Posted by: drrozkaplan | June 20, 2010


The last week I have been suffering from insomnia.  I used to have sleep problems back in my twenties, but these days this is very unusual for me.  And it is a very disconcerting and difficult affliction, because it feeds on itself.  Each night that  I can’t fall asleep, or I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, it makes the next night a bigger problem, because I have anticipatory anxiety.  Before I even try to relax, I think I won’t be able to and it becomes a vicious cycle.  Sound familiar?  I have tried everything:  relaxation techniques, changing the temperature and light level in the bedroom, using earplugs to block out sound- and today I’m going to try exhausting myself with aerobic exercise.  One night I took an Ambien, but I don’t want to get into that, not because it’s ‘addictive’, but because I used to sleep without chemical help, and I think going to the root of the problem is much more effective.  So, now I am examining the roots.

I tried blaming my husband’s snoring at first.  But it’s not that bad, and I don’t think it’s really any different than when I was sleeping fine.  By the way, do any of you women with husbands over 40 have one who doesn’t snore?  I’d really like to know, because as far as I can tell, this is a creature that does not exist.

I checked out my own stuff- am I upset about anything in particular?  Work? No, it’s busy and sometimes crazy, but not upsetting.  My family?  No, everyone is healthy and productive.  My marriage?  No, that’s good.  Friends?  No, also good.  My book?  No, all systems are go, work done.

Could it be, could it possibly, possibly be, that since the school year ended, I have the sense of living in a 3-ring circus?  Could that be it??????  I think I have hit the nail on the head.

My son came home from college a few weeks ago, upsetting the new balance we struck during the school year.  As much as he is a delightful young man, intelligent and funny, he can also be a bit like a hurricane, a powerful personality and presence, tossing everyone in his wake, and leaving objects strewn everywhere he goes.  On the way home from Wesleyan in the car, we set up ground rules, defining his summer at home as the Young Adult Living Experience, or YALE, which he pronounces “yahlay”, wanting nothing to do with ‘that university’.  The Young Adult Living Experience requires that he respect communal space, keep his stuff in his own room, do his own laundry, share the old Volvo wagon equitably with his sister, and be a productive member of the household, among other things.  While he has no curfew, we must know where he will be and whether he will be coming home to sleep, and he must respect others’ sleeping hours.  He works during the week, clearing trail, landscaping and doing odd jobs, so during the week, he tends to go to bed at fairly reasonable hours, but the weekends are another story.

My daughter finished her junior year in high school a week or so ago and joined YALE as a precollege member.  She has a curfew, but most of the other rules apply to her.  She is in a short hiatus before her summer program starts.  She goes to an alternative school, and it demands that all rising seniors attend a month-long program in the mornings to work on ‘senior work’- work that demonstrates their readiness to graduate and go out into the world-, and  to work on college applications.  She will then be going to an intensive art program to work on her fashion and film portfolio for a month.  Until then, she is free to do as she wishes for 10 days.  She works off and on, babysitting, making videos for events, and helping out a local designer/tailor.

These older adolescents are a different challenge than children or younger teens.  They drive, they work, they manage many of their own issues, and they have their own money, so it often looks like they don’t need much.  But they do.  And even when they follow all the rules, at least on the surface, they can wreak havoc in a household.  That’s why, despite setting limits, I feel like I live in a circus.

Here’s some examples.  Last week, my daughter accidentally took one of my husband’s prostate pills instead of her antibiotic.  Honest mistake- they looked similar.  She just didn’t read the bottle.  Until afterwards.  Then she panicked and called me at work.  No harm, but it’s hard not to worry that she will make a more dangerous mistake.  Same day, my son called me from the local ER asking when his last tetanus shot was.  He had managed to put the scythe into his leg muscle while cutting trail. He tends to be accident prone, and a little too cavalier about it.   Again, this worries me.   Yesterday he asked me to get him calamine lotion.

“Why?”, I asked.

“A little poison ivy.”

“Let me see.”

It’s all over him.  Bad.  He’s on oral steroids now.

Today my husband and I were supposed to participate in the ‘Ride Freedom Valley’ bike extravaganza.  He went.  I didn’t.  Because I didn’t sleep last night.  I actually fell asleep but woke up at around 12:30 when my son and his girlfriend came in.  The door opened.  The dog barked.  There was clomping up and down the stairs and there were doors slamming.  I know he doesn’t MEAN to clomp and slam.  That’s just my son.  He can’t help it.  He’s loud.  The activity went on for a good couple hours, then finally there was quiet.  But I was up.  And I was convinced that sleep was impossible and now my heart was racing and I could hear my husband’s every breath and I couldn’t get comfortable.  I lay awake for another two hours.

At 4:30 I got up to change the thermostat.  It was freezing in the house.  Someone had turned it down to 60 degrees.  I had no idea who.  I heard voices in my daughter’s room.  Male voices.  She is between boyfriends, and has many male friends so I wasn’t shocked.  In fact  she had asked me if her best friend, a boy, could sleep at our house.  But this was more than one male voice.  I opened her door.  She was dressed in the same clothes from the day before, and her friend, along with another boy from school, were sitting on her floor, as though it was the middle of the day, looking at something on an IPad.

“What are you doing?”  I asked, incredulous.

“Oh, Connor came over after work and we’ve been hanging out,” she said, nonchalantly.  Connor works the late shift at the local grocery store, so he would have gotten to our house after 11.  I have always told my kids that their friends are welcome at our home, but this was new:  ‘hanging out’ at 4:30 am?  In her room?  I guess I never explicitly said what time friends needed to leave if they weren’t sleeping over, so she hadn’t exactly broken a rule… but on the other hand, what the hell????

I think we will be sitting down tonight and redefining the terms of the Young Adult Living Experience.  I realize they need to learn from their mistakes, but I can express my concern that they need to pay attention.  As for their night-time activities, it’s a good thing college dorms exist, because all of this works much better in a dorm than in my home. But right now, they are living in my home, and they will have to adjust, not me.  Meanwhile, I hope my sleep has not been permanently impaired by this.

So now that I have found the root of the problem, will I be able to sleep again? I sure hope so.  I know the graying of my hair is not reversible, but  at least that can be covered with a good dye job.



  1. Kids home from college can certainly disrupt sleep! My parents had comfortably gotten used to their empty nest when my siblings and I, as well as my brother-in-law “descended” for Thanksgiving– and all spent the night. I know they loved having us all in the same place for the first time in almost 2 years, but I think if we had stayed another night, they would have checked into a hotel! Hope you’re sleeping better now!


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