By the end of November my insomnia had returned and only allowed 3-5 hours of sleep per night. It got so bad that around Thanksgiving I went back to my doctor and she prescribed Ambien. Desperate for something, anything, to let me get at least seven hours of sleep for the first time in weeks I happily popped those pills.
In fact, the ambien seemed to have less of an effect than the 5mg of melatonin I’d already been taking. Given the very scary list of side-effects I didn’t bother trying it a second night. Instead, I returned to my mix of melatonin and benadryl (taking a small dose of benadryl if I can’t get back to sleep after 2 or 3).
Still, I rarely broke six hours of actual sleep time with this routine.
On the morning I flew to NYC for business it was half that.
When I finally got to my airbnb in Hell’s Kitchen around 9pm and started looking around I noticed crumbs and food on the floor and other surfaces. It was a very small studio apartment, probably originally a large storage closet or something. The lack of space didn’t bother me, that’s what you expect in Manhattan, but the bed wasn’t made and there were other weird little pieces of trash here and there like a sticker with some filipino guy’s name on it stuck to the floor. There were lots of other little details that just didn’t seem right. Even after I tried to clean the place myself it was still too much to bear. I knew Sam would be coming the next night, and I was already dreading trying to explain away the excuses why I’d put us up in such a hovel for four days.
The studio had one large window right under a streetlight and not much of a curtain. Beyond that window, right in front of the apartment was a construction crew, jackhammering the pavement.
I decided to clean up a little more, armed with nothing more than water and a dwindling supply of paper napkins then take a shower, surely the noise would be over by then.
It wasn’t. Now the jackhammering was interrupted by some kind of heavy equipment scraping at the pavement. My camera doesn’t have zoom, by the way, that photo was taken with no cropping or anything, it was that close. It’s almost a longer walk for me to go to the bathroom at home at night than to walk over to those workers, not that I was about to at midnight.
After some deliberation I called AirBnB and asked to be moved, which is something I’ve never attempted before. Because it involves sending pictures of your “problems” with the rental and waiting for a response the whole ordeal took nearly four hours until I was relocated a few blocks away to the Hampton Inn, ironically for half the price of the airBnB rental and with much better everything.
Because of all this stress I wasn’t able to get my brain to calm down and get any sleep until about 5am. But Since the conference started at 7 I basically had to jump up and get on my way an hour later. The conference was only a few blocks away, but I had to bring all my stuff with me since I had nowhere booked to stay the night after.
Making it even more complicated was that Sam was flying in that day, so I needed to figure it all out before she arrived and find another hotel – and still attend and participate in the conference itself.
I ended up booking a room at Row NYC, again, for less than a night at the terrible AirBnb. At the same time I was going back and forth with the host of the AirBnB we’d originally reserved for the following weekend – asking if she could extend forward our reservation to Wednesday night instead of Friday.
Needless to say, after Sam arrived on Tuesday and we went across the street to Shake Shack for dinner I went to bed early and got the best sleep in weeks. For the first hour or so I actually wasn’t sleeping. Being that we were still in the heart of Manhattan there was still quite a bit of street noise and light even on the fifth floor. Then Sam mentioned she’d brought ear plugs and the last thing I remember is putting them in – BAM I was asleep for the next eight hours. It’s very strange how much you appreciate just getting an adequate amount of sleep once you know how bad it feels to not get it.
UPDATE: Many people have suggested that perhaps my insomnia is caused more by stress than a chemical imbalance. This trip proved to me that it’s a bit of both. As the days continued and, although I still checked my work email every day, the concerns of the office seemed farther and farther away, I noticed my sleep improving. I was wearing the ear plugs every night, as nowhere we stayed in New York was free of noise or light and still taking time-delayed melatonin. My conclusion, weeks later, is that my insomnia seems to rise and fall with the intensity of the pressure at the office. I still think I’m missing something as without melatonin supplements it has always taken me longer to fall asleep than normal people.