Trying New Medication for Insomnia

Last updated: December 2021

Hi, my name is Amanda, and I would consider myself a lifelong insomniac.

I’ve written before about how I’ve struggled with sleeping since childhood and how, over the last few years, I’d mostly found a good routine that didn’t involve sleep-specific medication.

Enter trauma, PTSD, and major sleep disturbances

In August, I lost a very much wanted and fought for pregnancy. It happened in the middle of the night, around 2 AM to be exact, and that night I never went back to sleep.

The following nights, I struggled to fall asleep, waking up every 30 minutes. I was afraid to be alone, afraid to be in the dark, and afraid not of sleeping, but of repeatedly waking up and wondering if the trauma had been real or only a nightmare.

Recognizing the impact on my sleep schedule

I reached out to my psychiatrist immediately to talk to her about this.

I recognized that the way this trauma response was working, my sleep schedule was going to be off for a long time. And the inability to sleep, in this season, was a huge detriment to both my physical and mental processing and healing of the experience I was still desperately trying to navigate.

During many other times of my life, I’d look at insomnia as just something I had to deal with. But this time, this season, I recognized that it wasn’t worth the additional detriment to my already fragile state.

My doctor recommended Clonazepam

My doctor asked me a lot of questions surrounding what nights looked and felt like to me.

We identified the fact that my anxiety was propelling my insomnia at an increasingly high speed, and she recommended I try the medication Clonazepam. While primarily an anti-epileptic medication, Clonazepam is often used to treat panic attacks by calming down the brain, and a sometimes much-needed side effect of the medication is drowsiness.1

I was disappointed when it didn’t work

The medication did help me fall asleep faster and without as much angst, but it didn’t prevent me from waking several times during the night, feeling disturbed and out of sorts and generally really awful. We even tried increasing the dose twice before moving to another recommendation – this was just not the right medication for me at this time.

Trying a different medication

Her next suggestion was Doxepin, an antidepressant used to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.2

I was so relieved the first night when I slept for 4 straight hours, but a week later, I was disappointed this was all I could garner in consistent sleep, even with medication. At our next appointment, my doctor increased the dose from 1 pill to 2, and I found that although I was still waking up periodically throughout the night, I could usually fall back asleep again.

Consistent use of the medication has shown there are some tolerable but less than desirable side effects – including dry mouth, increased appetite/hunger, and weight gain. But currently, I’m willing to deal with all of those things in the short term.

Giving myself grace and patience with this process

Insomnia was such a detriment to navigating my trauma that new medication was critical.

My plan, currently, is to only be on the medication short term – maybe 3-5 months, and then to taper off and find my way back to an “insomniac’s normal” – but I’m also working with my doctors, my therapists, and myself to navigate something extremely traumatic that I’ve never previously experienced. I’m trying to give myself grace and be patient with the process.

To be honest, it’s disappointing to need sleep medication after years of not using it, but I continue to remind myself that life with insomnia means continually adjusting for best results.

Is this something you can relate to?

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