Want some expert advice to improve your sleep? Get the free insomnia sleep training course!
- November 4, 2019 at 9:49 pm #33621
I developed insomnia in February 2019 and 10 months later I consider myself recovered. I could not have managed this without professional help – specially from Dr. Zhou. He is a PhD that trained with Donn Posner (a grandfather of CBT-i), and does virtual sessions (will link his info). He was so great to work with and this is what I’ve learned from him and the process:
-staying off of the forums about insomnia (I would go on once a month because couldn’t help myself but he equated this to reassurance seeking behavior which worsens anxiety.)
-not obsessing over the books I read like the one from Sasha Stephens. As he pointed out, the only credibility she has is having had insomnia and recovered – she has zero professional training in psychology, behavioral sleep medicine, etc. yet us insomniacs tend to cling to her words like they are a magic recipe. It actually made me laugh when he pointed this out because it’s so simple and so true.
– Following CBT-I techniques strictly at the beginning but again understanding there is a margin of error. Just because you don’t practice SC one time doesn’t mean you need to start over, just be consistent and patience.
– Do what you need to do to alleviate any other worries about sleep rather than just spin in a pit of worry (I had my thyroid tested, bloodwork, and Dr. Zhou lent me a professional grade actigraph to wear at home to prove I was sleeping)
– Not beating yourself up over using a sleep med on occasion and sleeping on the couch. Sleeping on the couch is actual very common and many of his patience report this helped. I eventually moved back to bed in my own time and he helped me with this transition.
– Understanding this isn’t a linear recovery but a gradual trend upwards
-I do also believe that Lexapro helped me with my anxiety more than I realized. I tried to wean off at one point, way earlier than I should have, and my anxiety came back with vengeance. I had to work through my acceptance of taking this medication and learning that its ok – my psychiatrist really helped me believe that this is just how my brain is and me needing this medication is no different than a diabetic needing insulin. I don’t need to feel ashamed especially on top of the hell that was insomnia.November 5, 2019 at 12:32 am #33631
Kimmiek, thanks so much for this. Dr. Zhou sounds incredible—I see that he gets 5 star reviews. Did you work with him virtually or do you live in the Boston area?
What was your insomnia like at the beginning and what is your sleep like now?
I loved what you wrote about Sasha Stevens. I was focusing on her books like they were revealing the secrets of the universe or at least, sleep difficulties. If I had problems one night I would blame myself for not reading the book that day! And chastise myself for not buying everything she said 100% even though so many people do. I felt like she contradicted herself at times—that she is a fantastic sleeper, but yet it can take her an hour to fall asleep. If this is the case, seems like she would adjust her bedtime a bit. I personally would rather be doing something else for an hour than lying in bed, even if relaxed. Maybe half an hour at the most. And it just seems so disingenuous to tell yourself that you are a great sleeper when you know you aren’t. After all, great sleepers don’t have to convince themselves of this—they just sleep!
Staying away from the forums may have its merits. I do enjoy the education I get from Martin’s and Daniel Erichsen’s videos. And sometimes I feel less alone or like a failure reading about other people’s challenges—but it also can do the reverse—make me feel bad that I am not 100% improved/back to the way I was pre-insomnia (although grateful for a marked improvement).November 5, 2019 at 9:21 pm #33650
Yes, it’s so true about the books. To be honest, Dr. Z has been involved in tons of insomnia related research and currently works at Dana Farber Cancer Hospital (I believe studying insomnia in cancer patients), and I got the impression he’d never even read those books. He would actually roll his eyes if I mentioned them ha! He is much more credible, and his reviews (as you can see) are phenomenal.
I do live in Boston, but I still worked with him virtually. I don’t believe he sees CBTi patients in person unless you are a cancer patient at Dana Farber.
Quick, interesting video of one of his earlier insomnia studies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQnXpjttkCI
My insomnia was pretty bad at the beginning (I’d say 1-4 hours a night) and I would have huge crying melt-downs to my husband and Dr. Z. Right now I’d guess I sleep around 7-8. I have very little to no sleep anxiety left. It was definitely not a linear recovery, I was still very emotional and having vey frequent wake-ups until two months ago…but then one day I just stopped feeling sad about this. It all clicked. Dr. Z was right – that things were still “Recovering” in the background even when it didn’t always feel that way. I just had to keep going. I still have bad nights but they are more like my “old” bad nights and I don’t even mind them because I KNOW and believe I’ll sleep the next night.November 10, 2019 at 10:09 pm #33774
Marie72✘ Not a client
I’m so glad you have recovered and thank you for sharing your experiences. I’ve been suffering for 10 weeks now and it’s really starting to take its toll, on occasions, like last night I get as little as 2 hours sleep.
I want to ask about the antidepressant you were taking. I now have very bad anxiety bought on by sleep deprecation, my doctor had prescribed me some antidepressants but I’ve been reluctant to start them…strangely one side effect is insomnia? I’ve now got to the stage I think I need to as had a panicky attack last night in bed.
Do you feel the tablets helped? I hear the first two weeks can be hard too.November 13, 2019 at 4:40 am #33870
Martin Reed★ Admin
Thank you for sharing your success story, kimmiek!
For me, two key insights you shared were:
1. Just because you don’t practice SC one time doesn’t mean you need to start over, just be consistent and patience.
It’s so easy to get frustrated/mad at yourself if you don’t implement a technique perfectly one night. This can also prompt you to give up prematurely — especially if you haven’t got to that point where you’re noticing improvements in your sleep.
Ultimately, we are all human! We will make mistakes. The key is to keep moving forward and to avoid dwelling on the past. Recognize the slip-up, and aim to be more consistent. Be patient and stay committed and the results will come.
2. Understanding this isn’t a linear recovery but a gradual trend upwards.
This is SO important! It’s easy to feel disheartened when a bad night occurs after a string of good nights. You can think that you’re back to square one, or that you’re beyond help. The truth is, setbacks are normal. Progress isn’t linear — just a quick glance at some of the insomnia success stories and case studies demonstrates this!
Thanks again for taking the time to share your story.November 25, 2019 at 9:40 am #34098
Dazzio✘ Not a client
Thank you so much for your story, it is a massive support and help to me!
I am currently implementing SRT. But am finding it hugely difficult. One of the biggest issues is the impact it has had on my humour & anxiety.
You me mentioned that you used lexapro. I have never used an anti-deppresant and never thought i would ever have to! I am really reluctant to use one but feel i have to accept that right now i might just have to.
How did you use them during your time, what did you see as the benefits. How long did you stay on them and was it difficult to give them up??
Thanks so much for taking the time to help othersDecember 4, 2019 at 4:58 pm #34313
Hi Dazzio- Sorry for the delayed response. I was also hesitant to use the lexapro but in retrospect I don’t think its wrong to use any tools that are available. The idea is not to be on them indefinitely, anyways. At the beginning, I don’t think I noticed the effects as much because my anxiety was so severe. However, once I started gradually improving, I think that is when I really felt like it helped take the edge off. I still haven’t come off of them, as I was told to wait 3-6 months after I have been very solid with my sleep and anxiety. Hopefully that time will be approaching soon.December 28, 2019 at 7:20 am #34687
Eamiller✘ Not a client
I had a question about something you said….
What did Dr. Zhou mean by things were recovering in the background even when it feels like they weren’t?
I was curious what this meant and what you were doing in your opinion to cause things to be recovering. This might get me over the hump of feeling like a failure every time I have a bad night.January 16, 2020 at 1:07 pm #35010
617Jay✘ Not a client
I can’t believe I came across this post…I was a patient of Dr. Eric Zhou as well! My experience was eerily similar to the first poster. The only thing I would add to their experience is that I do well with humor and he was super good about being able to make fun of a situation when my bad thoughts about not sleeping enough would come up in our sessions. It made me feel less stupid about having those thoughts and that helped me a lot. I went to a woman out in Lexington before I found Dr. Zhou. She was a complete joke and I can’t believe I spent almost 2 months with her. So have faith if you’re struggling. Not all doctors are made the same and do not hesitate to cut the cord with someone you don’t work well with.January 21, 2020 at 3:47 pm #35052
Small world! I completely agree about his humor. It helped to not have anyone encourage my drama but instead poke fun at me and lighten the mood. I’ve seen therapists during tough times at various points of my life, and very few were “good” or resonated with me. Dr. Zhou was definitely an exception.