Is It Truly Surprising That Sleeping Pills Are ‘Mother’s Little Helper?’

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The New York Times wrote a piece this weekend, called “Sleep Medication: Mother’s New Little Helper,” about stressed out moms popping Ambien and other sleeping pills just to get a good night’s sleep. Included in the article were a series of women, all moms, who talked about what keeps them up at night (everything from “Do Carrie’s dance shoes still fit?” to “Did I send in the permission slip by deadline?”) and their need to self-medicate.

Not to be all cynical but, uh, this is news to us? Any mom can tell you about sleepless nights. Hell, you don’t even need to have a baby to be sleep-deprived; pregnancy alone will usually do the trick (remember having to pee 25 times a night in those final months?). If you ask me, women in general are stressed out trying to balance demanding careers with social/ family life. Add children into the equation and, well, who has time to sleep? Actually, forget time – who has peace of mind to sleep?

And I think that’s precisely the point of this article. We’re all stressed about the big things in life – health and money, for example – but it’s often the little things that leave us wide-eyed at night, minds racing and hearts palpitating. One single mother interviewed in the piece, Ana Maria Alessi, had this to say:

“So much of what drives it [the 3 a.m. wake-up] is our need for control. We feel like it’s our job to anticipate any variant on The Day, much less The Life — If it rains will I need to change my schedule so I can drop off my kid and he doesn’t need to ride his bike in a downpour? We try to ward off anything that can interfere with the Good Day.”

I couldn’t agree more! When I’m spinning out of control at 2 a.m., it usually comes down to wondering if we have non-expired cream cheese in the fridge for my kid’s lunch, or if I RSVP-ed to his classmate’s birthday party invitation and, if so, will my little one be up from his nap early enough for us to all get out the door in time? As if any of this matters! (Though, at 2 a.m., it feels like a life-or-death dilemma.)

I also loved this line from novelist Meg Wolitzer:

“We’re supposed to be these crazed people all day and then suddenly become Buddhists at night.”

So, so true!

Anyway, the piece is about Ambien, and the Times writer quotes a study by the National Sleep Foundation claiming that nearly 3 in 10 American women admit to using some kind of sleep aid at least a few nights a week. Which brings me back to my original point: why does this surprise us?

Being a mom is hard work, and it’s not like we have some switch that we can magically shut off at night to make our daily stresses disappear. In fact, I think we’re all so busy running around like maniacs all day that nighttime is the only time we have to really breathe and take in our days/lives, which just leads to more stress.

Who among us hasn’t watched the clock go from 1 a.m. to 2:03 a.m. to 4:17 a.m. to the sound of shuffling through the monitor at 5 a.m. (at that point, what’s the point of even trying)? And who hasn’t, on occasion, popped a little something on these torturous nights?

Moms moms I know have (be it Ambien, Tylenol PM, melatonin – or simply smoking an old-fashioned joint). And the few who haven’t only decided against it for fear of not waking up – or being alert enough – to handle a potential emergency with the kids.

Most women interviewed for the article were also quick to point out that their husbands managed to sleep like logs. One even admitted that 3 a.m. wake-up times aren’t all bad because, as she explains, “It’s the only time in a 24-hour period when no one needs me or wants me or expects me to do something. Despite the inconvenience, it’s a time that’s blissfully mine.”

These are moments that no spa service could ever emulate no matter how hard they tried. Sad, but true.

(Photo: Pixland)