"So, are you sleeping?" my gynecologist asked me at my annual exam last year. I had to laugh. That was funny. Not ha-ha funny. More wry, isn't-this-sad funny. Because I hadn't had a solid night of rest in years.
I'd always considered myself a good sleeper. But when I hit 40, everything changed. I suddenly had trouble falling asleep, and even when I did, I'd be wide-awake again hours later, working or puttering around the house. Not surprisingly, in the morning it was like slogging through muck just to brush my teeth and get dressed. I sometimes drank six cups of coffee to get through the a.m. hours, followed by an equal number of Diet Cokes in the afternoon.
At first I chalked it up to stress. A few years back my husband and I moved from Las Vegas to Orlando, Florida. We bought a house that I loved, but one that also made me worry that we'd overreached. Between concerns about the mortgage and saving for my son's college costs, I was popping out of bed every night like a jack-in-the-box. When weeks of not sleeping turned into months, I realized I'd become a card-carrying insomniac. Exacerbating matters was my husband, who snored more loudly than an entire construction crew. Many a night I weighed whether a jury of my peers—and by that I mean the 67% of American women who also have trouble sleeping—would understand my fatigue-fueled desire to smother him.
My doctor initially prescribed me a sleep aid. At first it seemed the ideal fix, but after a few weeks, one pill no longer lulled me to sleep. So I switched to Valium. Though not typically prescribed for insomnia, I knew from dental work that it could knock me out quite nicely. And just to hedge my bets, I often chased it with a cocktail. I knew that what I was doing wasn't smart, but I was desperate. It began to infuriate me that I had to be drugged to sleep in my own bed while my husband snored on, oblivious. To avoid nightly arguments, we started sleeping apart. Sex? Forget that. I was hardly in the mood. Suddenly my worries about getting shut-eye grew to concerns about my marriage and my overall physical health. I was miserable.