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Posted on Oct 16, 2012 in Dear Diary | 39 comments


I’m not very good at tempering my emotions.

When I’m happy, I’m really happy. Like, so happy I could probably cry.

When I’m sad, I’m really sad. Like, I almost undoubtedly am crying.

And as the past few nights have proven, I’m also evidently not very good at tempering my stress and anxiety.

I felt like I literally laid (lied? lay?) awake for almost 7 straight hours last night. Even when I was “asleep”, I felt like I was awake. I mean, cognitively, I know that I fell asleep for at least some of the night. But it was such a light, easily-interrupted sleep (thanks a lot for barking at 2:39 AM, Daxter!) that it barely felt like sleep at all. And if my super jumbo coffee this morning is any indicator, it was certainly not restful. And this hasn’t been the only time lately this has happened.

I think most of it is coming from being so anxious (in an excited way) over the progress I’m making on self-publishing my book. I’m anxious and eager to get it out there, but I acknowledge that there are still many steps I have to go through before it’s really ready. And unfortunately, that means a lot of waiting, right now, while some amazing, gracious people read my manuscript and while I’m working with graphic designers on my cover options. It’s just that I’m not very good at waiting.

Anyway, my basic plea is to ask for your best remedies for insomnia. Seratonin Melatonin pills? Chamomile? Warm milk (err, actually, scratch that one). Halp?


  1. I know a handful of people that use melatonin and find it works really well. However, some of them require multiple doses for it to work fully and others can only handle a half dose otherwise they feel really groggy. Hopefully you find something that helps!
    When I was having trouble sleeping last year, there were a few nights where I’d take a shot of Nyquil. Worked like a charm, but I didn’t want to become dependent on it so I stopped.. it’s not something I would recommend taking for a sleep aid šŸ˜‰

  2. Vigorous exercise. Once you’re tired, you will sleep easily. Btw—for the emotional ups and downs, I’d look into a different type of birth control if you are taking any. I was on the patch for 2 years and I was psycho.

  3. Exercise! Always makes me want to take a nap…although perhaps it’s the thought of exercising that makes me want to take a nap, but let’s not split hairs.

    You know, that comfy “I could sleep for ages” feeling after busting out some serious cardio… that might help.

  4. Melatonin should help relax you – kind of put you in a fuzzy state. it’s a natural supplement you can get at CVS. I give it to my anxious dog when it’s a bad storm outside and it sorta helps.

  5. I’m almost to chapter 10, and I have so many emotions. Which you now will have to read all about through Microsoft Word’s tracked changes. Two nights ago I was typing so furiously that the review panel in Word couldn’t keep up and my MacBook crashed. Can I blame your book for my insomnia too?

  6. Honestly, if it’s anxiety and stress that’s keeping you up, it’s unlikely that many over the counter remedies will help. I was there a couple of years ago during my senior year in college. I was constantly, continually stressed out over the prospect of leaving school and being out in the “real world”. Only when I started talking to a therapist/counselor to get out some of that stuff did I start sleeping better at night. Maybe journaling would help you get some of your worries or thoughts out on paper, then you can close the book and leave them “alone” enough to get some rest? Good luck!

    • Hmm, maybe it’s because I haven’t been blogging as frequently! This kind of *is* my journal, after all, since I’m always foisting my inner monologue on you guys, hahahaha. šŸ™‚

  7. I hear you, Sister. I haven’t been working out enough this week and my sleep has been so light! I have to cut off caffeine at 3pm. Sleepy Time tea helps too.

  8. I’m *sure* they’re trying to hurry, but they want to an amazing job for you. Sorry last night was crappy, though. Coffee to the rescue. I find that I make it worse when I can sleep by constantly telling myself “you should be asleep, you have x more hours.”

    • Haha! That was in NO way a complaint — I know that they’re working VERY hard and I sooooo appreciate it! šŸ˜‰

      But omg yes. I was doing exactly that. Every time I’d look at my phone, it was later and later and I was like “oh god…. tomorrow is going to be awful unless you get to sleep RIGHTNOW” and of course, that only made things worse.

      • *want to do
        *can’t sleep

        etc. etc. thinking faster than I can type this morning.

  9. Melatonin, FTW. Find it in a time-release/slow-release formula. Start off with 5mg, if you don’t sleep any better, move up 5mg at a time until you do. No hangover. Totally natural. No grogginess. It just softens the edges on all the anxiety/to-do lists/worries.

    • do you mean 3 mg? That is the pill size I’ve always seen in stores. My dr told me to start with 3 mg and to take it a few hrs before you want to sleep. I think it helps me! She told me to never take more than 6 mg.

      • My pills are 5mg. And I take 10 mg when I need to sleep and my Dad takes 15-20mg every night. Granted, he’s 6’4″ and 260lbs. so he probably needs a bit more. šŸ˜›

        • thanks!!

          • I take the 3mg and I completely agree with the time-release. A regular pill will help me fall asleep but I tend to wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. The time release helps me sleep deeply til morning. Melatonin is also one of those things that you should take for more than one night at a time. I find if I’m going through a period of anxiety, it’s really good to take it nightly for two or three weeks in a row. The first couple nights it might not be enough to overcome the insomnia, but after a couple more it kicks in and the really nice thing is that it helps your body get used to a full and natural sleep cycle again so that by the time you go off it you can sleep really well on your own. Also, yoga/stretching before bed is really helpful to me–deep breathing alone isn’t enough for me to turn my brain off, but when I’m focused on deep breathing AND not falling over then I tend to calm down a lot more effectively šŸ™‚

  10. Hi Gretchen:

    I went to the doctor with a similar complaint and she suggested melatonin. As some other readers have said, you can get it at CVS or Target. Most sell them in 3 mg pills. My doctor told me that I could start at 3 mg and take up to 9 mg, if I needed to. I would strongly suggest melatonin over other sleep aids because your body already produces it (it’s natural) and it’s non-habit forming. Another idea that might alleviate your anxiety/stress is to do a “brain dump” in a journal before bed. Just make a list of all the things that you’re worrying about.

    I hope this helps.

    Sweet Dreams!


    • You know, that’s a good idea. My good friend does that. She keeps a tablet by her bed, and even if she wakes up stressed by something, she’ll write it down right then and there. By doing that, she says she’s able to go back to sleep.

  11. I’m actually one of the few here that doesn’t like melatonin. My husband and mom swear by it, and it will get me to sleep, but I feel really weird the next morning. I prefer valerian root!

  12. I definitely sleep better when I exercise, and it helps me release stress/anxiety as well. Sadly, there are times when I do take a Benadryl or half of ONE sleeping pill, like Unisom (anymore than that & I’m not functional the next morning), but I try not to do that often. Oh! And I cut out caffeine after noon. That helps me fall asleep easier, for sure. Good luck, girl! Hope you get a restful night’s sleep soon!

  13. I can never sleep with I’m anxious/excited/nervous for something! It’s the worst. I would suggest maybe a little meditation before bed to clear your mind? Even just sitting or laying down and counting your breaths can help calm and clear your thoughts in 10-15 mins. Hope that helps Gretchen! šŸ™‚

  14. I too agree with the Melatonin! Never makes me feel groggy in the morning!

    I was a high-stress, anxious, worrying kind of person about 100% of the time so I finally saw a doctor. I am on 2 medications and they have made a world of a difference. I’ve always been wary of taking meds, but they have completely changed my life for the better to not be so whacked out all the time! Plus they help me sleep a normal schedule (before I was up all night worrying and panicking).

    Good luck!

  15. I had insomnia for the longest time just after college and it turned out that I just needed a new mattress. Otherwise, I advise Nyquil or Benadryl.

  16. This is my advice as someone who has suffered from anxiety and insomnia together. I was put on clonazepam/klonopin and I never felt good/great. Made my life worse. I was very mean and I hated myself on it. It is a very, very hard drug to get off of as well. I found last year after I finally weaned off of the klonopin that a herbal remedy called valerian root was my answer. A complete Godsend! You can find it at any store like Walmart or Target. I take 2 a night and I fall asleep much easier and I don’t lie awake anymore. Good luck. I know it sucks major ass.

  17. Hey fellow Gretchen! I personally don’t like taking medication, so I have a different solution when my mind is racing. I have a pillow with a speaker in it and I have a bunch of books on my iPod (i.e. Chronicles of Narnia, Les Mis., etc.) and I listen to the story. I’m not very good at clearing my mind, so instead I just listen with my eyes closed and then I fall asleep. One word of caution, though, if you’ve never heard the story it may keep you up because of how exciting it is! I hope that helps šŸ™‚

  18. Just try studying for your business degree. That’s what puts me to sleep most days šŸ˜€

  19. Boo!!! I haven’t been sleeping well either…not good! And being sleepy makes me hungry which is doubly not good! Hope you can get some rest, girl!

  20. I tried melatonin a few years ago (not sure why I ever stopped!). I can’t remember what the dosage was, but when I was taking a full pill I would wake up in the morning feeling like I was hit by a bus. I got one of those pill chopper things and cut the pill in half, and that seemed to work much better for me.

  21. I have struggled with anxiety-related insomnia most of my life, and the only things that really help are 1) cutting way, way, way back on caffeine (the only caffeine I drink is 2 cups of half-caf tea in the morning, then no more all day) and 2) at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. If I miss one of those things, I don’t sleep! I do all the other things they say, like not watching TV or using other electronic devices in the bedroom, and I go to bed about the same time every night, like a routine, and it’s very dark in my room. But the things that really helped were the practically-no-caf and the exercise.

    I wish you all the luck. Insomnia is horrible. And your baby/ book will be fine. šŸ™‚

  22. You might also want to look into Magnesium supplements. I remember reading about it in several of the Paleo-type diet/lifestyle books I read a while back. I also always try to do deep breaths and relax one body part at a time (kinda like corpse pose). Hope you find something that works!

  23. I have suffered from insomnia for a long time and during graduate school it seemed to reach a new and epic level. It was recommended to me that I change my “sleep hygiene”. Below is a link to UPenn’s Sleep Hygiene recommendations. I hope this helps!
    Insomnia Sleep hygiene tips:


  24. I usually do Sudoku to help me chill my brain out from the overthinking but also writing everything down in a journal really helps. Otherwise, I take melatonin or if I am really desperate, I will take a Tylenol/Excedrin-like PM. Good luck with the sleep!

  25. I take a melatonin each night., It definitely helps and you can pick it up anywhere- target, walgreens, grocery storee.
    Im sorry you are so stressed. My only advice would be to take a break, and take sometime just for yourself. šŸ™‚

  26. Right before my move home, I wasn’t sleeping – for like a week straight. I often had people suggest melatonin but I fear taking anything and not waking up in time the next morning. That week was definitely a hard one, but I often find a nightly routine of “winding down” to be the most beneficial for sleep – either light restorative yoga, reading a (not too thought provoking) book, or writing out how I’m feeling or what’s going on. Ending my night with each of those really improves my relaxation, sleep and general well-being. I’m working on bringing back that routine on a more regular basis than I have lately.

  27. Hi Gretchen! I’m probably going to be the lone dissenter on the melatonin but if you’re not sleeping because you’re anxious you probably want to treat the anxiety instead of forcing your body to sleep. I suffered from terrible anxiety for years…and finally got it better under control in the last 2 years… and when it gets bad and I can’t sleep my doctor gives me something for the anxiety and then I’m able to sleep. I’ve been really stressed at work and I went in and asked for Ambien because I’d been up so much and I got shot down. Anyway, long comment short…it’s best to treat the actual cause. After a few days of taking something to get my anxiety under control, I’m able to sleep and then I’m less anxious during the day because I’m getting sleep and then the whole sleep thing goes better at night and the anxiety kind of falls back.

  28. Hi there! Just started following your blog recently (saw a link on SparkPeople.com) and wanted to say congrats on your weight loss and your perseverance! I’m just starting off (5’7.5″ and 230.6 pounds) and just feel like I will never reach Onederland (congrats on getting there!). It’s frustrating, disappointing, emotional, and all that stuff that I’m sure you know about. So it’s nice to be able to read about someone else’s similar experiences and see that you’ve made it. šŸ™‚

    Re insomnia, Melatonin is great, but do not start out with more than 1mg. Seriously. Take it about 30 minutes before you go to bed and it will work wonderfully. Don’t take more b/c the more you take, ironically, the more restless your sleep will be. Anyway, just some two cents. šŸ™‚

    Good luck with the sleep issues, and congrats again on your latest weight loss!

    • Hi Suzana! Thank you so much! One thing I know for sure is that if I can get there (er, twice now, thanks to a nice regain I faced up to this summer), you DEFINITELY can. But hell yeah, it’s frustrating and emotional! Hahaha.

      I definitely will start out my melatonin dose loowwww. The awful sleep I had (or rather, didn’t have, haha) last night proved to me that it’s really time for me to try something.


  1. Progression (Weigh-in)|Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! - [...] friends! First off, thanks big time for all your suggestions re: my insomnia issues. I tried out a few…

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