Forever Counting Sheep

Hi, my name is Amy, and I am an insomniac. Now, I’m not talking about occasional sleeplessness that can be overcome by an over-the counter or herbal remedy; mine is the chronic, never-sleep-a-wink-without-a-prescription kind of insomnia.

For more than thirty years I have taken prescription medication to induce sleep, but insomnia was a problem long before that. My dad and I regularly stayed up until the wee hours watching TV together – mostly prizefights and Dirty Harry movies — because we both had trouble catching zzzz’s.

Somehow I muddled through college, but by the time I married and settled down in the early 80’s I hit the proverbial wall and started taking prescription meds to catch a break. Since then I have tried it all: pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies, sleep/hypnotherapy recordings, biofeedback, acupuncture, massage, ambient sounds of the surf, and I even downloaded a program developed for NASA to help astronauts sleep in space.

Seven years ago I finally caved and did a sleep study. It was delightful. As if I don’t have a hard enough time falling – and staying – asleep, I had to do it in front of a bunch of strangers with electrodes stuck to my body. It’s tough to relax when you know people are watching your brainwaves.

The following week I met with the sleep specialist to discuss my test results. She told me it had taken me more than an hour to fall asleep (even with an Ambien in my bloodstream) and that I had awoken ten times in the night. Diagnosis: chronic insomnia and restless leg syndrome. DUH. Did she need to graduate from medical school to tell me that?

Since then, I’ve been taking Zolpidem ER (generic Ambien), which I alternate with regular Zolpidem to trick my brain. [When I first started taking Ambien, my kids liked to watch the spectacle after I’d taken my pill. At first I saw flying saucers and shadow people in my bedroom, but that soon passed into nighttime eating binges. Cheez-it cracker crumbs all over the bed is not very attractive. Now the thrill is gone and I just get tired.] If I take it to late in the evening, I am a zombie for much of the next day.

Sometimes I lie in bed for two hours before I drift off, and sometimes I never really go to sleep at all. For much of my adult life I have been tired and listless. My fun little “Heidi” personality has fallen by the wayside and I want it bad. A little laughter and joy in my life would be fine, too. It was time to call in the heavy artillery, the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Mayo is no fly-by-night operation, that’s obvious. I was informed that I could only consult with one of their specialists if I did a new sleep study. Oh joy! Still, I respect them for their professional standards. I respected them even more when I received a package in the mail a few days ago containing a sleep journal and a wrist actigraph, which I am to wear 24/7 for the two week leading up to my appointment.

Wrist actigraph

Wrist actigraph

The device will record my movements and document my sleep patterns, and the data will be helpful in the evaluation of circadian rhythm sleep disorders. In a nutshell, this little wristwatch is going to tell my doctor when happens in my brain over time, rather than just when I overnight at the clinic.

This should be interesting!

About two hours ago I took my pill and strapped on my wrist calculator, so I’d better focus on falling asleep. Night all, and may the zzzz’s be ever in your favor.

Until next time,


P.S. Every Wednesday I will be sharing wellness and anti-aging tips in hopes of recapturing my youth, and my insomnia chronicles will be well represented. I’m pretty transparent, so feel free to ask questions.







Getting enough sleep is a huge problem in America. It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity. The cumulative long-term effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on direct medical costs associated with doctor visits, hospital services, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness, independent of alcohol effects.

So what are the different types of insomnia and what causes them?


Insomnia (in-SOM-ne-ah) is a common condition in which you have trouble falling or staying asleep. This condition can range from mild to severe, depending on how often it occurs and for how long.

Insomnia can be chronic (ongoing) or acute (short-term). Chronic insomnia means having symptoms at least 3 nights a week for more than a month. Acute insomnia lasts for less time. What’s the term for someone who has symptoms every night for thirty years? A MESS!

Some people who have insomnia may have trouble falling asleep. Other people may fall asleep easily but wake up too soon. Others may have trouble with both falling asleep and staying asleep. Yep, that’s me.

As a result, insomnia may cause you to get too little sleep or have poor-quality sleep. You may not feel refreshed when you wake up.


More than eight out of ten people who have insomnia are believed to have secondary insomnia. Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and substances can cause secondary insomnia. A number of other conditions also can cause insomnia, such as:

  • Conditions that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and headache disorders
  • Conditions that make it hard to breathe, such as asthma and heart failure
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, such as heartburn
  • Stroke
  • Sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep-related breathing problems
  • Menopause and hot flashes

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. It can be either acute, lasting one to several nights, or chronic, even lasting months to years. When insomnia persists for longer than a month, it is considered chronic. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30-40 percent of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year, and about 10-15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia.

Left untreated, insomnia is linked to increased illness or morbidity. There is a wealth of research indicating that people with chronic insomnia have poorer overall health, more work absenteeism, and a higher incidence of depression.

When we get less sleep (even one hour less) than we need each night, we develop a “sleep debt.” If the sleep debt becomes too great, it can lead to problem sleepiness – sleepiness that occurs when you should be awake and alert, that interferes with daily routine and activities, and reduces your ability to function. Even if you do not feel sleepy, the sleep debt can have a powerful negative effect on your daytime performance, thinking, and mood, and cause you to fall asleep at inappropriate and even dangerous times.


Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Some research suggests that certain social factors, such as being unemployed or divorced, are related to poor sleep and increase the risk of insomnia in women. Also, insomnia tends to increase with age.


Sometimes perimenopausal (the time leading up to menopause) women have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep; hot flashes and night sweats often can disturb sleep. Pregnancy also can affect how well a woman sleeps.




With so many drug companies competing to promote their sleep medications, imagine how many people must be relying on them. My guest today is Billy Wilkins. Billy is the developer of the ‘Wesley Sleep Program,’ a CD that helps people find real rest using sleep sounds and practical Bible verses. Wilkins, a founding member of the internationally-loved and Grammy award-winning Christian rock band, Third Day, stopped traveling with the band after two years to continue his life-long desire to be an educator. Although he has been involved with Third Day projects as recently as 2004 and 2007, he is currently a studio and church musician in his spare time, while teaching Microeconomics and Management classes full time near Atlanta, Georgia.”


Before we get started, I’d like you to hear some testimonials about the Wesley Sleep Program (play commercial)


  1. You were an original member of the band, Third Day. Could you tell us briefly how the band got together?
  2. Why did you leave the band?
  3. What is the “Wesley Sleep Program?”
  4. How did you come up with the idea for the “Wesley Sleep Program?”
  5. From where did the name “Wesley?
  6. Is the “Wesley Sleep Program” designed for Christians only?
  7. What does the Bible have to say about sleep?
  8. Is the “Wesley Sleep Program” designed only for those with insomnia?
  9. What type of feedback have you received about the program?
  10. Who has been buying the “Wesley Sleep Program?”
  11. How can people find out more about the Wesley Sleep Program?


What can I do to sleep better?

  • Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Do not take naps after 3 p.m.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day or at night.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise during the day–make sure you exercise at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Make sure you eat dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a “white noise” machine to cover up the sounds.
  • Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes or don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not too active until you feel sleepy. Then try going back to bed.
  • If you lay awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.




Thanks so much for joining me today, Billy.


Billy has agreed to give away a free copy of the Wesley Sleep Program to a lucky listener. ….


Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.

Thomas Dekker




Posted in Insomnia Chronicles, Wellness Wednesday and tagged , , .

One Comment

  1. The blog I linked above is just one of a few I post on. It has a link to my business blog.

    As for insomnia… what’s up with that?

    I’ve never suffered for a long period like you have. I suspect that’s stuff the specialists are missing in their list of questions and observations. I’m not one of those expert specialists… but, I bet… given the time and energy, I could help you. I’ll leave it at that.

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