How sleeping pills really effect you
I’ve discussed the stigma of medications here before. It would seem that I would have no qualms with the use of any medication so long as it was improving quality of life, and if the benefits outweighed the risks.
And yet I spent an entire year and one month of my life unnecessarily exhausted and unable to sleep through the night because of one stigma I couldn’t shake: the stigma of popping pills to get to sleep.
After my RA symptoms began my sleep steadily worsened over time. Even when my treatments started working, my sleep remained restless at best. I woke up 10-20 times a night and had a very difficult time falling back asleep. I tossed and turned all night long, and had vivid anxiety dreams. My sleep quality was as bad as when my son was a newborn and woke up every 20 minutes. I would wake up in the morning just as tired if not more tired than I was when I went to bed.
I tried all the natural remedies. Essential oils, wind down apps on my phone to ensure I saw absolutely no blue light for 2-3 hours before bed, meditation tracks, relaxation exercises… and on the advice of my doctor, melatonin. I even took Tylenol PM as a sleep aid in desperation a few times (because in my mind that was somehow better than an actual sleeping pill).
When my doctor suggested medication to help me sleep I was conflicted. Part of me filled with a light of hope –could I finally sleep at night? But another part of me thought, “seriously? Is my life so sad that I need a pill to sleep?” Because that’s the stigma. Needing a sleeping pill is seen as some kind of failure, like your life has fallen apart to a point where you’re incapable of even a basic thing, or that they’re somehow terrible for you and will prevent you from ever being able to sleep unmedicated ever again.
But that’s not the reality.
The reality is that people need a little help sleeping for so many reasons; reasons that do not make them failures or deserving of condescension. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain, and many other conditions can disrupt sleep. And all of those things worsen without good sleep, so it’s a vicious cycle. A cycle that often cannot be broken with sheer will power and a good bedtime routine.
After expressing a willingness to explore sleeping pill options, my doctor recommended a low dose SSRI that is often prescribed as a sleep aid. This perked my interest because I am familiar with SSRIs, and if I’m willing to take one for my mental health, why wouldn’t I be willing to take one for my sleep?
So I said yes, and after calling my psychiatrist to ensure it was safe to take in combination with my other medications, I picked them up from the pharmacy and started the popping that night.
It has been over three months since I started using a sleeping pill, and I have no regrets.
The anxiety dreams have stopped completely. I still wake up sometimes, but at most a couple times a night, and I always fall asleep again easily and I have slept through the night several times! I’m sleeping better than I ever have since before I was first pregnant, but it isn’t so strong that I don’t wake up if the kids cry out in the night.
No, I’m not some sad mess of a person because I take a sleeping pill. No, it does not mean that I’ll never be able to sleep without them again. Sleeping pills have not effected me negatively.
So I’m embracing the sleeping pill. Because in the risk benefit analysis here, the benefits of popping that pill every night far outweigh the risks of feeling judgment from strangers on the internet.