Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Melatonin and Me

June 28

Over the years I've gone from being the sleepiest child in the neighborhood (the lady next door once found me asleep under a bed in her house in the middle of the day) to having occasional bouts with insomnia, to a regular pattern of waking up at about 3 A.M. and not being able to fall asleep again. Probably the pattern was made worse by having a remote control at my fingertips and the switchable presence of Jay Leno, ABC World News Now, a couple of movies all the time, followed by Dr. Phil and Conan O'Brian, and an official wake-up in the locker room with Don Imus and his gang of Alpha males.

However that was, I learned to take a Benadryl once a week so I'd have one solid night of sleep. I woke up with a feeling of heaviness which was best alleviated with a cup or two of Joe, but had had my 7 1/2 hours, at least once in awhile.

About ten years ago, it was discovered that the hormone melatonin was nature's way of regulating the circadian rhythms, especially for long airplane trips across time lines. Everybody reached for the melatonin supplement as a way to induce sleep. We loved the idea of it, but it didn't work. So eventually we relapsed to the once-a-week Benadryl, at least I did, and occasionally reflected on that sleepy, nap-starved little girl. Where did she go? Where did her melatonin go, and why?

A new study was done recently, a long-range one, on the effects of melatonin. It revealed that it does work, in doses of 3 mg., taken at bedtime. Wanting a quick fix (and a magic pill), I decided to give it another try. I ordered some melatonin from my mail-order vitamin, mineral and magic supplier, and received the order about two weeks ago.

The first night I took a pill it seemed to work. I slept better, waking an hour later than usual, but able to go back to sleep and avoid the late-late tv stuff. My plan was to take it every night until the supply ran out if all went fairly well. Sometimes these things take a while to get in your system. For me, it got more effective in the first week, sometimes allowing an actual full night's sleep, but into the second week it seems to me the body is reverting to its old pattern. I wake up about 3, and am awake for about an hour. The difference is, with the melatonin in place, I can fall asleep again. The difference about that is I'll sleep three or four more hours, getting up about 8 A.M., making a total of about nine hours. I sometimes feel the need of a nap during the day. Melatonin is taking over my life. I live to sleep.

This reminds me of the days when I was in my 30's, before the insomnia became part of my routine, when I used to say that I thought maybe sleep was the natural state, and everything that happened when you were awake was just marking time until the next dream. Maybe I'll get back to that -- but the melatonin dreams are of being lost in airports, being lost in strange cities, seeing loved ones who don't recognize me, being in love with people who in my waking life I can't stand, that sort of thing. I think they're called nightmares.

I'm going to give it a long-term try. I'm sure the bad dreams will be replaced when the life situation settles down a bit and fun things are on the horizon (aren't fun things always on the horizon?). I'll let you know how it works out in a few months.

And by the way, I just made that up about dreaming I was in love with people I can't stand. That is one dream I've never had. Just trying to make this more interesting.

1 comment:

John Sweden said...

Whew! What relief for all of us miscellaneous men.

Taking a nap is one the most, if not the most, important and relevant thing I learned in school. I think of nap taking as the heart of the educational process. It was the first social lesson that had to be mastered. Much to the disdain and consternation of teachers and school authorities I continued taking naps (usually in conjunction with math) as part of my personal daily educational regime. To this day, if I have a “real” problem to solve, the first thing I do to solve it is take a nap. It actually works and is better use of time than simple procrastination.

There are many cultures that agree with you, that dreamtime, in human terms, is real time. Actually there is scientific basis for this. We are only consciously awake for functional purpose. If I kept you awake long enough you would actively start dreaming or in waking terms hallucinate. I maintain that in the dream state we made aware of how our brain really functions and organizes things, that is why the focus of logic and rational thought is so tiring and can only be maintained in short burst. I notice that when I paint I am never tired in the mind, but as I write which is a linear, rational, logical exercise I…you….zzzzzzzzzz...zzz…