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- May 3, 2021 at 3:13 pm #41010
Anne-Claire France✓ Client
I am roughly 3 months post graduating from Martin’s course. I enrolled because my insomnia was so severe that I was getting 0-2 hours sleep. I had tried various approaches and products but none helped so I decided I needed a “coach” to train me to my sleep potential. The CBT-I and ACT techniques were VERY helpful and I improved, but, as strange as this sounds, what really made a difference was my not trying so hard to sleep or caring so much about sleep. I realized that, despite all the propaganda that dictates how much sleep we need (e.g., 7-9 hours), although I was sleep deprived, I was still able to live my life ok. So given I knew it was going to take patience and commitment for the techniques to influence my body clock, I shifted value to living not sleeping. Granted I missed sleeping like I used to, but in the scheme of potential afflictions this was not so bad. The result of this shift in attitude resulted in my sleeping better! The reason is because even when I had difficult nights and/or was practicing challenging techniques such as sleep restriction and sleep conditioning, I did not worry about it, did not change my day’s activities, and was grateful for the counsel I was receiving, so my sleep anxiety and cognitive arousal diminished. Now I reliably sleep 6-6.5 hours which is enough for me, but believe that I will continue to improve. As you know from Martin, sleep is the one thing you cannot control and does not benefit from effort; in fact more effort results in worse sleep. Happily, I have applied this same approach to other worries for which I have no control (there are plenty in life these days for all of us) and that has had a positive impact on my overall outlook and quality of life.
Hope this helps. You CAN sleep by shifting your energy to living your life rather than living to sleep.May 3, 2021 at 3:55 pm #41011
Greetings and hello!
6-6.5 hours is the optimal amount of sleep to not run into difficult nights again, at least for me. I found how we sleep for one night is not important, what matters is the average amount of sleep we get over the longer term, ie, this always works out to around 6 to 6.5 hours. If I am not overly anxious, difficult nights are usually a result of consistently oversleeping by doing 7-8 hours nights. The body regulates itself and you can choose to worry about sleep but it would all have been over nothing. Studies show insomniacs and non insomniacs actually sleep roughly the same amount on average. The whole thing is a hoax all along.May 3, 2021 at 5:49 pm #41014
SleepWorry✘ Not a client
That’s great to hear. I’m an active person so its really hard for me to enjoy the day when I am on low sleep, i’m trying to work on that.May 4, 2021 at 2:26 am #41017
Your post is very encouraging. I too have followed 2 CBTi courses and ACT and although I found them helpful and it all makes total sense, I still don’t know how to shift my attitude about sleep and so my insomnia continues. Despite the fact I get on with my usual routines and plans for the following day and I am quite positive and hopeful that I will sleep better that night, once I get into bed and find myself lying awake, the anxiety sets in preventing me from any chance of sleep. Then the worry sets in because I am wondering if I am going to have to live with just a couple of hours sleep a night and how I will cope, how it will affect my health, etc. I need to find a way to change my way of thinking about sleep in the way you have done but I don’t know how.
CathyMay 4, 2021 at 7:21 am #41019
Anne-Claire France✓ Client
I understand and empathize! What I found helpful is to pretend I was a normal sleeper; that is, do what they do which is nothing. They do not think about sleep during the day, they typically go to sleep when they are sleepy not because they have done pre-sleep planning; and they don’t worry about stuff while they are awake; that’s it. I also use encouraging self-talk such as “you are ok” or “all is good”. This does not mean that every night is great for me but more nights are fine; and when I have an off night I don’t think about what the next night will bring and wait until I feel sleepy (no matter how late) before going to bed happy to be sleepy. Hope this gives you some “how”…..May 4, 2021 at 9:38 am #41020
Thank you so much for responding, Anne-Claire. I definitely have to be more disciplined about my negative thoughts because I know that is a big problem for me. Knowing that you give yourself positive self-talk and it has worked for you, along with not obsessing about sleep (which I am definitely guilty of) it gives me hope, so I am going to start now and stick with it.
CathyMay 4, 2021 at 8:48 pm #41042
@cathyo: I too struggle with big sleep anxiety. During the day, I have anticpatory anxiety about the next night.
How do u deal with the anxiety? Do u stay in bed? Do u keep a sleep window?May 5, 2021 at 1:23 am #41057
I don’t tend to struggle with anxiety during the day as much as I used to. I may have thoughts about whether or not I will sleep the next night, but I seem to be able to let those thoughts go on the whole. It may be because I just get on with the day as if I have had a good night’s sleep, not cancelling anything; it may be because there are more distractions during the day so I don’t focus on it; or it may be because I do 10 minutes of meditation every day. I do this through the Calm app (Headspace is good too) and there are lots of resources on there, not just meditation, which I believe has helped me get through this without my anxiety getting out of control or falling into despair.
As it gets close to bedtime, the thoughts about sleep start to get stronger but the anxiety tends to build if I find myself lying awake for more than an hour or so unable to get off to sleep, or unable to get back to sleep if I wake during the night. Despite the fact I seem to be able to cope on little sleep (as I believe is the case with anyone suffering from insomnia) and I tell myself this time and time again, this still doesn’t help my anxiety. I think the main reason for this is because I have googled anything and everything about the effect poor sleep has on your health and this resulted in me endlessly trying to find a magical cure. Needless to say, this just made things worse. Anne-Marie’s comments above about shifting the way I think about sleep is very helpful, which I know is covered in the CBTi courses, but hearing from someone it actually worked for makes a huge difference. Also, just yesterday, Martin reassured me that despite the headlines about the damaging effect poor sleep has on your health, there is no evidence to say this is true. There have been other studies proving there is no direct effect on health, but this doesn’t sell newspapers!!
I have done 2 CBTi courses which included sleep restriction, stimulus control, etc. and although very helpful, at the back of my mind, there was always this worry about the affect of insomnia on my health, which is why I feel it didn’t work as well as I had hoped for me.
Feeling reassured by Martin’s comments (and Anne-Marie’s), the ‘block’ that was preventing the strategies learned from CBTi has lifted so I feel more optimistic and able to move on.
I hope you can find a way to ease your anxiety and things improve for you.