Actor Debi Mazar spoke about sleeplessness this week at a press event for SILENOR, a new sleep drug. It's not that the star of Entourage, Younger on TV Land and Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel is too busy to sleep. She spends hours every night lying awake, staring at the clock and listening to the owls outside her bedroom window, wishing she would pass out already.
Val: Have you always had insomnia?
Debi: My insomnia started when I was young, in my 20s. I've always been a curious person -- a neurotic, basically. I overthink everything. I wake up in the middle of the night, get up to pee, or check my kids, go back to bed, and I watch the clock for hours. It's 4 a.m., 4:30, 5, 6, and then the alarm goes off and I've lost those two hours that I really wanted. My skin doesn't look as good and I have bags under my eyes. Thank GOD for makeup! I pray for patience to get through my day.
Val: How has insomnia affected your personal and professional lives?
Debi: Insomnia has tended to make me fuzzy. I have a hard time retaining information. I have a hard time memorizing my dialogue. I have a hard time being on time. It's made me depressed, and jittery and nervous. It's made me short-tempered with my children and my husband. It has made me fairly miserable by the middle of the day when I am just climbing walls, trying to find the energy or over-drinking coffee, which then leads to a coffee crash. It's just a spiral. If I don't get good rest, then I catch a cold, or I gain weight from not sleeping. After a bad night, in the morning I go to the kitchen say, "I think I'm going to have toast with butter and really delicious eggs," and then later I want pasta. You crave the carbs.
Val: What do you do to head off the insomnia?
Debi: I've tried everything. I'm taking my hot bath. I exercise. I do the obvious stuff like don't eat chocolate late at night and don't have too much coffee. I have a macchiato after lunch, and that's it for the rest of the day. With wine, I have a glass or two, and then stop before it gets too late. Alcohol is one of my insomnia triggers. I exercise and get to bed before midnight. I turn my devices off. And I try not to check my phone in the middle of the night.
Val: Has your insomnia gotten worse as you get older?
Debi: It's gotten worse because of my children. One walks to junior high school and I worry about that. The other is kind of a hypochondriac and has always got something wrong or some drama. Worrying about them keeps me up. I worry about my husband, too. He says, "I'm just going to the store, not Afghanistan!" I'm a worrier in general. And also watch way too much news, and that keeps me up, too. I start thinking, Oh my God! The world is coming to an end! ISIS!
Val: So what to do? You can't get rid of the kids or stop watching the news.
Debi: People don't think of insomnia as something to talk to their doctor about. They just have a cocktail or smoke pot, but that can go in the wrong direction. Pot can keep you up. Alcohol can wake you up because of the sugar. Pills can make you sleep too hard and feel crappy the next day. Sleep hygiene -- exercising, not drinking coffee or alcohol, going to bed and getting up on a set schedule -- is a wonderful option that people don't really know about. If people try the sleep hygiene strategies for a week and nothing works, they should go see a doctor and take insomnia as seriously as any other condition that risks their health.