By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
Doors locked, lights off, kids tucked in bed (finally), and face washed: I was ready for bed. Or was I? As I snuggled into my pillows, my mind kicked into high gear. Had I changed my laundry? Was the garage door closed? Did I actually check my 4th grader's homework, or had I taken his word that he'd finished it? It wasn't long before a worry about an unanswered e-mail drove me from bed and back downstairs to spend another 20 minutes basking in the glow of my monitor. And while I was eventually able to go to sleep on my own (I'm such a big girl now, Mom!) I certainly didn't get enough hours asleep.
Sleeplessness is rising to epidemic proportions, with 80% of mothers in a recent study saying they are "too stressed or worried" to sleep. These worries are leading to another, less discussed, trend among mothers: sleeping pills.
The New York Times reports that last year "15,473,000 American women between 40 and 59 got a prescription (overwhelmingly for Zolpidem, the generic form of Ambien) to help them sleep." Surprisingly, these numbers don't even include women who use other medications or alcohol to help them sleep.
To add insult to injury, fathers do not experience the same rates of insomnia that mothers do. Dr. Katherine M. Sharkey, a sleep-medicine expert at the Sleep for Science Research Lab at Brown University, says, "Many mothers never back off the vigilance. A female patient will come in complaining of insomnia, and when asked how long she's had it, the patient will say, 'Fifteen years-ever since my baby was born'."
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Experts say other reasons for sleeplessness include a perfectionist attitude, a belief that we are the only people who can do the job right, and an unconscious desire to have time alone. I know that I can relate to all these issues; while I've never taken a sleeping pill, I can certainly understand the motivation behind it.
Do you have a hard time sleeping? Have you ever used medications to help you sleep?
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a mom of 5 and the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and the blog of the same name.
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