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- April 2, 2021 at 1:53 am #40633
I just want to share my journey with insomnia and how I am sleeping well again.
Growing up I always had a little bit of sleep anxiety. For some reason, I just could not sleep soundly if I shared the room with other people. So I dreaded sleepovers and school camps.
But I slept fine as long as I slept alone.
Fast forward a few years. I had a baby in Oct 2020.
My baby kept me up at night for nearly 9 days straight. I had a mental health crisis from the sleep deprivation. I thought I had become psychotic because I was constantly hallucinating and feeling detached from reality.
The crisis mental health team was called. They assured me that I wasn’t psychotic, but told me that I HAD TO sleep. They prescribed some strong sleeping pills and left.
Thus, began a vicious cycle of insomnia.
I was absolutely exhausted, but my circadian rhythm had been completely thrown off by my baby’s erratic sleep cycle. When she finally did go to sleep, I lay awake, feeling like I couldn’t switch off, terrified of what was happening to me.
It also didn’t help that my postpartum hormones was firing constantly, giving me waves of anxiety attacks and hot flushes all through the night.
Eventually the act of lying down and closing my eyes would trigger the anxiety.
My Dr prescribed me more sleep meds and told me to meditate before bed.
And yet as baby’s sleep improved over the weeks, my own sleep got worse and worse. The first time that baby slept for five hours straight – guess who was wide awake? Me! How ironic!!!
I convinced myself I couldn’t sleep in a room warmer than 21C. I moved my mattress downstairs to sleep under the aircon on full blast. I stopped drinking tea at night. I stopped using my phone. I put my baby in another room so I wouldn’t be disturbed by her sleeping noises.
And yet, I still couldn’t sleep.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and referred to a good perinatal mental health psychiatrist, but nobody was able to help me with my insomnia, except to just to push more sleeping pills onto me.
Then one day I came across Martin Reed’s video about letting go of sleep efforts and safety behaviours to get better sleep.
A light bulb turned on in my head. Everything he said made so much sense.
It was a huge sigh of relief to know that nothing was actually wrong with me. My brain wasn’t broken, I hadn’t forgotten how to sleep. I’d just developed anxiety around sleep. But I was no more less able to sleep than I was pre-baby.
That night I dropped all sleep efforts.
I stopped “trying” to sleep.
I trusted my body to sleep when it was ready.
If I worried about not sleeping, I just accepted that as sleep anxiety thoughts. It wasn’t a prophecy of what was going to happen.
If I lay awake for too long, I would just get up and do something quiet then try again.
And I kid you not, overnight my insomnia dissipated. It actually never existed – my sleep anxiety existed, but not insomnia.
Over the next few months, my sleep anxiety too started to disappear.
I talk to other mums and they have no idea how I am still so cheerful and rested during the day, especially when I tell them my baby still wakes up about 4 times a night to feed.
I just smile and say, “Well, I’m just the Queen of Sleep.” 🙂
So, thank you Martin Reed for your great videos. You have absolutely been instrumental in my mental health recovery in the most challenging time of my life so far.
And the funny thing is, I actually sleep now better than I did before baby.
I can sleep anywhere, anytime, as long as I’m sleepy enough.
Maybe school camps won’t be as bad if I knew what I know now 🙂April 2, 2021 at 2:22 am #40634
I also want to add – I am a professional musician, and I realised that sleep anxiety so similar to performance anxiety for music performance.
If you obsess about delivering a perfect performance, about what people will think of you if you completely bomb the performance, about fighting the performance anxiety…. You’re gonna have a bad time.
But if you focus on enjoying sharing the music and just enjoy moment, then you’ll paradoxically actually deliver a more secure, authentic performance and you’ll definitely enjoy the experience of being on stage more.
Same for sleep.
If the focus of bedtime is to sleep, about fighting the sleep anxiety, wondering why you can’t sleep, dreading the next day on zero sleep, wishing you can be asleep, then you’re gonna have a bad time.
But if the primary goal of bedtime is to relax, to enjoy the sensation of lying down, to feel comfortable, to unwind, to daydream, to snuggle into your blanket, to rest with zero expectation of any sleep whatsoever, then paradoxically sleep actually does happen more often than not.
But you can’t make sleep the primary goal. The primary goal of going to bed is enjoying the heck out of your bed. If you do sleep, it is nice but not expected.
It’s kind of like happiness, too. The harder you search for it, the more elusive it becomes.
There are some problems in life that we don’t need to solve ourselves.
Just appreciate the moment and just trust that over time the rest will sort itself out. xApril 2, 2021 at 4:34 am #40635
Just one word. WOW. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. I guess everyone’s journey is slightly different but they all lead to the same place. Towards having that confidence of being able to sleep naturally again and that nothing you do or think can shake that confidence. As well as enjoying bedtime and sleeping again, as you so eloquently describe it. For me, I realise keeping a distance between my thoughts and emotions are key to my recovery and the realization that sleep is just a numbers game. Eventually I manage to keep my thoughts so distant from affecting me that they become fleeting (comes and goes) and sometimes I even laugh at myself for reacting so strongly before. I eventually came to realize that if I am up for X hours, then sleep is extremely likely to happen. I began letting go and trusting my body again. Congratulations on your newborn and I hope you find smashing success in your music career.April 2, 2021 at 6:47 pm #40652
SleepWorry✘ Not a client
I am happy for you but I just cannot seem to frame my mentality towards sleep like this. I work 12 hour shifts so when I get no sleep or poor sleep I am in for a really painful day. Sleep is a huge deal to me, even on my days off I’m an active guy and my work outs are like the best part of my day now that I’m sober, and if I’m on bad sleep my work outs are also affected. Its just so depressing. But I’m glad I read your story because you are proof that you can fix your sleep naturally and be back to normal.April 2, 2021 at 11:43 pm #40657
It was super hard to shift my mentality too, because my severe postnatal depression basically stemmed from my inability to sleep.
There were many days that I could only lie on the floor, physically unable to meet my crying baby’s demands.
Because I couldn’t sleep.
I was constantly irritated and angry. I had massive arguments with people I loved. I pushed away everyone that was close to me, to breaking point.
Because I couldn’t sleep.
I was spiraling out of control. I was unable to be a good mother, a good friend, a good daughter.
I basically became non-functional in every aspect of my life.
All because I couldn’t sleep.
And yet, no matter how hard I tried, I JUST COULDN’T SLEEP.
I HAD TO SLEEP. But I couldn’t.
Even when I slept, I was so scared that I wouldn’t sleep the next night. Or the next. Or the next….
I HAD TO SLEEP OR EVERYTHING WOULD BE RUINED.
……… Can you see where I went wrong? 😉April 3, 2021 at 12:00 am #40659
I didn’t “snap” myself out of worrying about sleep overnight.
It takes a long time for your brain to unlearn the thought patterns and associations around a perceived threat.
Insomnia is a negative feedback loop.
You get scared of not sleeping. Which makes you more scared. Which makes you less likely to sleep. Which makes you more scared of not sleeping.
The only way to break that loop is to be okay with NOT sleeping.
You have to be okay with NOT being okay, to be okay. LOL it’s confusing and counter-intuitive but honestly it works.
These days I honestly don’t have a single F to give about whether I sleep or not, EVER in my life.
If I think a sleep-anxiety related thought, I just laugh it off. It’s my brain still pinging me about stupid useless crap.
I taught myself to love the sensation of being brain dead the next day because I trust that eventually I will pass out from excessive sleep drive.
When I do sleep, I don’t get excited anymore. It’s just sleep, dude, it’s no big deal. My body can digest food. My body can sleep. My body can do loads of things.
It’s really none of my business what it decides to do. 🙂 My job is just to be a good mum to my daughter and enjoy my life, no matter how brain dead I am haha!April 5, 2021 at 9:01 am #40660
Thank you, Chee2308!
Yes, the real game changer in the insomnia journey is to care less about our thoughts!
Thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t mean much.
When my brain tells me, “You need to worry about sleep more.”
I reply, “Why? I have no problems sleeping. And even if I do, worrying about it doesn’t help.”
Brain, “Sleep makes you anxious. And if something makes you anxious, you are in danger. You must get out of danger. DO SOMETHING.”
Me, “Really? Can’t we just be okay with being anxious and not do anything to fix it?”
Brain, “Of course not! Problems need to be fixed!”
Me, “I disagree. Some problems are better left untouched.”
Brain, “Well, what if I give you LOADS OF ANXIETY about this. More than you have ever had in your life!”
Me, “Mmmmm cortisol. Keeping me stressed about real and imaginary dangers since 1993.”
Brain, “……….imaginary dangers?”
Brain, “Oh!!!!!!”April 10, 2021 at 7:45 am #40727
Thank you so much for your post, I can relate to you so much and your journey is such an inspiration to me. I had my baby boy in December and same as you first couple of weeks I barely had any sleep because his sleeping was all over the place and he was making a lot of noises at night and I was worrying if he is okay. But he started sleeping better when he was about 8 weeks. Now he sleeps in 4 hour stretches. But I just cannot sleep! I go to bed early, the same time as him, to give myself an opportunity to sleep. So I spend in bed 10-11 hours a day, but only sleep for 3-4 hours if lucky!
CBT-i gives gave me some hope, my sleep is still very bad but I already feel better about it and stress lessApril 12, 2021 at 8:57 pm #40760
Congrats on your baby boy!!!
I feel like insomnia is almost guaranteed with new mums because babies are the biggest sleep disrupter of all time!
CBTI is great isn’t it! It absolutely can help you get back to normal thinking patterns around sleep again.
The biggest turning point in my recovery was realising that I never had a problem with sleeping, I just had a huge fear of being awake while the baby was asleep.
Once I addressed this fear of being awake, my anxiety lessened and my sleep regulated.
These days I barely think about sleep.
I even nap a lot during the day, a big no-no in insomnia land haha!
I LOVE sleeping. I love my bed.
Because I don’t fight my body when I go to bed. I listen to it, I trust it, and I just let go.
If I’m not ready to sleep, that’s totally fine too, it’s 2am Youtube bingeing time hehe!April 13, 2021 at 4:20 am #40764
I absolutely love your easy going attitude towards sleep. I hope I will get the same one day.
I can relate to fear of being awake while the baby is asleep. I know that after I feed him at night I have 3.5 hours until he wakes up hungry again and it puts so much more stress on falling asleep.
But saying that, I can see some improvements already! I haven’t applied any CBT-I stuff yet, but surprisingly I feel much better just from listening to the youtube videos and reading this forum.
I am concentrating on having good time during the day no matter how bad I slept, and it works! My sleep didn’t get any better, I still sleep 4-5 hours a night on average, but my days are much better, I don’t even feel tired!
I also think that I might have a bit of that ‘paradoxical insomnia’ Martin talks about, because sometimes 3 hours between feeds fly past very fast. I think that I haven’t slept, but maybe I actually slept but just didn’t dream? I am still a bit confused about it and don’t think there is a way to check it.
I still struggle to fall asleep. I know that I go to bed way too early. Sometimes at 8pm, just to give myself ‘a chance’ to sleep. I know that this is not the best thing, because I normally can’t sleep until 11 pm feed anyway, but I am terrified to let go and not to do it.April 13, 2021 at 1:37 pm #40765
You will ABSOLUTELY get here one day! Sooner than you think!
You’ve already got a great mindset!
Let me tell you this – you’re a completely NORMAL sleeper who is doing your best to meet the unpredictable, stressful demands of being on-call to a BABY 24/7.
YOU ARE NORMAL!
Think about this… do cats and dogs get insomnia? No! If they’re tired, they lay down. If they’re not tired, they get up. They probably have no idea that they sleep at all – and yet they’re the best sleepers! I bet they never think, “I need to sleep now or I’ll be too tired to go to the dog park tomorrow!” They just go…. “Hmmmm me tired…me lie down…rest…ahhhh so nice….zzzzz.”
That’s where humans get it wrong. We sleep when we think we SHOULD sleep. We treat sleep like it’s another job we do, a responsibility we bear with big consequences for failing. GOSH no wonder why we struggle to sleep!
Let’s be more like our cats and dogs. Just sleep whenever. It’s no big deal.April 14, 2021 at 5:15 am #40782
That’s a great comparison with cats and dogs. They also don’t binge on chocolate at night. Long way to go for me :)))
I struggled to fall asleep last night again and I think I only slept 4 or 5 hours, but I am surprised how well I am able to function on this little sleep.
I still have a lot of negative thoughts about how this will affect my health. I stopped seeing my friends because I think that I am too tired and will be too boring for them in this tired state. I only go out for a walk early in the mornings so not many people can see how terrible I look. I know that I need to change these behaviours. Now I can see that insomnia for me is much more than just sleepless nights. It has impact on all areas of my life.April 14, 2021 at 10:09 pm #40799
Kjs16✘ Not a client
Thus story sounds resoundingly similar to my own. Postpartum insomnia is brutal and it’s only now since discovering CBTI that I’m seeing improvements (following lots of meds being prescribed by the perinatal mental health team).
I am reaching out as I’ve seen huge improvements over the past 5/6 weeks since following CBTI methods but last night was a really tough night. I know it’s expected to have a bad night’s sleep every now and again but I still think the fear is there that this is a regression to how things were before. I wanted to ask how often you have bad nights now and how you cope?
Thanks so much in advance.April 14, 2021 at 11:51 pm #40802
It is always not reacting to bad nights that your improvement continues and you begin climbing out of the hole of insomnia. Continue on your daytime activities as if nothing happened. Resist the overwhelming temption to go down the rabbit hole of trying different things, trying to “fix” things, trying to avoid the bad nights, it was doing those things that got you into trouble in the first place. Over time, hopefully you start becoming more comfortable with both good and bad nights and pay very little attention to how you sleep, then you sleep really well! It is always the fear of sleeping badly and the fear of returning to those sleepless nights that drives people to pressure themselves into sleeping and that’s when things get really tough which develops into more sleepless nights. Stop trying so hard to sleep well, sleep should be natural and effortless. Do nothing, expect nothing is your best way forward. Best wishes to you and congratulations on becoming a parent.April 14, 2021 at 11:58 pm #40803
Kjs16✘ Not a client
Thank you so much for the support. What a motivational response. To know that today I have the opportunity to continue my improvement by carrying on as normal is empowering. Thanks again!