How Eric changed the way he responded to insomnia, stopped battling with his mind, and improved his sleep for the long term (#44)

Listen to the podcast episode (audio only)

Like many people with chronic insomnia, Eric found that the more he tried to make sleep happen, the more difficult it became. Although he didn’t have any real issues falling asleep, he would regularly wake during the night and find it hard to fall back to sleep. His mind would start racing and he would experience a lot of anxiety.

Eric found himself getting obsessed with sleep. He was thinking about it all the time and no matter how hard he tried to relax and no matter what he tried, things just didn’t improve.

When we started working together, one of the first changes Eric made was to reduce the amount of time he allotted for sleep to more closely match the amount of sleep he was getting at the time. This allowed him to rediscover the sensation of sleepiness rather than fatigue and that proved to be both reassuring and motivating.

Eric also started to respond to nighttime wakefulness in a more workable way. Instead of tossing and turning all night, trying to make sleep happen and trying to relax, he decided to draw instead. This helped make wakefulness a bit more pleasant and helped train his brain that wakefulness wasn’t a threat that it needed to be alert at night to protect him from.

Finally, Eric committed to doing things that mattered to him — to live the kind of life he wanted to live — independently of sleep.

Eric experienced rapid improvements in his sleep as he changed his response to insomnia and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that come with it. He no longer takes sleeping pills and today, more than one-and-a-half years after we worked together, Eric is no longer engaged in a daily (and nightly) battle with his mind and he continues to sleep well.

Click here for a full transcript of this episode.

Martin Reed:
Welcome to the Insomnia Coach Podcast. My name is Martin Reed. I believe that by changing how we respond to insomnia and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that come with it, we can move away from struggling with insomnia and toward living the life we want to live.

Martin Reed:
The content of this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, disorder, or medical condition. It should never replace any advice given to you by your physician or any other licensed healthcare provider. Insomnia Coach LLC offers coaching services only and does not provide therapy, counseling, medical advice, or medical treatment. The statements and opinions expressed by guests are their own and are not necessarily endorsed by Insomnia Coach LLC. All content is provided “as is” and without warranties, either express or implied.

Martin Reed:
So, Eric, thank you so much for taking the time out for your day to come onto the podcast.

Eric Myers:
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Martin Reed:
It’s great to have you on. I’m really looking forward to everything that we are going to end up talking about today. So let’s just start right at the beginning. Can you tell us a little bit more about when your sleep problems first began and what you think may have initially triggered that sleep disruption?

Eric Myers:
It was the spring of 2020, so this is when the beginning of the COVID hysteria and stuff. And I think I had some health anxiety. I tried not to get caught up in all that stuff, but I think, I don’t know, I have a tendency to be a little bit of a hypochondriac anyway, so I probably didn’t help. I remember it was starting to interfere with my sleep. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I remember talking to my doctor about it, and at some point I started focusing more on the sleep, I guess, because I just was like, “Ah, I got to get some sleep. This is ridiculous.” And once I started worrying about that all the time, then it just got worse. And the harder I tried, the worse I got. It seems like once it started going down that path, just like it’s a snowball effect or something, it just gets worse the harder you try.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. So do you feel it was all that kind of stress, worry, anxiety related to the pandemic that triggered that initial sleep disruption?

Eric Myers:
Yeah. I mean, something like that. I mean, I remember someone that I knew had recently passed away suddenly and I think I had that on my mind too. But I think that was more or less how it got started.

Martin Reed:
And so, what was that sleep disruption for you? Was it just at a basic level? Was it difficulty falling asleep or was it kind of staying asleep once you first fell asleep? Or maybe it was a bit of both of those things?

Eric Myers:
I think I was okay with falling asleep, but I would always wake up in the middle of the night and then that’s when it would start to get weird. I think later on, maybe it was a little of both, but initially it was more an issue with sleep maintenance.

Martin Reed:
So when you fell asleep and you woke up and then you found it hard to fall back to sleep, why do you think that that was the case, was there loads of stuff just racing through your mind or did it just seem to be like no obvious course what was going on?

Eric Myers:
Yeah, I remember just a lot of stuff in my mind and just remember feeling weird because, like I said, it was kind of a hypochondriac. And so anything, if I just felt sick at all, I would just start imagining things and I’m like, I don’t know, what’s wrong with me? And then I remember getting the chills for some reason and then just having this weird breathing issue or something, just weird stuff like that. But I think I was just having anxiety like anxiety attack, and then that’s when I would just be up for sometimes hours just trying to relax.

Martin Reed:
And so, what about your days, were you finding that there was any kind of knock on effect on your days related to all this struggle with sleep and all that wakefulness during the night?

Eric Myers:
Yeah, once it became an ongoing issue, I mean, in some ways, it seems like the days were worse than the nights because I’d just be thinking about it all the time, I became obsessed with it, which I think it happens to people with chronic, and some, you become kind of OCD about all this stuff. This is something that you talk about a lot is the way you react to insomnia really has a big effect on whether or not it becomes a chronic problem, and I definitely didn’t respond well to it.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. So I’m guessing that every other human being on the planet, you’ve experienced some difficult nights from time to time before this longer term struggle with sleep. When you were going through this, when you first experienced that sleep disruption, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is at first you’re just like, “Well, this probably the reason why I’m struggling is because everything is going on right now, normal, this has happened before.” But when did you get to that point where you started to think, why is this sticking around? This is different this time around, there’s something unique or there’s something this feels different. Why is this sleep issue sticking around?” When did that happen and why do you think that was?

Eric Myers:
Yeah. For some reason I just became really focused on it and it seemed like the more attention that I gave to it then the worse it got. If I would’ve just blown it off and didn’t worry about it, I probably would’ve been fine. I really became determined to overcome this, and then the harder I tried, the worst it got.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. Was it just after those first couple of nights that you started to really get more concerned and look for solutions? I’m just curious how long this sleep disruption was going on for before you figured out, “Well, there’s something a little bit different going on this time around,” and that’s when all that extra attention, all that extra focus happened.

Eric Myers:
Maybe a couple weeks, something like that. I don’t know. Because at that time, I really didn’t know much about sleep, so I remember thinking like what happens, can this just keep going on until I just collapse or something, and I didn’t know what to expect. So I don’t know, I just worried about it a lot, which just made it worse, of course.

Martin Reed:
I’m curious to hear what kind of things you’d tried in response. So you know the sleep issue stuck around for a couple of weeks and that’s when we start to think, “Okay, we got to fix this problem now.” So we are completely understandably going to put more attention on our sleep. Those of us who have made this journey and have put the insomnia behind us can recognize that it is a lot of that attention that we gives insomnia is often what feeds it, what gives it that oxygen that it needs to survive. But when we’re caught up in a struggle, when we’re struggling with something, it’s understandable, we want to fix it. And then part of that fixing process is usually attention and effort, but unfortunately sleep just doesn’t tend to respond well to those things. So I’m just curious to hear what kind of things you tried initially after those couple of weeks. What kind of techniques or things did you try to improve your situation?

Eric Myers:
Yeah. I think I tried the same stuff that everybody probably tries, tea, like the Sleepytime tea and melatonin. Because people like friends, family, coworkers, everybody is trying to give me advice and help, but they don’t really know what to do. So I’m just trying everything that everybody’s like, “Oh well, yeah, melatonin, that worked for me,” or something. Or essential oils, that was another thing that I tried that like you put on your skin or something, it was supposed to relax you. They got something for everything. And I started seeing a therapist too at one point just for treating anxiety, but just wasn’t what I needed, I guess.

Martin Reed:
I’m curious to hear if you found when you tried all these things when people are telling you, “Oh, this worked for me, try this,” or maybe you’re looking on Dr. Google and Google is suggesting that, “Oh, try this.” And then when those things don’t work, a lot of the time they can feed that worry and that anxiety and that fear, then you start to perhaps think that there is something really uniquely wrong with your sleep. Because after all, if all these things are working for other people, why aren’t they working for me? Is that something you experience?

Eric Myers:
Oh yeah. The level of worry and anxiety about this was just unbelievable. I was just imagining what’s going to happen to me and be so sleep deprived that I won’t even be able to function. I don’t know. I just really was starting to go off the deep end, all that.

Martin Reed:
I believe that before we started working together, did end up getting prescribed some sleeping pills or sleep supplements, something like that? What was that experience? Did you find that helpful even if only in the short term?

Eric Myers:
Yeah. Okay. So my doctor gave me a prescription for Trazodone, which is a really popular medication for sleep. I remember, at first, I was trying to avoid drugs because I didn’t want to go down that road. But eventually, I mean, I just got so desperate. I started with the over the counter stuff like Zzzquil and stuff, which actually helped for a little while. But once I started having issues again, then like, “Well, now what do I do?” So then I broke down and started taking the Trazodone, but even that would only helped temporarily.

Martin Reed:
I think you mentioned one of the pitfalls that we can experience when we take medication or supplements or rely on anything external to our own sleep mechanisms, so to speak, is that we can experience that kind of short-term relief, which is great, and for many people, it can be really helpful. But then if we ever experience a difficult night when we are using that thing, that external thing, then it can generate this kind of return, that flood of all that worry and stress and anxiety that, “Oh, I took that thing that was helping and now that’s not even working.” And it can just create its own fresh set of problems, which can be a huge part of the frustration.

Eric Myers:
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. I mean, you get to a point where, “Well, I’ve tried everything, I don’t know what to do now.” And that’s not a good feeling.

Martin Reed:
So let’s move forward a little bit. When we started to work together, one of the first changes that you made was… A lot of the stuff that we do when we’re working together is behavioral in nature because a lot of all the things that we do to try and improve our sleep, try and get rid of that wakefulness is it’s completely well intentioned and it even sounds logical a lot of the time, but much of the time it can end up actually perpetuate that sleep disruption. And one of the common things that we do when we are really trying to chase sleep is we spend more time in bed. We might go to bed earlier or we might stay in bed later, we might try napping during the day. And I think when we started working together, you were averaging less than five hours of sleep but spending about seven hours in bed. So you started to rein that in a little bit and a little bit less time for sleep. Can you tell us a little bit more about that change that you made?

Eric Myers:
Yeah, I think that was really helpful actually. That might have been one of the most helpful things now that I think about it. I forget what my sleep window was when we started working together. Because I started noticing an improvement very quickly, I remember that. That second week when I started implementing the sleep restriction or bedtime restriction, I think I started noticing an improvement just that week and just it got better from there.

Martin Reed:
First and foremost, I think it’s great that you experience that change so quickly. I think of all the clients I’ve worked with, you are probably one of the quickest to notice a change just from implementing that sleep window, just allotting an amount of time for sleep that’s a bit closer to the current reality of the sleep that you were getting at that time. Why do you feel that that was so helpful and so quickly? Was it just because you noticed a return of a strong sense of sleepiness rather than it just being exclusively fatigue and grogginess at night? I’m just curious to hear why you feel that you got those results, and what changed when you just started to go to bed later?

Eric Myers:
Okay, let’s see. I mean, I remember I guess just being genuinely sleepy instead of trying to… Well, because at that point I was still taking the medication, so I remember starting to noticing the difference between the feeling you get when you take drugs like that as opposed to natural sleep, and I remember noticing that pretty early on and that maybe helped my anxiety or sleep worry a little bit there.

Martin Reed:
Another change that you made a little bit later on whilst we were still working together was just a change in how you would respond to nighttime wakefulness, whether it was you’d go to bed and was taking you a long time to fall asleep or if you’d wake during the night and find it really hard to fall asleep instead of forcing yourself to stay in bed, tossing and turning, not feeling good, feeling frustrated, worried, anxious, trying to make sleep happen, instead you just thought to yourself, “All right, well, I’m awake anyway, let’s just do something to being awake a bit more pleasant.” Can you tell us a little bit more about that process and that change that you made?

Eric Myers:
Yeah, that was another thing that was really helpful because that’s one of the issues that I think I’m pretty sure I had was what you call a conditioned arousal where I had spent so much time lying in bed tossing and turning that I had trained my brain to associate the bed with anxiety and frustration instead of sleep. One of the things that was a key for me was coming up with an out of bed activity, which is ideally something quiet and relaxing. And the first thing I thought of was drawing because that’s something I do. So I started doing that and I guess the thing that was really great about that is not only was it something I enjoyed doing, so I didn’t mind getting out of bed to do it.
And also, that’s another thing, I remember that, I can’t remember if it was from the course or was one of your videos, but you talked about quality of sleep. As you start to condense your sleep into a shorter sleep window, there’s a tendency for the quality to improve like you get more deep sleep and I started to experience that, and again, it happened really relatively quick for me. I mean, I didn’t have to even practice that technique very long before it, I just started sleeping, I mean, it just got better and better.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. I think the reason I like these two techniques and just allotting an appropriate amount of time for sleep and just making any unpleasant nighttime wakefulness more pleasant is because it really just gets to what insomnia is all about. And it is basically just this strong desire that we have completely understandable desire, but that strong desire to just avoid nighttime wakefulness. We don’t want to be awake, we want to be asleep. And the more we crave sleep, the more we want to really avoid being awake at night. The more the brain might think that our wakefulness must be a threat, it must be this physical danger or threat that’s going to harm us, so I’ve got to be alert to protect you from that. Because my number one job is your brain, is to protect you. So when we implement a sleep window, for example, we give ourselves an earliest possible bedtime, a consistent out of bedtime in the morning.

Martin Reed:
We are no longer chasing after sleep by going to bed a lot earlier than we might otherwise, or staying in bed later to try and grab a few more minutes of sleep or an extra hour or so of sleep with the idea of getting out of bed or just doing something else during the night. If the brain kind of learns that not all nighttime wakefulness has to be awfully unpleasant nighttime wakefulness, there are things we can do to make it a bit more pleasant, then that also chips away that brain’s belief that being awake at night is a threat, is a danger. So we are no longer chasing sleep. We are no longer enduring so much unpleasant nighttime wakefulness. It all kind of helps the brain learn that, “Oh okay, maybe this wakefulness, although it’s not what we really want, it’s not a danger.” So I don’t have to activate all that fight or flight mechanism to try and protect you from wakefulness, which we can recognize when the body is activating his fight or flight response, it’s probably not going to be good conditions for sleep at that time.

Eric Myers:
Yeah, absolutely.

Martin Reed:
Okay. So just before I move on, I’m curious to hear, when we were working together, if there were any other kind of techniques or ways of thinking that you picked on up on that you feel contributed to being able to move on from insomnia to put all that behind you.

Eric Myers:
Yeah. I mean, I think I have mentioned this earlier, but one of the things that really resonated with me was something that you talked about as far as the way that respond to sleep or insomnia. Because even though I sleep very well most of the time, I mean, occasionally there’s an off night, so that’s something I learned is just to not worry about it and it’s not a big deal and I just bounce right back and everything is fine. And I think that’s one of the things that maybe separates somebody who just has a bad night sleep and somebody who becomes a continual issue and becomes chronic.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. How do we get to that point though? I think many of us can realize that it is really that response that might be making things more difficult in our lives, the worry, the anxiety, the frustration, the stress, how we feel the next day, all of that stuff. And a lot of us can probably recognize that if we are able to let that go, not only will we probably feel better, but we’ll probably also sleep better. But how do we actually get to that point?

Eric Myers:
So for me, I think the first thing in the course was the sleep education, just learning how sleep works and just the basic stuff, sleep drive, circadian rhythm, was it arousal system, just understanding those things and how they all work and kind of work together. That helped me a lot, just knowing I don’t have to worry like this is going to go on forever. That right there helped relieve a lot of the worry and anxiety from me.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. I think education is really helpful because there are a lot of ideas that we might have about how sleep should be or how it should work that really can feed into all our worries and our anxieties about sleep when we are experiencing sleep disruption. I think most of all what it helps do is it just eliminates the mystery behind everything. Because when we’re struggling, we want to know why, and when we don’t know why, that’s when we end up down the rabbit hole of looking for solutions, doing all of that research and it can consume us when we lift that veil of mystery and we start to have answers for everything that’s going on and we realize that there’s no real mystery to it. These things are happening understandably, predictably, and they’re all normal. I think that can just be so helpful. And it sounds like that was what really helps contribute to that change in your own mindset.

Eric Myers:
Yeah, oh definitely. Yeah. It helped me just see the bigger picture and understand how it all fits together.

Martin Reed:
When you were caught up in that struggle, were you finding everything that comes with it, the difficult thoughts, the difficult feelings, the fatigue, all that stuff? Were you finding that it was influencing your daytime behaviors like the kind of activities you might engage in, the things you might plan for, the things you might do?

Eric Myers:
Oh yeah, absolutely. In fact, I actually had some vacation plans with a friend of mine that I canceled because I was like, “I got to deal with this and I didn’t feel up to it,” or whatever, which now I understand that was a complete wrong way to approach things. But at the time, I didn’t understand.

Martin Reed:
I think it’s important to recognize that it’s normal and natural that we are going to want to cancel plans or withdraw from things when we are dealing with struggle and we’re dealing with challenge and dealing with pain, that’s normal. I mean, sometimes it can be helpful. Sometimes we got to just look out for ourselves and do what’s right for us, and that might mean taking a rest day, taking some time off, just some self-care, self-compassion when we’re going through struggle. But what can sometimes happen is it just consumes us and we end up just really withdrawing and just moving away from doing all the things that help us live the kind of life we want to live. So something might be really important to us like socializing with friends that might be a really important value for us. And we start to cancel those plans or not meet up with friends and isolate ourselves.

Martin Reed:
And that doesn’t tend to make us sleep better, it usually doesn’t help us feel better either because we’re then living a life that’s not aligned with our values, we’re just not living the kind of life we want to live. So I think that trying to commit to some kind of behaviors that are aligned with our values, even when we are really caught up in a struggle, can be helpful. They don’t have to be huge things. Maybe we are not quite ready for that round the world cruise yet or something, or a one year backpacking trip around the world, but maybe we are not even ready to go out to restaurants or bars. But maybe instead if, for example, socializing is important for us, maybe we can just pick up the phone and just talk to some friends, just do some things, even if they’re just baby steps that are just aligned with our values so that we are maybe separating our actions a little bit from all the difficult stuff that’s going on inside of us.

Martin Reed:
And I think the more we can do that, the more we can separate the difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions from our own actions can be really helpful because then all those thoughts, feelings and emotions, they’re still there, we can’t get rid of them, not over the long-term, they’re always going to be with us for as long as we’re human beings, but maybe they’ll have less of an influence over our lives that isn’t helpful, an influence that leads to behaviors that aren’t going to help us live the kind of life we want to live.

Martin Reed:
How did you approach that? I mean, I just find it interesting because I have some clients, they’re just like, “I’m just going to force myself to live the life as though I got the greatest night of sleep every single day.” And others are just like, “Got to take tiny, teeny baby steps.” I’m curious to hear where you are on that. How were you able to go from canceling plans, withdrawing from the kind of life you want to live to maybe just breaking that connection between sleep and what you do, what was your process there?

Eric Myers:
Oh yeah. I mean, before, I just didn’t realize that avoiding things and canceling things, I didn’t understand that that was not helpful and probably working against me in a way. So I guess it was more that learning process and starting to understand that doing things that I actually want to do is a good thing and would actually help me in a way that I didn’t realize before.

Martin Reed:
So was it just a case of, this is the stuff I used to do, I’m just going to start doing it again? Did you just slowly start integrating the good stuff back into your days or was it just a case of right from now on, I’m just not going to allow this to control my actions during the day?

Eric Myers:
Yeah, I think once I started to understand that I shouldn’t allow those things to derail my life, then I just went in the opposite direction.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. And did you find that was difficult at first? Maybe you were still struggling with sleep and you felt pretty fatigued during the day. Was it kind of difficult to motivate yourself to do that during the day, or was it just as soon as you started to do it you just immediately felt all the better for it?

Eric Myers:
No, I don’t think it was really difficult. I mean, my whole way of looking at things changed. I mean, it’s amazing like when you change your perspective on something, how different you can feel about everything, you have this really positive experience actually.

Martin Reed:
Wow, that’s great. So I think it was maybe a year and a half or so that we actually stopped working together. How have things been going in that year and a half, have you found that when we stopped working together maybe your sleep carried on improving or did it stay about the same? What have things been like for you over that time?

Eric Myers:
Oh yeah, over time sleep just got better and better. I mean, gradually but definitely just kept improving for quite a while it just gradually got better and better.

Martin Reed:
I’m always curious to hear just because some clients, they make progress really quickly. Just within the first couple of weeks, they notice really positive improvements. Some clients takes a little bit longer. Some clients, they don’t really notice much improvement at all in the eight weeks that we’re working together, but then they somehow get this light bulb moment or they make some kind of breakthrough after we are no longer working together because they’re carrying on practicing what they’ve been learning. And it is a process, and for some people, it takes us longer. Some people, the process isn’t quite as long. But the reason why I love all this stuff that we talk about on the podcast is that really it’s skills based, it’s about learning new ways of thinking about exploring our relationship with our thoughts and our emotions.

Martin Reed:
And it’s about implementing behaviors that are going to help set the stage for sleep and help us just move toward the kind of life you want to live independently of sleep. And these are all things that we can control, they’re all actions, they’re all skills. So they’re with us for life and I think they are really helpful over the long-term, not just at first, it’s not a quick fix, so it can take time for us to notice results, but those results set us up for the rest of our lives just because we are armed with that knowledge that you touched upon, we have that education, we know why things are happening, there’s no more mystery. And if we ever experience that sleep disruption again in the future, we now have experience, we know that we can get through it and we know all the stuff that is helpful and all the stuff that’s not helpful.

Martin Reed:
And so, I do often see clients that tell me that their biggest improvements occur once we stop working together and they’re just practicing this stuff by themselves and they notice that they continue to enjoy improvements. And then maybe there’s some sleep disruption, there’s ups and downs because we all have difficult nights from time to time, but we know exactly how to respond now. So the way we respond is completely different and our response is often a lot more constructive by this point. So like you touched upon earlier, those difficult nights don’t have to mean that this is going to stick around for weeks, months, years. Now we might be in a place where we recognize I had a difficult night, that doesn’t have to mean that insomnia is back and I’m going to be struggling again because I’m just in a whole different place now.

Eric Myers:
Oh yeah. Yeah, exactly. And one thing I was going to say that was pretty significant for me because when I was working with you, I was still taking the medication, and by the end of the course, I realized I didn’t need it anymore. So that was a big step for me because back then it was probably more of just a psychological dependency I had on, I was like, “I got to take something. I can’t just go to bed without taking anything.” So getting over that was a really big deal for me.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. What was your process with that? Did you just get to a point where you thought, “I don’t think I need this anymore,” or was it a tapering off plan, or what did you do?

Eric Myers:
Yeah. I got a pill cutter and tapered off. I probably didn’t need to, but I don’t know, that’s what I did. I mean, once I decided to do that, I mean, I was off really quick. I mean, it probably was all in my head anyway. I probably never needed that stuff in the first place so I’m sure I could have stopped anytime, but I had that idea in my head that, “Oh, got to take something. I can’t just go to bed without taking something to try and knock myself out or something.” So that was really a big thing for me.

Martin Reed:
When did you engage in that process of just moving away from the medication, was it whilst we were still working together or was it when we were done working together and you just decided to make that change?

Eric Myers:
It was right at the end of the course.

Martin Reed:
Sometimes I have people that feel like they have to choose like, “Do I engage in behavior change and exploring all this relationship with everything that’s going on inside me, or do I do the medication? How do I choose which one?” But the truth is we don’t have to choose. We can do both at the same time if that’s what we feel comfortable with. I’ve had clients that like yourself, they’re on the medication whilst we’re working together and then they make a decision at some point to move away, and that’s fine. I have other clients that stop immediately. After talking to their doctor, they stop or they taper before or during when we’re working together. It really doesn’t make a difference, it’s not an either or choice we have to make, I think there’s value in learning these skills regardless of whether we’re taking medication or not. And then the medication is something that clients can explore themselves whenever they feel ready to do so, just like you did.

Eric Myers:
Yeah. Yeah. I remember before I started the course, I remember thinking, I was a little hesitant and I was like, “Well, I’m probably going to have to give up my sleep meds,” and I was feeling anxious about that, but then I remember you saying like, “Oh, if it’s something you take every night, then you can just keep doing that. It doesn’t matter.” But that was a big deal because I didn’t want to be on pills for the rest of my life.

Martin Reed:
Yeah. So in this year and a half that you’ve been on your own, so to speak, I’m guessing that you’ve had some difficult nights every now and then. What’s your reaction now to when you have a difficult night and how has that changed compared to the past?

Eric Myers:
Oh yeah, I just don’t worry about it. I mean, I understand it’s normal and it’s not a big deal, so I just go on with my day and don’t let it bother me. And then next night I bounce right back, it’s no problem.

Martin Reed:
The reason I like asking about that is because we have to be realistic that there are still going to be some difficult nights from time to time, because as human beings, we’re going to have difficult nights from time to time, there’s nothing we can do about that. No one has a great night of sleep every single night. But I think the change is, we become more resilient to it when it happens. And like you said, that response is different now, instead of it generating all these really difficult thoughts and feelings and emotions and maybe influencing our behaviors in a way that’s not going to help us live the kind of life we want to live, now we’re just more accepting. But we had a difficult night, we can’t control sleep. Maybe there is a return of some difficult thoughts, some difficult feelings, some difficult emotions there, but now we’ve got that resilience to more flexibly respond to them.

Martin Reed:
We realize that we’ve got options in how we respond to them and we can respond in ways that are helpful and we can respond in ways that are less helpful. And often the brain screams at us to do the less helpful stuff, but if we can just take a step back, pause for a second, we always get to decide how we respond and really, like you’ve been talking about, it’s our response that really determines how tangled up or not we might get in that struggle.

Eric Myers:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s funny because after I completed the course, I mean, I remember there was a lot of nights where I still had some of that worry, “Oh, wonder if I’m going to be able to sleep tonight or something.” But then I still slept even though I was had some of that worry. And then over time, it became less and less. But now it’s just don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal.

Martin Reed:
Yeah, I think that’s a great point that you made this, we can still feel that worry or anxiety or whatever, but we can still sleep, that doesn’t have to be a barrier to sleep. I think what the real barrier to sleep often is our natural human desire not to experience worry, anxiety and all those difficult emotions because they don’t feel good. So when we feel them, our natural inclination is to try and push them away, or before we feel them, we want to avoid them, so we are just doing all we can to try and get rid of it. And I think that’s what the real struggle is when we get engaged in that battle. That’s what really can make sleep more difficult. It’s not necessarily their presence, but it’s our struggle with them.

Martin Reed:
All right, Eric, I’m really grateful for the time you’ve taken out your day to come onto the podcast, but I do have one last question for you. And it’s this, if someone with chronic insomnia is listening and they feel as though they’ve tried everything, that they’re beyond help, that they just can’t do anything to improve their sleep, what would you tell them?

Eric Myers:
Here’s the thing, I feel like I had it as bad as anybody could possibly have it. I mean, my level of sleep related worry and anxiety and everything, I mean, it was just ridiculous. So if somebody who was as screwed up as I was can, I mean, really recover, then it seems like there’s got to be hope for anybody. I mean, if I can do it, I think anybody can do it.

Martin Reed:
That’s great. All right. Well, Eric, again, thanks again for taking the time out for your date to come onto the podcast. Really appreciate it.

Eric Myers:
Yeah. And thanks for all your help.
Really means a lot to me.

Martin Reed:
Thank you.

Martin Reed:
Thanks for listening to the Insomnia Coach Podcast. If you’re ready to move away from struggling with insomnia and toward living the life you want to live, I would love to help. You can get started right now by enrolling in my online course or you can book my phone coaching package. My online course runs for six weeks. It will help you make changes that can create better conditions for sleep, it will help you identify and get rid of any behaviors that might be making sleep more difficult, and it will help you respond to insomnia and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that come with it in a more workable way. You can work through the course in two ways. You can choose the self-coaching option and work through it by yourself with the support of an online forum that is available only to clients.

Martin Reed:
Or, you can choose to add one-on-one email coaching and work through the course with me by your side. With the one-on-one coaching option, you get unlimited email access to me for eight weeks, starting from the day you enroll. Any time you have a question or concern, any time you are unsure about anything, any time you want to focus on the challenges you face or any difficulties that show up, you can email me and I will be there to coach and support you. With either option, there is a 30-day money back guarantee. If you don’t find the course helpful within 30 days of starting, just let me know and you’ll get your money back. You can get the course and start right now at insomniacoach.com.

Martin Reed:
With the phone coaching package, we start with a one-hour call (voice only or video — your choice) and come up with an initial two-week plan that will help you create better conditions for sleep and practice moving away from struggling with insomnia and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that come with it. You get unlimited email access to me for two weeks after the call and a half-hour follow-up call at the end of the two weeks. You can book the phone coaching package at insomniacoach.com/phone.

Martin Reed:
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Insomnia Coach Podcast. I’m Martin Reed, and as always, I’d like to leave you with this important reminder — you can sleep.

I want you to be the next insomnia success story I share! If you’re ready to improve your sleep using evidence-based techniques, click here to get my online insomnia coaching course. We can get started right now.

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