Facebook is many things to me. Up until the election, it was mainly a fun distraction, a place to see sweet shots of my friends’ kids and adorable animal videos. More recently, I’ve been acting as town crier, sharing the latest outrageous act by the new administration and rallying the troops to battle against it. But first and foremost, it has been the place where I’ve found my tribes.
First, I found groups for autism parents, people who “got” what I was experiencing – the day-to-day joys and challenges of raising a child on the spectrum. Several years later, I found another tribe: writers. These wonderful, talented women share their work and support one another. Through them, I met my third tribe: insomniacs. We found each other in the predawn hours, posting and chatting with kindred spirits in the dark, our rooms illuminated only by the light of our phones.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to look at screens after I went to bed. I had been schooled in the ways of good sleep hygiene: no TV in the bedroom; go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day in an effort to reset my body clock; and, with the advent of phones and tablets, no screens in bed. (The blue light they emit interferes with our circadian rhythm and the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin). But I found such comfort in locating friends across the country who were similarly suffering – misery really does love company – I ignored the warnings.
And so one night, it dawned on me to start a Facebook group, a small band of predawn warriors to commiserate about terrible sleep cycles if not total lack of sleep, offer virtual hugs and share articles, sleep tips and, yes, the occasional cat video to keep us laughing instead of crying.Seriously, at this point I don’t even care if it’s a major, hard-hitting drug. I just don’t want to go through the tortuous process of trying to sleep every night.
It’s a secret group, due to the fact that we share some very personal things, including medications we’ve tried to alleviate the suffering – Ambien and Trazodone among them. (Unfortunately, there’s still stigma attached to taking drugs.) And while some are afraid to try them, there are comments like this: “Seriously, at this point I don’t even care if it’s a major, hard-hitting drug. I just don’t want to go through the tortuous process of trying to sleep every night.” On the flip side, there are meds that are the culprits. One member says the Prednisone she takes for her Crohn’s Disease is what keeps her up nights.
We also share natural methods. When I asked for advice as to how much melatonin to try, a helpful chorus chimed in. I also learned through the group that L-tryptophan, the stuff in turkey that makes you sleepy, is back on the market after a bad batch made people sick in 1989 and it was swept from the shelves. We also share new products, no matter how wacky they might appear. The latest: tinted glasses that allegedly relax your eyes.
Since we’re all past 40, many of us are enduring the trials of menopause and the havoc it wreaks on our systems. Hot flashes leave some of us drenched in sweat and wide awake. Those who have endured this and come out the other side offer suggestions, ranging from herbal remedies like black cohosh to moisture-wicking nightwear.
One recent post: “You guys. I’m in hot flash hell. I wonder how my new dog is going to like insomnia. I hope he can sleep through it!” She received words of encouragement, with one friend commenting that her dog can sleep through anything but thunder and sirens and another writing that she has a couple who wander with her while another two sleep through it.
And then there are the outside forces at play: Once member wrote about the “nasty neighbors who blast music at three a.m. and the drunk in-law who butt dials us as midnight.”
For a while, the group wasn’t all that active; I assumed each of us was trying to practice good sleep hygiene by putting away our phones. But these days, the intense political climate is drawing me back to posting to my friends at four a.m. My most recent status update to the group: “My insomnia is getting worse by the day. Fuck you, Trump and Bannon.” Another member noted the bigger picture: “Insomnia is becoming a national epidemic, if my FB feed is any indication.”
There are still the funny memes, including one showing Winnie the Pooh dancing up a storm with the banner, “My brain at 3 a.m.” But given the current state of affairs, not to mention the very nature of insomnia, I think this group is going to be around for a long time. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I start adding members.