Originally published on Better After 50.
One morning, still a bit groggy from a sleeping pill-induced six hours of sleep, I was enjoying my first cup of coffee while reading my emails on my iPhone. I was surprised to see that Mike was sleeping in a spare bedroom, and that I had received an email from him, sent the previous evening, at 11:37 PM, about an hour after we had gone to bed.
The subject of the email was simple: "you last night." There were no words in the body of the email -- nothing but an audio file. Hesitating for just a second, I pressed play. It took me a few moments to realize that Mike had taped my snoring during the previous evening and sent it to me. Apparently, my snoring had woken him up, kicking me did not help, and he wanted proof that my snoring had forced him to leave our bed.
I listened in horror. Ladies do not snore; old men snore. Yet there it was. The evidence right there on my iPhone (luckily, he does not have a Facebook account, because posting your wife's snoring on Facebook might just be grounds for divorce, no?). My snoring was the kind of snoring we made fun of my father-in-law for years ago -- the snorting/sawing/heavy breathing kind of snore (we actually witnessed him wake himself up with his own snoring.) There was no denying the tape; there was no blaming it on Mike being a light sleeper. And while we used to blame farts and burps and all manner of impolite behavior on the dog, we were now truly empty nesters with no readily available scapegoat.
When Mike came down for his coffee and I detected a slight smirk, I thought fast. "So, how long have you been having an affair with that 350-pound man?" I asked accusingly.
Over the next few weeks, Mike and I figured out that the loud, deep snoring of the sort that forced him out of our marital bed, down the hall and into a spare bedroom, occurred only when I was under the influence of Ambien's generic equivalent, Zolpidem. I could count on Zolpidem, a medication prescribed by my doctor for insomnia a few years ago, to put me into a coma (the good kind -- where you wake up in six hours). For those of us with sleep issues, it is heaven, though of course, there are those nasty side effects. And as my doctor euphemistically put it, it is easy to become "dependent" on the pill. And "dependent" I got.
How I loved my little white pill that allowed me to fall fast asleep -- and stay asleep -- as the clock clicked 4:00AM. In fact, I never actually said the word Zolpidem like a normal person -- I sang it before bed -- to the tune of the old "Superman" theme song -- because in my world, Zolpidem was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive. As we turned out the lights, I would announce, "Zolpidem...I'm taking my Zolpidem--buh-da-da-da-da-da--- Good night honey, you're in charge!"
And but for the snoring thing (and the headache-in-the-morning-thing, the "guess-you'll-have-to-take-care-of-all-emergencies-tonight" thing, the no-dreaming thing, and the memory thing) I might not have felt the need to kick the habit. But truly, I was motivated -- I didn't want to snore like a 350-pound man, and I wanted my husband back in my bed.
So, I went ahead and kicked the habit. And it was not as big a deal as I thought it would be, especially since I went cold turkey one night accidentally when I thought I had taken a pill, but actually hadn't (the forgetfulness thing?)
And yes, I'm back to seeing 4:00AM again. I often wake up anxious at that ungodly hour, my thoughts and heart racing. At 4:00 AM, you might find me making a dent in my reading, answering emails, writing, emptying the dishwasher, folding the laundry, or baking a banana bread... and when I feel particularly energetic, I just might go to a 5:45AM spin class.
But in the process of kicking the habit, I have had some break through revelations (or maybe just an attitude adjustment) about middle aged sleep which I hope will keep me off the sleeping pills, put an end to the heavy snoring, and keep my husband in the bed:
1. I've given myself permission to get up and start my day at 4:00AM. Rather than being scared of 4:00AM, I embrace it.
2. A night or two of not a lot of sleep really does not change my overall productivity.
3. Without a pill at night, I get fewer headaches -- and am less groggy in the morning.
4. I don't have to panic that I didn't bring my pills with me when traveling.
5. If the house starts burning down in the middle of the night, I don't have to rely on Mike to carry me out.
6. I am no longer addicted to anything -- other than chocolate.
7. I missed not dreaming.
8. And if by chance I should slip back under the covers for a little while after a couple of hours of early morning productivity, I can be assured that my husband will be asleep in our bed (and God help him if he whispers in my ear that I made a little too much noise unloading the dishwasher).
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