep has been a constant topic of mine lately.

    My husband is out of town and I’m solely responsible for the care of our 5-year-old. We’ve got to get up earlier than usual to get to daycare and work on time.

    This coupled with the fact that I hate the lonely bed and have taken to doing deep cleaning of the house instead of going to bed on time have made me more than a little punch drunk from the lack of sleep.

    I’ve been commiserating with my co-worker whose 4-month-old is no where near sleeping though the night.

    She, I and another working mom write a mommy blog for the newspaper for which we work ( Today’s topic: Sleep deprivation.

    Not sleeping is not only not fun, but it sucks donkey balls, too.

  • Karen

    The sleep/non-sleep games have been wreaking havoc on me for years now. It’s gotten to the point that at least once a year I catch a case of major insomnia.

    This year I have been very vigilant to keep my sleeping patterns in a better routine. Besides I’m odd enough with a good nights sleep so I can’t imagine what people think of me in the middle of my month long bender of no sleep.

  • http://mihow mihow

    First, let me say that what I’m about to write is in no way a suggestion. I know how annoying (sometimes) it is to have hundreds of strangers try and tell you the right way to live your life, raise your child, etc. (Now that the disclaimer is finished, I shall begin.) :]

    I have always had trouble sleeping. In my case, I can’t ever fall asleep. For years, I used ghetto over-the-counter pills like Comtrex (sp?) and then I moved on to things like Tylenol PM, which is so bad for one’s liver (and I happen to enjoy drinking wine although, not at the same time.) Couple drinking with acetaminophen and things become worrisome for the old liver. So I tried to cut down and instead just dealt with being tired all the time after getting little to no sleep.

    Anyway, about two or so months agod I gave up ALL caffeine. Not just coffee, but all soda as well. And then something odd happened. After the initial headaches wore off, and my agitated state came to an end, my moods were lighter. I was happier. The most rewarding part, however, was that I hadn’t realized that I was actually sleeping.

    Not every night is perfect. I don’t always fall into bed and immediately go to sleep. But things are easier and I’m not as anxious.

    I guess you gotta try a bunch of things until you find what works for you. (Although, I imagine that all of this will change drastically once Tobyjoe and I have a baby. Then, hello kick to head head.)

  • lipseyebrows

    I also have a crappy sleep life. I gave up caffeine and started taking a melatonin supplement every night and it’s been much better. There’s no drugged feeling in the morning.

  • Michelle~in~Memphis….ugh

    Have you tried exercising during the day? Sometimes that can help. Also, Tylenol PM is the one I always choose. Some people say it does nothing for them. I have found I never feel groggy from it.

    I hope you get it all worked out.
    Good luck :)

  • jae

    Melatonin works great with no morning groggy feeling or difficulty waking after about 7 hours (for me, that is). You can buy a bottle that will last a couple of months at GNC for around $5. My doctor and a friend both recommended it when I wasn’t sleeping because of an anti-depressant I was on. It helped me fall into a sleep pattern. It works fast, so I didn’t have to take it and wait to fall asleep. I’d go to bed and see if it was a restless night, if so I’d go ahead and take one and be asleep within minutes. I rarely ever need it now, but I do take it on trips since traveling usually leaves me alert and it helped when I had to sleep to adjust to time zone difference.

  • Zee

    Not sure if you’ve looked into it, but my shrink prescribed Sonata for me after I felt groggy for 24 hours after taking Ambien. I know a lot of people who love Ambien, but I can’t take it unless I have 24 hours to sleep. Sonata is great b/c it only has a 4-hour effect (half life?) which makes it great when you’re having trouble getting to sleep but not having a lot of trouble staying asleep. Also, because it only lasts 4 hours, the likelihood that you’ll be groggy for hours on end is lessened. I have occasionally woken up feeling a bit hung over, but it’s not bad enough to make me avoid taking it when I’ve been staring at the ceiling for hours. More info here:

  • Be Still

    I take wheatgrass tablets ( at night washed down with milk. It’s a strange combo that works wonders. The milk zonks me out and the wheat grass causes me to wake up with loads of energy. Sort of like hippy grandma speedball.

  • christy

    Melatonin does the trick for me, too. And it has the bonus of being cheap. My problem wasn’t so much that I couldn’t sleep, but that I had a hard time getting to sleep when I wanted to. (Mind racing or just doing something dumb like watching tv.) The melatonin was recommended by my doctor and it really helped.

    Hope your sleep life gets better soon. Nothing can kick a normally good day in the nuts like sleep deprivation.

  • Fireflower

    In this house the only thing that is worse than having to function before the sleeping aid wears off is having to function while it’s trying to kick in. I’m sure it’s funnier than hell, me in the rocking chair soothing the Munchkin back to sleep, trying to keep my own eyes open and jerking back awake every few seconds by the cold blue light of the tv. Times like this I really wish my husband was home so that I could wring his neck for gifting our daughter with his stubbornness. One dose of it I could handle, but not a double dose!

  • Jeanette

    I took one Children’s benadryl dissolving tablet last night. If I remember right, it’s half the dose of regular benadryl. I slept great and was just really relaxed this morning, instead of drowsy.

    I always get sucked into late night computer projects. Why do I do that to myself?

  • Dogmom

    Jon, have you been evaluated for sleep apnea? Just wondering.

  • Wen

    After years of working crazy hours in the film industry my sleep sked is pretty screwed (4am call times will do that). I found Tylenol PM in liquid form (in an only mildly disgusting “Honey” flavor) works pretty well. The liquid form seems to work faster than the pill form and I’m not terribly groggy after 7 hours of sleep.

    It’s not easy to find (Vons and RiteAid usually have it), but should carry it.

  • TigerLambGirl

    Dude, I hope you can sort your sleep out naturally. Coz, the otc or prescribed route is a never-ending viscious cycle that only compounds the problem.

    When and if you decide to give the stuff up – it’s H.E.L.L. for a good while. That’s coz your body is mortally confused by all the interference.

    In homeopathy this is known as Primary & Secondary Action (of a drug). This is commonly observed in a lot of situations.

    It’s similiar to what happens with laxatives. If one resorts to laxatives – sure – they ‘work’ initially. But when stopped – one is bunged up more than before. Better to go for an enema (or colonic for more severe cases) + change of diet…and often other changes of lifestyle that help reduce stress. Exercise is also good.

    With sleep – it’s good to have a long hard look at what’s causing the problem (anxiety? too much mental stimulation in the evening, etc?) and try to make changes that allow you to get sleepy naturally. Then actually force yourself to get-in-bed when you’re sleepy (not always easy for those of us who are ‘night-people’).

    At least Leta’s a good sleeper.

    Good luck. I really feel for you.

  • minxlj

    You’re on Clarityn, Benadryl AND Sudafed?????? Wow your hayfever must be brutal. Mine is bad enough to cause me misery in the summer, and I only have to take the Clarityn to control it. I can’t take sleeping tablets as I’m badly asthmatic and they’re one of the huge list of things not allowed…anyway I’ve always been a problem sleeper but I’ve had to deal with it or suffer.

    The worst time I had was a solid 4 DAYS without sleeping, after a bad asthma attack. Couldn’t have any drugs to help, the doctors just had to leave me be and hope I’d fall asleep eventually. My head was a wreck and I barely knew where I was. I was crying and begging for something to just knock me out! When my body gave in and I finally got to sleep, I was sitting up, resting face down on a pile of pillows in the middle of the bed, and slept for 19 hours.

  • Les

    Hi Jon,

    Love the site – I’m reading all the time now!


  • Nickie

    I read somewhere (useless of me to not know the source…) that some people have problems sleeping because of the number of hours they sit in front of a bright computer screen. It tricks the body into thinking it’s daytime longer than it should and consequently it’s difficult to go to sleep when you need to.

    It’s probably codswallop.

  • kierewalker

    I just finished reading Stephen King’s “Insomnia”,and I’ve decided lack of sleep is the bullet train straight to insanity.
    Intrestingly enough, some of my graduate research was about the affect different anti-histamines produce in the brain: for example, the diphenhydramine HCL (Benadryl, most OTC sleep meds)subdues your central nervous system (and, as a result, your neuro-transmitter receptors) to the extent that simple immune responses can no longer occur…hence the hay-fever relief. The chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton, Tavist) still works by affecting your CNS, but doesn’t directly target your dopamine receptors, so you
    may be less drowsy than if you took the Benadryl. The
    prescription allergy meds (compound names usually ending in -dine) only involve your CNS the slightest bit, instead inhibiting your response to allergens on a cellular level. If you’re really sensitive to meds these might still make you sleepy, but for most people they won’t.
    No advice hidden here, just encouraging you to keep trying till you find what helps. Anti-histamines are fabulous in my book. Good luck resolving the sleep stuff; and (the advice creeps in after all): don’t read Stephen King before bed.

  • Beholder1972

    Hey Jon,

    Andrew here, up in the Tdot, Cananda. Dig your blog.

    About sleeping, I’m a bit of a nighthawk too. Additionally, my father-in-law is a doctor. Here’s my two cents on combating insomnia…

    Firstly, eliminate drugs… all of them. That includes caffine (in all forms, coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas, weight control drugs, etc.), and depresants (except the ones prescribed, of course). My feeling on this is that the body is constantly trying to achieve homeostasis and when we expose the body to chemicals that throw it out of wack it trys to compensate. Then by taking the counter chemical it throws the body that much more out of wack, essentially putting it on a chemical roller-coaster. Now I’m not a doctor, nor a scientist, but for me, as soon as I let my body find it’s own equilibrium I found sleep came easier and was more satisfying.

    Giving all that up is tough, but in my experience, was not permnament. As soon as things balanced themselves out I was able to enjoy a coffee for the sake of coffee and not because I was dependant upon it for the perk!

    Balance dude.

  • http://http:/ Sarah

    I’ve used melatonin with success. If you decide to try this, be careful how much melatonin you take. A 3 mg pill plowed me like a Mack truck. Now if I need it, I cut the 3 mg pill in half or sometimes quarters. But you should probably be smart and just try a smaller dosage first. When I get the correct dosage, I have no side effects. And I actually think that the melatonin somehow helped my body adjust and I usually sleep without it now. Good luck, Jon.

  • sravana

    I’m with Tigerlambgirl (as someone who’s been on meds for sleep for years, and can’t go off them). Also, I’m very concerned about all the meds you take for allergies – I’d speak to your friendly pharmacist to make sure that you’re not cruising for some nasty drug interactions. OTC drugs are NOT safe when mixed together, period.

    Have you considered Chinese Medicine? Acupuncture and herbs work GREAT for both insomnia and allergies, particularly if you can find a good herbalist. There are herbs that will help one fall asleep and/or stay asleep, and won’t necessarily cause drowsiness in the morning.

    I also agree w/Dogmom – if you’re that tired in the morning, I’d be evaluated for sleep apnea.

    There’s more to be considered (caffiene, meditation, exercise, etc), but not seeing you, I can’t make recommendations.

    Sravana – Oriental Medicine student

  • blurb

    If you purchase Claritin-D 24 hour caplets, they contain the same decongestant that is in the Sudafed tablets. I just take less of the Sudafed than comes in the Claritin D.

    My sleeping is worse on Claritin D than just plain Claritin. I only take the Benadryl at night. I have severe hay fever this year, but it usually dies down after June.

  • Sabine


    It’s nice to read that you are sleeping more and figuring out what works for you. I have benedryl “hangovers” where my skin feels twitchy/trembly for about half the day. Not fun. You might consider trying what I do – take the benedryl super early. And by super early I mean “with dinner.”

    You’ll be a little swoony for the last hour or so of your day, but it serves the purpose of letting the stuff burn through your system for 12 hours, but a chunk of those hours are the night before rather than the morning after. I still get the twitchy hangovers, but only if I use the benedryl a couple of nights in a row.

  • scoxsmith

    When you first mentioned this I had just started taking Ambien too. It was so great to sleep, but after the first week, I started having memory problems during the day (not so great when you’re teaching a step class to 20 people), so I cut way back and only took it when I really, really needed it and had the time to sleep a full 8 hours.

    Now I’m taking Tamazepam (aka Restoril). I can take 15mg or 30 mg, it’s generic and it’s cheap. I sleep well, don’t have issues the next day or wake up groggy. It’s not as ‘fun’ as the Ambien (get my husband’s comment on that one…) but it works.

    I’ve also been thinking about how much caffeine and alcohol can affect my sleep and have cut way back on those as well.

    Good Luck!

  • tksinclair

    As far as Melatonin, GNC sells a sublingual cherry flavored. Quick acting. The best is they come in 1 mg chewable tablets. You can safely take 3mg a day but the 1mg tablets let you adjust your dose. After years of insomnia, seeking advice from several Dr’s and years of experimentation I finally sleep all night, every night. But, you have to find what works for you. I take 1/2 a trazedone at 7:30. Then, at 11:00 I take an Ambien (or 1/2) and chew 2, 1mg melatonin. For me that’s a good night. I sleep soundly and wake up relatively alert. Of course I don’t have a toddler. (Do four dogs, an eleven and nine year old equal one toddler? Probably not!)

  • tk

    Yeah, that whole not getting enough sleep thing can really be a bitch. I’d never suffered from insomnia and usually fell asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. Then I ended up being off work for health issues and then ended up having major problems with insomnia. I think the main issue was that due to the health problems I was not able to be as active as I had been previously so I was not “exhausted” by the time bedtime rolled around. It took a long time for me to get my sleep patterns sorted out again. I really do think it is tougher when you don’t have to get up and go to a job or have that hard and fast routine. Obviously, the fact that you have a child forces you into a routine that you do not have a choice about so you have to make that effort to get the regular sleep. I’ve been on and off of various sleep medications for a couple of years with varying effects. Over the counter Unisom will sometimes help. Other times I need to use the harder stuff. I’ve taken a few things that knock the crap out of me and I only taken them if for sure I’m going to be able to sleep them off. I’ve had bad experiences if I’m not able to sleep the full amount of time. One of the medications I took was Restoril. I’m OK with it if I can sleep it off, but if I get less than about 9 hrs. sleep on that one, the after-affects are frightening. So I’m very, very careful.

    Glad to hear you are getting the sleep stuff sorted out though. It does make such a difference to get the rest you need. Good luck with it!


  • gordon

    I sleep fine when I am allowed to sleep. Between a 8-month old who thinks playtime goes to 10 pm and a cat who wakes me up at 5:30 am (You try ignoring the deadly sound of purrrr…purrr..purrr. Yes I have tried removing her from the room and jailing her in another room. She escapes somehow.)

  • Eight Hour Lunch

    I had someone tell me that if I wanted to sleep better than I should give up spicy food, alcohol, workouts and snacks close to bedtime. My question is, if I give all that stuff up why would I want to be awake *ever*?

    The occasional melatonin has worked well for me, but mostly I’ve just come to accept that cramming in everything I want to do just means I’m going to feel dead a lot of the time. (Not much help, I know).

  • Jezzie

    unfortch is really can be lifestyle related, can’t it? I dunno, I get a second wind about 10:30 and I’m screwed.But I agree from watching my sister, meds are a roller coaster, once you feel rested enough to experiment I’d try two weeks of each type of herbal or vitamin therapy combined with lifestyle change, hard as that surely is! Badia makes a linden leaf tea which does great with no hangover if taken 1 hr before planned bedtime, available here at publix 99 cents a box :) good luck, the whole of the internet says Jon! bedtime!If we have to tell you one more time young man! Get your jammies on and get to sleep. Yes, you can have water and a book. Now that is it, don’t make us come back in there. hee hee. jezzie

  • montanamommy

    when i was little and couldn’t sleep my aunt would run cold water into the bath and i’d soak my feet up to about my ankles for a few minutes. don’t know why but it worked. sorry bout the allergies, they suck.

  • Twinmama

    I had to give up coffee six months ago and I think it helped a little, but I still have trouble on a regular basis so I guess caffeine wasn’t the root problem. I am reminded of something one of those toddler sleep experts wrote: “sleep begets sleep.” That means a crappy night of sleep often means a hard time getting to sleep the next night (true for my kids, true for me!).

    The two biggest things that have helped me: yoga, and going to bed about two or three hours earlier than I’d like. That last thing has been, like, the hardest thing in the world for me. I hardly get any computer time during the day and I’m a night person. So turning off the computer at 9:30pm or whatever is *really* difficult for me. But I do sleep better when I’m not rushed to get to sleep, like when I try to crawl into bed at 11:30.

    When nothing works…then I pop Lunesta. No grogginess like with the OTC stuff.

  • VisualVoice

    I had chronic persistent insomnia for a year. Took ambien the entire time, which made me very unhappy with myself… having to rely on medication for that long. It got to the point where I felt performance anxiety every time I got to bed. There was an expectation of certain failure. To say the least, it was abysmally bad. I sleep fine now due to two methods. (when I was going through it people would offer up redundant suggestions, which became annoying… sorry if I’m annoying you… I know you probably feel you’ve tried everything… I know that feeling) First ~ I seriously began meditating each day. Second ~ I exposed myself to bright light first thing in the morning. Both really did work for me. I wish you luck and success with this. I know how hard it is.

  • Amanda B.

    I’ve had problems sleeping at the appropriate times since I was 8 or so, and I have found over the counter meds to be helpful, although I build up a tolerance to them very quickly.

    My doctor just gave me something called Rozerem, which non-narcotic and safe to take every night if needed. It acts on the part of the brain that tells you it’s sleepy time, and it’s very gentle. I have had no problems getting up when I need to, and I don’t feel drugged in the mornings.

  • Leeloo

    Sorry so late to the party here, Jon. Don’t know if you’ve already tried this or not, but I’d be willing to bet you could get away with a LOT less than a full dose of Benadryl at night. Seriously. Before the Ambien, I had great sleep on a quarter-dose of TylenolPM, which is just Tylenol and Benadryl in pill form. A full dose is listed as 2 pills – I was fine with half of one pill. It took effect just as quickly as the full dose, and I slept just as long. The only thing that changed was the length of the zombie effect next day. I don’t suffer with allergies, though, so all a full dose did was dry me out unnecessarily. Anyway, just a thought. I love that you’re so proactive about it – not just like “Well, I guess this is as good as it can get.” Oh, and white noise, that was my other thought…a fan (aim it away from the bed if you don’t like a breeze – it’s all about the noise, for me) or something like that. Good luck!

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