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- November 21, 2019 at 12:57 am #34009
I actually received an email from Martin a few months ago asking if I could share my story, but I was afraid to come back here because I didn’t want to be reminded of the worst times of my life. However, now that it’s been 5 months post CBTI, I felt like I was ready to let others know there is hope! It’s very long, but I hope it’s detailed enough!
My insomnia started in March of 2018. At the time, I was blaming everything and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t fall sleep. I would go 3 whole days without sleeping a single minute before passing out the 4th night but even then I slept at most 3 hours. I was prescribed Trazodone, Seroquel, and Ambien but none of them worked. There would still be nights were I couldn’t fall asleep. The only medication that worked was Ambien and even on that, I was only sleeping 4 hours a night. I started CBTI with a therapist from back home in April and was “cured” in June. I had no idea how I cured it so when something stressful came up again in March of 2019, my insomnia returned. I started taking Ambien again but was always afraid of taking sleep pills because I didn’t want to become dependent on them and like before, some nights the Ambien didn’t work. One day, I had to wake up early to go to clinical but the effects of Ambien hadn’t worn off. I was driving before the sun came up and remember I couldn’t keep my eyes open and everything was blurry. Luckily, I somehow made it to the hospital without an accident but that was only because there were very few cars out that early. That was when I knew I needed help again.
I contacted Martin shortly after and signed up for his 8 weeks CBTI program. At first, I struggled a lot because I hated sleep restriction and even worst, sleep conditioning. To be honest, I never mastered sleep conditioning and only tried it 3 times, but I made sure to follow the sleep window Martin gave me. As the weeks went on, I became more lenient on those hours and was honest with Martin about what I was doing. He fully supported my plan but gave me advice on what to do if I start noticing any drawbacks. Additionally, Martin extended my program to 10 weeks because I got sick for two weeks and all I did was sleep thus, I couldn’t follow a strict sleep window. Again, all I did was sleep and lie on the couch. When I was tired around 10am or 2pm, I would sleep and tell myself it was okay to sleep because my body was recovering. By knowing this, I was able to rationalize why I couldn’t fall asleep at night if I was struggling. Sometimes, I was able to fall asleep at night after a couple of hours of lying there in the dark. Little did I know, being sick actually helped me get rid of my insomnia. I had so much time lying around and sleeping at odd hours that I learned I could fall asleep easily if I just allow myself to not care about anything like I did when I was sick.
Today, I’m sleeping around 6.5-7.5 hours a night without any medication or any other method. I still use my phone in bed even though I shouldn’t but because I don’t make it such a big deal, it doesn’t affect my sleep. I can fall sleep within 5 minutes if I’m really exhausted or within 30 minutes if I’m not. I don’t think I’m 100% cured because I’m still super sensitive to noise and am afraid of sleeping in the same room as someone especially if they snore. I’m about to travel overseas and will be staying at hostels so I’ll be testing this out soon.
To summarize what I learned from Martin and what adjustments I made to fit me:
1. Keeping a sleep schedule is key! It takes a lot of stress away from needing to fall sleep at a certain hour and waking up at a certain hour. My issue was I was afraid if I didn’t fall asleep now, I wouldn’t wake up in time even though I know my body has always woken me up before my alarm did. To combat this, I’ve switched up my sleep schedule from 12am – 6am (which was my normal sleep schedule prior to insomnia, and I needed to be up by 6am to get to the hospital in time) to 10pm – 5am. I gave myself more time to fall asleep and to wake up because that takes the stress off. I found having this schedule guarantees I fall asleep within 30 minutes 95% of the time and sometimes, I wake up at 4:30am and just lie in bed relaxed because I don’t need to get up and rush anywhere!
2. Sleep restriction is temporary. It’s meant to help you realize you can fall asleep and that keeping a sleep schedule helps. So if 6 hours seems too low for you, just know that when you can master being able to fall asleep, you can move that up to 7 or 8 hours easily because of point #1. Sometimes I even nap for 2-3 hours which makes it harder for me to fall asleep at night but knowing this, it helps me relax enough that I’m still able to fall asleep that night within an hour and if I wake up at 4am, I know it was because of my nap earlier so again, no stress!
3. Muscle relaxation helps. When I lie in bed and realize I haven’t fallen asleep yet, I make sure my muscles are relaxed, especially my face. If I can feel the tension on my face, I know I’m thinking too much which leads me to..
4. Think about nothing when you’re ready. By this I mean if I you really need to think about something before bed like what happened today, what you need to do tomorrow, some imaginary scenario, do it. Martin teaches you to write it down during the day which didn’t help me so I switched it up a little. I allowed myself to think about whatever I want to think about when I get in bed at 10pm. Knowing I have 8 hours until 6am (and I do fine on 6.5 hours of sleep), doing this in bed doesn’t bother me and actually helps me get out my last thoughts as I’m relaxing my body. When I feel ready, I make my mind go blank as if I’m meditating. I don’t count my breaths unless I’m anxious but instead, I just lie there and accept that it’s probably 10:30pm but I still have a long time before I have to get up! As my mind goes blank, it typically takes me about 5 minutes of doing this and I’m out.
5. If you’re thinking about your mind being blank, you’re still thinking too much and you’re not relaxed. This is called sleep monitoring which Martin talks about. I’ve done this multiple times during my 10 weeks where my mind goes blank but I’m still working too hard because I’m thinking about thinking about nothing (if that makes sense). You have to figure out how to be totally relaxed and release all the tension especially at the face.
6. Lastly, stop making it such a big deal. If you find that using a phone in bed or watching TV in bed didn’t bother you before, then try it out again but don’t connect it with your insomnia. If this helps, then continue doing it but if you find that it doesn’t, then stop using your phone or watching TV and see if that helps. It’s all trial and error and the less you connect things in your life and change things to accommodate your insomnia, the quicker and easier your journey will be.
Hope this helps!November 23, 2019 at 1:44 am #34055
Martin Reed★ Admin
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your success story! I am sure it will help many people, especially those who are currently implementing CBT-I techniques but are finding them hard and perhaps not noticing any improvements yet.
Imagine if you had given up after a few weeks — you never would have gotten to the point you’re at now! Your perseverance and commitment are admirable. Without that tenacity, you would probably not be sharing such a wonderful success story!
You’re an inspiration. Thanks again for sharing.