When Eli, my fourth child, was around 4 or 5 months old, I began to have problems sleeping. More than the usual sleeping problems that come with a new baby. I would wake-up with a jolt, sit straight-up like a Jack-in-the box and gasp. I’m sure there’s a term for this, but that’s the description. My dreams were restless, not restful and I found myself hoping I wouldn’t dream every night. I knew something was wrong, I knew I was only on a hill… going down.
I began to realize a pattern in the dreams. They were all about me forgetting something: like a child. I would be at the park, watching a friend’s son or daughter. I’d load my kids in the car and drive off. Later, when the mom came to get her child, I wouldn’t know where she was and realize I had left her at the park. And feel awful.
Or I would leave Eli, in his baby carrier, on top of the car…. Like my dad would leave his scriptures on his way to church. Then I would drive off and some passerby would honk wildly and tell me there was a baby on top of the car! I would go mad wondering how in the world I had forgotten to put Eli inside the car!?
I had variations of these scenarios for a couple of weeks- it began to be a real problem. After reflecting on what was happening, I realized that I had….. ANXIETY. I guess having four children, and lack of sleep with the baby, had pushed me over the edge and started to affect my mental health. There were so many things to remember to do, so many things to be responsible for, so much to forget, four little children to protect and nurture….. My sleep-deprived brain was not handling it too well, and this came out in my dreams. There was also an aspect of social embarrassment to it- because many of my dreams would involve disappointing others and me being very embarrassed.
I was surprised to know that anxiety was affecting me in a very real way. Most people think I am pretty laid back… maybe too much. But thinking back to my childhood, I realized I have some innate personality traits that would lead to these feelings.
I remembered I used to organize my clothes in my closet. I would put up tags: long sleeve section, short sleeve, skirts, pants, sweaters, etc. All my closets were organized and decorated. My room was almost always clean. I had read that classical music would help your brain while sleeping, so I tried sleeping to Mozart for several months. I always had to go to the bathroom, the very last minute before I went to bed. If I had gone 20 minutes before, I would still go. I had to kiss my mom and dad goodnight every single night, right before I went downstairs to my room. I had to check all the entry doors in my house, the stove and even the rarely opened basement doors to make sure everything was safe, every night. I was the seatbelt Naziz. Each time the family climbed into the car, I would make sure everybody had their seatbelt on. I felt strongly that these things needed to be done, to protect the family, and if I didn’t do them, no one would. And then it would be my fault if something happened. At the time, I didn’t know I was being obsessive complulsive. I just thought I was doing what was sensible.
A couple of things helped me stop: My sister. She was the exact opposite. Very messy. Stayed up late, slept in late, clothes all over, nothing organized, always late, very relaxed… never knew if the basement door was locked at night. I had to share a room with her… and through many fights and extreme frustration, she mellowed me out. She would tell me I didn’t need to go to the bathroom- that I would be fine. And I was.
Also, I realized one day that I didn’t really need to go through my nightly lockdown routine. I was tired of it and something in the back of my pragmatic mind, told me it wasn’t quite right to be so emphatic about it. (My parents never caught on to my behavior, and thus were not able to steer me right) So I stopped. But it wasn’t easy- I really had to talk myself out of it. I told myself- so what? Let the burglar come! I’m not going to worry about it. And if I had climbed into bed and didn’t check the stove… so what! I would make myself stay in bed. THE HOUSE WILL NOT BURN DOWN. In the car, I’d limit myself to only one reminder (instead of 15) to put on seatbelts, and then I let it drop. I didn’t want to be the nazi anymore. And eventually, those compulsive, anxiety-ridden actions began to sluff off. I knew I didn’t have to do all that craziness.
I still kissed my parents goodnight.
But this behavior all stopped by the time I was about 10 or 11. Since then, I don’t remember having any other bouts of anxiety. So it had been a long time.
The dreams were more unique. I couldn’t just say: stop dreaming! I didn’t see a way I could control them. I knew I had to get more sleep, so that’s what I tried to do.
As a rule, I stay away from chemical drugs and always try a more natural approach first. A friend of mine recommended taking chamomile tea before bed. I looked into it and decided to try it. I have great faith in herbal teas.
So every night, about an hour before I would fall asleep, I brewed up some chamomile tea and drank it straight and strong, after it had cooled down.
It worked. I stopped bolting up like a marionette doll. I began to fall asleep easier and faster and soon I felt sleep was once again, a restful activity.
Recently, my son was having a hard time sleeping because he had read a series of books that were scarier than he had anticipated (the Skeleton Creek series- gotta check them out). He couldn’t sleep for three days straight. Seriously. He was up in our room at all hours of the night. The fourth and fifth night I gave him chamomile tea and he slept sweetly. He’s a believer.
But don’t take our word for it. There have been a few studies performed on the calming effects of chamomile tea, and more to come:
In general, there aren’t many great studies on natural products. Why? There’s no money in them. Drug companies want a unique, complicated pill they can make in a lab and exactly control so they can then patent it and make millions. You can’t patent chamomile.
Chamomile has helped me- so I wanted to share this with you. Mine was a case of mild anxiety, but I believe it would have blossomed like a cancer if I hadn’t done something about it. We have to take these things seriously, and nip them in the bud… chop them off if they’ve flowered.
Here’s a little more info about chamomile: Chamomile is well-renowned for its tranquilizer effects and, as such, it is often used to help combat anxiety and insomnia. The constituent apigenin may be the active ingredient responsible for chamomile’s anti-anxiety and sedative powers. In addition, chamomile tea can promote a real relaxing effect after a hectic day.
One of the most prized benefits of chamomile is as a digestive aid and carminative. It is considered very useful for managing many gastrointestinal complaints such as colic, indigestion, gastritis, diarrhea, and peptic ulcers.