Sudden severe insomnia

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This topic contains 295 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by Deb 5 months, 1 week ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 296 total)
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  • #25642

    ✘ Not a client

    Hi, I’ve never been a good sleeper, any worries or important things I had to do next day would cause me trouble sleeping, but that never really affected my life.

    4 months ago I got sick and at the same time went through a very stressful situation that happened at night on the road. That night I didn’t sleep at all, then I started worrying a lot about my sickness and my insomnia, and I started sleeping less and less and being more and more sick. My life was put upside down in only a few days. Doctors didn’t help at all, they either had no interest or just didn’t understand what was happening to me. I got some pills for anxiety and sleep that did more harm than good. I cannot work since all this started, and being a freelancer that’s a hell of a problem for me.

    Some weeks ago I was able to quit the pills and now I sleep 2-5 hours every night, averaging 3.5. I don’t worry so much anymore and I’m trying to apply sleep restriction to minimize time in bed.

    Besides tiredness, I have internal tremors and a sense of pressure or heaviness in my brain. I can’t find those symptoms being related to insomnia anywhere. Does anyone else have similar problems?

    I’d also like to know, in absence of worries and stress, eating well, doing all activity I can… what makes me sleep only 3 hours? I feel like it’s residual insomnia from what happened 4 months ago. Or it’s because I’m much less active than normal (but I know very inactive people who sleep normally). Will it go away by itself? I’ve seen stories of people that had insomnia for years or decades after a stressful event, how is that possible?

    Thank you and good luck everyone!


    ✓ Client

    I also had sudden onset of insomnia 2 months ago and realized that over time I had conditioned myself to not sleep well in my bed. Recently I heard about the stimulus control method through a library book. It’s also explained on this website. I’m trying to recondition myself now using that method. I also recently have been reading a book called “Unlearn Your Pain” by Howard Schubiner, which talks about how pain can start after a stressful time and like insomnia, our brains become trained to feel this pain. It is REAL pain, not psychosomatic, but the cause is not physical and is created through the neuro-connections between the brain and body.

    I really have been surprised by how quickly we can unconsciously condition ourselves. The same thing may be happening with your pain.

    By the way, I’ve also had many nights of 3 to 4 hours of sleep (and several with none at all), but since I started the stimulus control method, I have some good nights of sleep. So I’m feeling hopeful about this method.


    ✘ Not a client

    Thanks, I watched a talk by Howard Schubiner, it’s very interesting. I don’t really understand how my insomnia started (I think it was a combination of many things, physical and psychological) but it’s possible that my brain somehow learned that sleeping is dangerous, and now it has to unlearn that. When I was really sick, strange things happened when I fell asleep, my body was failing, sometimes I was convinced I was going to die or something worse. It could be that my brain has been conditioned by those experiences, and now there is no danger anymore but that conditioning remains.

    I’ll also continue with stimulus control and sleep restriction, and positive thoughts like “my body knows how to sleep”. I’m quite optimistic about all this! It may be that we have to go through a process of learning all the CBT-i stuff until we develop the right habits, and then we have to move our focus away from it. If you were all day concerned about how to breath correctly, it could become difficult to switch to automatic breathing, right?

    Good luck!


    ✘ Not a client

    “I’ll also continue with stimulus control and sleep restriction, and positive thoughts like “my body knows how to sleep”. I’m quite optimistic about all this! It may be that we have to go through a process of learning all the CBT-i stuff until we develop the right habits, and then we have to move our focus away from it. If you were all day concerned about how to breath correctly, it could become difficult to switch to automatic breathing, right?”

    Yes and Yes!

    A very good paragraph there, that really sums things up correctly.!


    ✓ Client

    That’s great that you’re optimistic. In fact it’s really important that you are and I’ll tell you why from personal experience. Last night I was having a meltdown. I’d been trying to implement the stimulus control method for the last week and things just seemed to be getting worse. I’d slept only 2 hours the last two nights and was completely exhausted. I was getting panicky and dreading going to bed, wondering if again I was going to struggle all night and not fall asleep until the sun was rising.  All these negative thoughts were rushing through my mind like, “I’ve been trying different things for over 8 weeks and nothing’s working (hopelessness),” “How am I ever going to able to keep doing my job if I’m exhausted all the time?” blah, blah, blah, blah.

    Anyway, I went to bed and of course couldn’t sleep. Then I got up and read from the “Unlearn Your Pain” book EXACTLY what I needed to read at that moment. The author talked about fear being the biggest enemy of all and that “stopping your fear of the symptoms is the single most important thing you can do.”  He said that fear feeds the symptoms and strengthens the neuro-connections between our brain and body that are perpetuating the negative cycle. I realized that this is so true for me. If I didn’t feel fear, I could relax and then fall asleep. He then went on to explain how to rid ourselves of fear. After I read this it became so clear to me that fear has been the biggest obstacle for me and that I need to kick it out of my life. I said things to myself like, “I KNOW HOW TO FALL ASLEEP. I’VE BEEN DOING THIS MY WHOLE LIFE! So GET LOST, FEAR!” Then I went to bed and slept like a baby, sleeping over 7 & 1/2 hours and waking up completely refreshed.

    If anyone wants a copy of these few pages on fear from “Unlearn Your Pain,” put your email address here and I’ll scan it into my computer and send it to you. Debbie


    ✘ Not a client

    That’s so great, congratulations! I’m in a similar journey with another book, “the effortless sleep method”. Nothing I can say here can compare to reading the book, but it’s amazing how accurately it describes the psychology of insomnia and all the things I went through. The main idea of the book is that your loss of belief in your own ability to sleep is maintaining the problem, and it explains how to fix that. Last night I started to apply the method; I didn’t sleep like a baby but it was a good beginning.

    Sweet dreams!


    ✓ Client

    That sounds like a great book. Glad you found it and I’ll probably get it to add to my collection of self-help books. I’m also a counselor, so this will be a good resource for me.

    I think I’m  finally over the insomnia. I “remembered” how to sleep and have slept soundly 3 nights in a row now.


    ✘ Not a client

    Preeced and mad Max, could you summarise in a few lines the key messages from both books.

    I’m sure many of us would find that most useful.




    ✘ Not a client

    Congrats Preeced, nice to read a success story 🙂 Daf, the effortless sleep method is a relaxed version of CBT-i, the main idea is recovering the belief that you can sleep because the loss of that belief is what keeps your insomnia. It makes little sense to summarize it because reading the book carefully (probably multiple times) is essential for the method to work. BTW one of the points in the book is to avoid forums and talking about insomnia, so I shouldn’t be here 😉 But I just finished the book today.


    ✘ Not a client

    Agreed, nice to see a success story.

    I agree with you a little on this….. sometimes on these forums there are not enough success stories. Think that is because folks when they get better cannot be a***d to post their success…. probably their desire then (when better) is not to go back to talking about it, even if it is to relate a success story.

    And yes, the issue with forums is that one does occasionally read about people whose sleep issue are even worse than oneself – and then could get panicky as one could imagine that that is where ones’s insomnia is headed (getting worse – catastrophe thinking!!)

    I will get the book.


    I will have to get the book.


    ✓ Client
    • Stopping your fear is the single most important thing you can do.
    • An interesting way of understanding pain, anxiety, depression and other MBS (Minds Body Syndrome) symptoms (I inserted insomnia) is to think of it as a bully. Studies of bullies show that they feed on the fear of their victim. This is exactly what happens with MBS symptoms (or insomnia). The more one fears it, the worse it will get because fear activates the pain and anxiety pathways in the brain. (I thought of my fear as a bully as well, and decided I didn’t need it.)
    • It is vital to trust in one’s own ability to sleep. (This helped me a lot because I realized that I know how to fall asleep – I’ve been doing it my whole life!)
    • Do the things you want to do on a daily basis and plan for your future. Don’t let the insomnia define you. The less you think and worry about it, the better.

    I’m still not completely free from all anxiety when I go to bed. The last two months have been so traumatic that it’s natural to have some leftover fear. Last night I was thinking about things as I lay in bed and couldn’t fall asleep right away. But I reminded myself that I know how to do this, and even if it takes an hour it’s no big deal. Then I fell asleep.


    ✓ Client

    I’ve had a setback and had a bad night last night. So I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not completely healed yet.  I realized that somehow I had been able to keep the fear at bay for the last four nights and that’s how I was able to sleep. But the fear was still there, lurking around the perimeter and waiting for the perfect moment to strike, which it finally did last night.

    So it was a rough night and I felt very discouraged. But now in the light of a day and with a little distance from it, I’m able to see it with more perspective. I’m thinking of this now as two steps forward and one step back. I’ve just got more to learn. My challenge now is to learn how to deal with fear and not just keep it at bay. I’m absolutely certain that fear is the main culprit in insomnia and that we have to learn how to win over it instead of being controlled by it.

    BTW, madmax, I read the book yesterday. A lot of good points. I disagreed with some of them though like never participating in a forum like this. I think it can be useful if you’re able to find some good suggestions (like the book) or maybe help someone else. But I would not want to do this just to commiserate with others. Also, she’s completely against naps. But I take a very brief nap (only for 20 minutes once a day) when I just can’t bear the exhaustion anymore (usually later in the day). They always give me a second wind and then I can make it through the rest of the day and get to bed at the regular time. But I totally agree with her that we need to stop looking for answers outside of ourselves – like the perfect pill, meditation tape, hypnotism, etc. We all know how to sleep. The ability to do so naturally has just been obscured by all the fear and confusion.


    ✘ Not a client

    Thanks Preeced,  I totally agree about the fear as being the issue.

    And it’s a hard nut to crack because I know if I could somehow just “accept” the not sleeping AND the slight anxiety too, I’d sleep fine. But as it gets to 3am, 4am, the anxiety rises, and then there is no chance of sleep.

    So right now it is a night on no sleep at all, followed by a night with 5 to 6 hours net sleep. It has been going on like this for 10 days – so 5 nil sleep nights and 5 with sleep. This repeats a pattern I have been through a lot over the last 2 years 6 months.

    I keep trying to remember that from Mid Aug to end Sept I did not have a single sleepless night….GLORIOUS! and I thought I had cracked this nonsense, but it came back again – regular episodes of 1 to 3 weeks of OFF Sleep/ ON sleep and then a week or two of good sleep.

    As Martin and you say you have to believe that you will get through and you will sleep OK the following night (at least that is what happens to me) due to sheer exhaustion.

    I just want to get two nights decent sleep together now.

    PS Taking Zopiclone v occasionally and sometimes an anti-histamine, but Zop only gives me 2 to 3 hrs sleep and I wake up in  a rush and feel awful, so not keen on drugs.

    God I hate this. It’s really screwed up my life. Perhaps I should accept it is here for good?

    Thanks for all the help. Please keep sending the love.

    Daf (in Kent, England)



    ✓ Client

    Ok, another bad night. Enough is enough. I’ve hired this guy to help me. If I can feel like I’m actually making progress it will be worth every penny of the $499. So far, I’m cautious. Will let you know how this goes.


    ✓ Client

    I’ve changed my displayed name from preeced to Debbie.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 296 total)

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