Wake-Up Call: Sleep Medications Are the New Mother's Little Helper

Every mom has been there. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, panicked about stuff that can clearly wait until morning (Don’t forget that tomorrow is Pajama Day at preschool! Did I remember to pack the sippy cup in the lunch bag? Can I squeeze in a trip to the drycleaner before the morning train?) Before you know it an hour has ticked by and the sleep you desperately need is just not happening, leaving you zonked the next day and even less capable of tackling the never-ending to-do list. For many moms, sleeplessness is a chronic problem, which is exactly why they're turning to what The New York Times is calling a whole new breed of Mother’s Little Helper: sleep medication.
 
Drugs like Lunesta and Ambien and supplements like melatonin are on the rise in a big way, according to the article, as mothers desperately look for ways to catch those elusive zzz’s. "Most of the time I get stuck mulling over the logistics of how everything’s going to get done -- my brain really digs down the minutiae," sleepless mother and museum writer Cheryl Downs McCoy told the Times, while adding that she has consulted a sleep therapist and tried nearly every sleep drug available to get some much-needed rest.
 
It's estimated that one in five Americans doesn't get enough sleep, and nearly three in 10 women admit to using a sleep aid at least a few nights a week, according to a 2007 poll by the National Sleep Foundation. Eighty percent of participants said they were too stressed or worried to fall asleep. 
 
But the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to pop a pill to get the sleep you need. Here's help for getting some rest, from Michael Decker, Ph.D., associate professor at Georgia State University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
 
Make Sleep a Priority. "Sleep is not a disposable commodity," Decker explains. "Schedule it as you would dinner, exercise or anything else." Most people need a full eight hours to feel refreshed, and allowing yourself that time to sleep will help you feel better and be more productive in waking hours.
 
Ask for Help. Of course we women want to think we can do it all, but Decker says multiple studies have shown that a lack of social support is a big cause of insomnia, as women stay up at night worrying how they will get it all done. So do yourself a favor and ask your spouse, a trusted friend or relative to help you out with childcare or chores to relieve some of the pressure and help you rest.
 
Meditate. It might seem counter-intuitive to a busy mom to spend 10 minutes with her eyes closed, listening to calm music and thinking about nothing, but a few minutes of meditation at the end of the day can calm your mind and help you drift into a more peaceful sleep. Add deep breathing and yoga into your routine and you might be sleeping like a baby before you know it.
 
Turn off your screens. It’s endlessly tempting to check your Blackberry for one last email before bed, but screens -- everything from a computer monitor to the television -- can keep your mind active and potentially raise your anxiety level, making a restful night harder to find. So put the smartphone away.
 
Get your body clock in order. Our bodies are wired to see sunlight in the morning and darkness at night, so make sure it gets what it needs. Soak up the sunshine shortly after waking up -- or spend some time around some bright lights --and get ready for bed in a darkened room, without a television flashing.
 
Make sure it’s nothing medical
. Hormones play a big role in our sleep, so if your estrogen is off-balance or some other hormone is out of whack it could seriously affect your zzz’s. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t get the sleep you need, consult your doctor. Finding some sleep relief might be easier than you think.

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