How Nina overcame insomnia by embracing wakefulness and dropping the struggle (#57)

Listen to the podcast episode (audio only)

Nina typically dealt with occasional periods of sleep disruption by taking some form of over-the-counter medication. When she fell pregnant this was no longer an option. Work stress seemed to make sleep more difficult and so Nina stopped taking on work. Her sleep would improve but every time she started working again, she struggled with sleep all over again.

At this point, Nina thought her ongoing struggle with sleep might be down to pregnancy hormones and yet, after giving birth, her sleep seemed to get even worse. Nina tried to make sleep happen by consuming alcohol, taking supplements, and meditating. She tried hypnosis. Her doctor prescribed her medication but the side-effects were awful. Nothing worked and Nina felt stuck, she felt scared, and she didn’t know what to do.

Then, Nina found the Insomnia Coach podcast. She realized she wasn’t alone. That there was hope. When we started working together, Nina started to make changes. She started to do things that mattered each day, even after difficult nights and even when that felt really difficult. Instead of struggling with being awake during the night, she planned and engaged in activities that would help make being awake feel a bit more productive or a bit more pleasant.

Nina gave herself permission to be awake. She was kinder to herself when things felt difficult. She stopped trying to get a certain amount or type of sleep. She focused on actions that would help her get her life back from insomnia rather than continuing to battle with insomnia.

Nina’s journey was not easy. There were setbacks. She went back to sleeping pills from time to time. Today, Nina is back at work. She enjoys her bed again. She is being the mother she wants to be. She has her life back from insomnia.

Click here for a full transcript of this episode.


Martin: Welcome to the Insomnia Coach Podcast. My name is Martin Reed. I believe that by changing how we respond to insomnia and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that come with it, we can move away from struggling with insomnia and toward living the life we want to live.

Martin: The content of this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, disorder, or medical condition. It should never replace any advice given to you by your physician or any other licensed healthcare provider. Insomnia Coach LLC offers coaching services only and does not provide therapy, counseling, medical advice, or medical treatment. The statements and opinions expressed by guests are their own and are not necessarily endorsed by Insomnia Coach LLC. All content is provided “as is” and without warranties, either express or implied.

Martin: Okay, Nina, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to come onto the podcast.

Nina: Thanks for having me.

Martin: Can you tell us a little bit more about when your sleep problems first began and what you think might have caused those initial issues with sleep?

Nina: Yeah, so for me, it kind of, in a way, it kind of happened slowly.

Nina: And, I didn’t really know that I had a sleep problem. It actually came on me initially when I was pregnant. and it was just, I think as the pandemic was happening, and I was trying to go back to work and like I work in the film industry, so it’s not really something that’s constant. so it would be quite normal to actually not sleep very well before a job because you’re on off with work and you’ve really early starts and all that kind of thing.

Nina: So I was trying to go back to work. Kind of just when things were opening up again, and I was quite stressed I’d also gone through like a pregnancy loss before that like quite late late term. So I was you know, I think I’d had a lot of kind of stress trauma, whatever blah blah and And then the pandemic on top of it and I was a bit worried about my pregnancy You know, working in film, like, I’m a makeup artist, so I work quite closely with people and that kind of thing.

Nina: So I was just even trying to read scripts and things, and I was starting to get quite stressed. And then, when I went to sleep, I couldn’t sleep. And I, I just, it, again, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to not sleep. before work for the first day, but anytime in the past before I had been able to just take something to help me sleep, I’d go to the chemist.

Nina: Looking back, I don’t think this is a really good thing to do anyway, but it just shows you what I would have done, what we all kind of did if we, if we didn’t sleep. We’d be living on caffeine tablets during the day and, you know, taking flu tablets at night time to get a few hours to get up again at three in the morning or whatever, you know, crazy stuff.

Nina: But when you’re pregnant, uh, you can’t do any of that. So that, I think, made it worse for me knowing that I couldn’t take anything. And I just thought, Oh my God. And then the next day, the same thing happened. I couldn’t sleep. the day after that, I couldn’t sleep. And I thought, what the hell? So I thought, Oh, I’ll go to the chemist.

Nina: I’ll, I’ll see, you know, what they’ll tell me that I can, that I can take for sleep. And of course they went in and they said, you can’t take anything. You know, you’re pregnant, blah, blah, blah. And that then made it worse again. And the cycle just kind of continued. And then so. I thought, well, okay, you know, I can’t do this job, I’ll just step back for a bit, try again another time, you know, went back to sleep in absolutely grand, took another job, oh my God, the same things happened, you know, and I thought this is really weird, but I put it down to pregnancy.

Nina: I put it down to, oh, it’s because I’m pregnant and I can’t take anything to help me sleep. But then every time I tried to take a job the same thing happened and I just thought okay, well, initially, then I just thought, well, I have to stop working when I’m pregnant like this, you know, I can’t just stay awake all night.

Nina: When I have, you know, a baby, when, when I’m looking after a baby, essentially, you know, so, and it was during the pandemic anyway. So I just thought, well, I’ll just, you know, sit this one out. but then after I had the baby and I tried to go back to work again, the same thing happened and I fell into the same cycle with breastfeeding because it was breastfeeding and I couldn’t take anything, blah, blah, blah.

Nina: So this whole time, I didn’t really think it was insomnia. I thought it was just related to. Pregnancy, pregnancy hormones, you know, I just, I really didn’t know what was happening. but the same thing happened on and off for ages, and then it just got worse and I went to the doctor because I, every time I tried to go back to work, I would just be awake for the entire night, you know?

Nina: and yeah, I went to the doctor and that kind of made it worse again, you know? So, There just sort of seemed like there was no help out there for it, but I didn’t really know what the problem was, you know, so that’s kind of how it started,,

Martin: It sounds like once that initial trigger or the circumstances around what you identified as causing these sleep issues wasn’t, around anymore, or wasn’t relevant anymore.

Martin: The sleep issues still suck around. And that’s when it can start to feel really mysterious, right? Because we can attribute the cause to all these things, but now all these things aren’t around anymore, and then we can start to worry, well, what’s going on now? Is that the kind of thing that you experienced?

Nina: Yeah, exactly, because In the beginning, it was me trying to get back to work. And every time I would take on a job, I’d say, Oh, well, I’m sleeping great now. I’ll take a job. And then of course, I’d take the job and all the fear would come back. I wouldn’t be able to sleep, blah, blah, blah. But then it got so bad that it just bled into my everyday life anyway.

Nina: So then it was just every day, regardless of if I was working or not. And that’s when it really, like, you’d say the shit hit the fan, you know, because it was just like, I was just like tortured every day, you know, I just, and I couldn’t see a way out of it. And then it was only then that I thought, Oh, this is like probably insomnia.

Nina: You know, this is a real problem. and it’s actually taking over my life because I still had a young baby, like, and he was a really bad sleeper. So, you know, I think like. maybe that was part of the problem as well. Well, even though it started when I was pregnant, but then after he was born, like I had a very long, even labor, labor with him.

Nina: And then after that, he never slept, you know? So my sleep kind of was just, completely thrown off. And he was still quite young. I think he was probably only 10 months or nine, 10 months when my insomnia just became like a full time thing, you know. and he, you know, he would have been awake all night. If anything, actually the kind of, uh, treatment, like the, when I actually got the insomnia treated, it helped his sleep in a way, because I just could not be there to, you be with him all night, you know, and his sleep got marginally better.

Nina: But, but, yeah, like it definitely, that’s, that’s when it got really, really bad. And when it became proper insomnia, I think, or when I registered that that’s what the issue was.

Martin: So, Now you’re kind of in in that struggle, you know, you kind of figured out there’s there’s something else going on here It’s not just this temporary issue It seems to be this thing that’s present and I can’t seem to shake it off Like any normal human being you identify that as a problem and you want to try and fix it So I’m curious to hear what kind of things you tried, when you found yourself really struggling.

Nina: Yeah, I, I tried everything. I mean, I think when the insomnia kind of got really bad initially, uh, I was so freaked out, you know, at the beginning I started drinking, like probably the first night I tried like wine and stuff because before I had sleep issues, you know, a glass of wine, if I had one glass of wine and didn’t have anything else, it would knock me out.

Nina: So I thought, okay, I’m going to try it. I’ll drink. So I got out of bed, had a glass of wine, got back into bed, you know, didn’t fall asleep. The more things fail, the more freaked out you get, and the more freaked out you get, the less likely you’re ever going to sleep, you know. So it’s like the worst vicious cycle.

Nina: And you’re like, okay, so I’ll try something else. That doesn’t work. You know, obviously like meditations and all those kind of nice, you know, It’s music, music all through the night. You know, I probably know them all, those 24 hour things on YouTube and stuff, which are lovely. It makes it slightly better, but it doesn’t help you get to sleep when every time you go to sleep, you wake up with your heart racing, which is what would happen me.

Nina: yeah. I tried loads of supplements. I went to like Ayurvedic doctors and spent a billion quid on stuff. I tried all the antihistamines. I tried like two or three different types of melatonin. Like, I couldn’t get anything proper because I was breastfeeding. but one of the chemists, you know, was saying that you could take these.

Nina: Antihistamines, try them, whatever, at that stage I wasn’t really breastfeeding much anyway. and, yeah, but nothing, nothing worked, you know, so, like, really nothing worked. And then I think it was the day of my birthday. That it was just, it was so bad. And I remember then just going, I just need to go to the doctor and try and, I actually tried hypnosis before that as well.

Nina: Cause I’d heard that that had helped somebody and that actually made me worse. Like it, it made me so much worse having to lie in the bed and like concentrate on this thing that’s supposed to, supposed to make me relax into sleeping. But it was just making me pay attention to fact, to the fact that I needed it to sleep.

Nina: You know, and then every time this bell would ring at the end and I would just be like, oh my god, it’s the end of it. I’m awake, you know, and it would just make it so much worse. So like after that on my birthday, I went to the doctor and I said, blah, blah, blah, I have this problem. You know, I really need some help with it.

Nina: Like I feel like I’m going crazy. I need to sleep. I have a baby, like blah, blah, blah. And I was like, oh my god. he was, he, he was actually quite good. He wasn’t my regular doctor because my regular doctor wasn’t there, but he told me CBT would be really good and he gave me the name of a counselor, but he obviously mixed up CBT and CBT-I because CBT was just counseling and, you know, that was great, but it wasn’t going to help my insomnia.

Nina: And I did, but I did download CBT-I apps, which kind of gave me a a bit of, you know, an idea of what CBT-I was, but it just wasn’t enough. and then he prescribed me an antidepressant because he said that it might help with my sleep. And I thought, well, I’ve had a really stressful year anyway. So maybe this antidepressant will help me with my sleep.

Nina: I took it and then I had like the worst reaction to anything. Like I was, I was out of my head. Like, I literally felt like I was on loads of drugs. I was really horribly anxious. I felt awful. And I was like looking up Things on this and like the antidepressants, I’ve known people who’ve been on it and they’re absolutely grand and it did wonders for them, but I guess I probably wasn’t really depressed.

Nina: I was taking it for sleep or maybe it just didn’t work. My physiology, I don’t know, but, it didn’t work. And, you know, I, I thought maybe this is just a side effect of it and it’ll get better. And I tried to stay on it, but I actually couldn’t even function. I felt so awful. It did help me sleep funny enough.

Nina: It was the only thing I could do. Was sleep, but I felt so terrified that they had to prescribe the other medication to counteract the anxiety of that until I could get back into the doctor and then I got back and he’s like stay off them. So I did and that was that, but then insomnia was straight back.

Nina: So it’s kind of back to square one. I really didn’t know where to turn, honestly, and I was listening to another podcast that was nothing to do with insomnia, but they had suggested finding, like if you have a problem, to find what they call expanders, and it’s people who have been through the same situation as you.

Nina: that you can see to believe that something’s possible. So I thought, okay, well, I need to find somebody who’s gotten over insomnia for me to believe that that is possible for me. And I just knew two people, my mom, actually, funny enough, and my stepmom who have sleeping issues, but neither of them had gotten over them.

Nina: So I was kind of doing the anti expander by thinking, Oh my God, these people have sleep issues and they just take sleeping tablets and they can’t really do anything because they never sleep. And I, you know, it was doing the opposite for me. It just made me panic way more because I could just see what they were doing and I knew that I didn’t want that, you know, which is making it worse.

Nina: So I ended up just, googling, I got over my insomnia or something like that and up came your podcast. and that’s how I, that’s how I found you and your podcast and your YouTube channel and stuff, which gave me everything that I was looking for in, you know, in the Expander podcast. way, but, and that was great.

Nina: I really needed that. And I had actually gone to a sleep consultant before I, in Dublin. but yeah, that didn’t really help either. You know, like, I mean, it was, it was the right idea, but it just didn’t, it didn’t work for me either. You know, I just felt like it wasn’t, it was kind of a tick the box thing.

Nina: do this, this and this, see you later, you know, and it doesn’t sort of get down to that fear like that, that people with insomnia have, because you’re really just petrified, you know, and like, you need somebody to say, you’re going to be okay. And like, if you say, like, I remember saying to the last lady, like, Oh, you know, I just, how am I going to be okay?

Nina: And she’s just kind of like, Oh, you know. Probably. You’re just like, yeah, you know, it’s like they don’t want to tell you you’re definitely going to be okay in case you’re one of those people that’s not going to be okay, but like you will be okay, you know, like, I don’t know. You just, you need your hand held a little bit and you just need to be told.

Nina: It’s like, you know, that’s all it is. It’s just, it’s like, it’s an overload of stress and fear and like, you just need to be brought down off that ledge, you know, like you don’t just suddenly stop sleeping for no reason. Like, there’s reasons that you can’t sleep, you know, and you just need to be told, it’s okay, relax, you’ll be fine, do this, you know, and you’ll be able to sleep again, like, you know, it’s like, yeah, I don’t know why it’s made so complicated, you know.

Martin: The fear, like, just can be just this huge can of worms, right, because it’s understandable. First of all, I think it’s important to recognize and emphasize that fear is a natural and normal human emotion. You know, nobody goes through life without experiencing fear.

Martin: When we do things that are important, we experience fear.

Martin: When we do things that matter, we can experience fear. When we do things that aren’t pleasant, we can experience fear. We can experience it for all different reasons. But I think what can happen when we get tangled up in the struggle with insomnia is it’s kind of like this new front that we open up that gets us drawn into more of a struggle.

Martin: So we’re kind of struggling with the sleep.

Nina: Mm-Hmm. .

Martin: And we’re struggling with the fear ’cause we no longer wanna experience the fear because it doesn’t feel good and because we recognize it maybe as a barrier or an obstacle to sleep. And then we start to get anxious about fear turning up and then we can start to get anxiety about anxiety turning up.

Martin: Yeah. And it’s just. new front after new front opening up and we’re suddenly going to war with so many different opponents. And before you know it, we just feel stuck, right? We just feel like we’re just getting overwhelmed by all these invisible enemies and that it’s impossible for us to move forward.

Nina: Yeah. Takes over your whole life, your whole day. You know, and you get all these new triggers, like all the time, it’s like, Oh, the sun is starting to set. Oh God. You know, I need to start thinking about like all of the things next that are leading up to the event of bed, you know, and it’s like, it just goes on and like, it’s so ridiculous that like your brain can allow that to happen, you know, and that you can do that to yourself.

Nina: Day in, day out.

Martin: It can feel like the brain gets a bit adversarial, right? It’s like, why are you working against us? but the truth is, you know, the brain, when it’s generating fear or coming up with all these thoughts and stories and time traveling into the future, what might happen, what has happened in the past, really the brain is actually doing its job of looking out for us, right?

Martin: It’s just trying to figure out what’s going on, how to fix it, how to protect you, right? Um But because we, going back to what I was saying earlier, because we can see that as an obstacle, as a problem, and because sometimes it doesn’t feel good to experience certain thoughts and feelings and emotions, we can start trying to fight or avoid them.

Martin: so then the brain’s got this idea that, hey, I’m looking out for you here, I’ve got some important stuff to say. And we’re kind of, no, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear it. I’m going to distract myself, or I’m going to avoid the situation that generates that stuff. and that’s when it can kind of grow in power and influence, right?

Martin: So all these thoughts and feelings and stories now kind of take on a life of their own. They become so much more powerful because they start to influence our behaviors. and they can start to consume more of our energy and attention as we just trying to push them away or trying to avoid them. and it’s completely understandable why we would do that, but it often just gets us drawn into more of a struggle that makes things so much more difficult.

Martin: And it sounds like That was your experience, not to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like that’s what you’re describing. Would you say that that’s accurate?

Nina: Yeah, it was definitely accurate. I mean, I kind of had, I guess I had the sleep issue for probably around two years, maybe two years more maybe, but for a year it was really constant.

Nina: Like, I mean, I also was on sleeping tablets, so I didn’t mention that before because I was given them, funny enough, by the first Sleep consultant. Uh, I got them from, from where she kind of told me like, Oh, you’re either taking them or you’re not taking them. So I ended up taking them and that obviously made the sleep, my sleep worse, you know, and then I was taking like a full sleeping tablet every day for, you know, I don’t know, five months or something, six months.

Nina: I couldn’t get off them then, you know, and they weren’t even really working, but like that made the anxiety worse, you know, and the, the sleep. Yeah. So I was just, it was like, I guess the sleeping tablets probably gave me a little bit of rest for a while, but I was also like, you know. The feeling of knowing that you’re using a tablet for sleep and that that’s not in your control anymore is just weird.

Nina: Like you don’t want to give your, their control of sleep over to a tablet. I mean, nobody really wants to know that even psychologically that like, Oh, I can’t go sleep anymore. So you take this tablet, you know, and then, you know, and they, yeah. Yeah, they kind of stopped working or whatever, but like, yeah, that was very much my life on and off and on and off and full time for months, years really, because I couldn’t like, you know, I still couldn’t go back to work or every time I did.

Nina: I’d have to take a tablet if I went back to work and sometimes the tablet didn’t work and, you know, and then sometimes I’d maybe one night I’d have a good night and I think I’m okay and then I wouldn’t again and it just, in the back of my mind, it was always like, Oh, I’m not over this thing. Or, you know, I felt still kind of like tied to the past in a way of like, you know, times that were harder or whatever, you know, like, That, that was still like clinging on in a way, you know, I wasn’t, I wasn’t over it.

Nina: I took, yeah, took a long time to get out of the, the horrible fear part, you know. definitely did. Definitely, definitely did. Yeah.

Martin: Maybe we could talk a little bit more about If there was a change of approach to that fear, or how you were able to approach that or deal with it in a different way, once we started to work together, because it sounds as though you recognize that the fear, maybe the anxiety around sleep, how it’s influencing your life, was, a major issue related to the insomnia struggle.

Martin: So can you tell us, maybe it was more than one thing, but maybe we can just start here. how you first started to approach responding to that fear a little bit differently when we were working together?

Nina: Yeah. Well, I think, for me, I started with the, I started with your free course actually, and that really helped.

Nina: I think from the moment I signed up with that. I stopped taking the sleeping tablets. So I think I was really mentally ready to just be like, I need this to go away and I’m going to do whatever it takes. Like, I really felt that I was, I had, I was gone down the right track basically, because of all the, the videos of people that I’d listened to on the podcast and everything, the YouTube videos that I’d watched and stuff, I really felt like, you know, if they could do it, I could do it.

Nina: So I wasn’t as. Afraid of what was coming. Like I knew what was coming in the sense that I’d done all the sleep restriction before. I actually had been doing all that for months before I worked with you. so I was somewhat sleeping, but I was also still on sleeping tablets. So I hadn’t managed to wean off them properly.

Nina: And like, I’d get some, I’d get somewhere with it and then I’d fall right back down again. So I guess, yeah, I was really, really, really ready. And I think what shifted was. I guess being up at night, just not resisting it, you know, and also going about my day and not letting things get in the way of that, that was a really important thing and that was a really, really hard thing to do because it wasn’t always easy, but I think that really helped.

Nina: some of the days were so long, even just with like, with a baby who woke up, like he would wake at like four or five in the morning. So my day was long and he would wake during the night and he would only be going to bed at like 8pm or something, you know, but spending the weekends trying to do something memorable, definitely did help.

Nina: And I know that was one of the things that you would say, you know, and the more that you would do those things, it would. you know, you would be making those memories and it would make sleep less important. And that is true. Although it was hard to do that, but it did end up making sleep less important because it wasn’t just like, I didn’t sleep.

Nina: So I’m just going to sit in today and my whole day’s ruined because I’m tired and I didn’t sleep. Whereas you’re just going to be tired at home doing nothing, you know? And so that helped, but also just. Staying up at night and not just waiting to go back to bed. And that’s such an easy trap to fall into because even like anytime I’d do well with sleep and then I’d have a little bit of a relapse again, I would fall back into those same traps again, you know, of being pissed off that I’m awake and, you know, just waiting to go back to bed and or just sitting pissed off in my bed, waiting to go back to sleep.

Nina: like. If you’re not sleeping, like none of that’s helpful, you know, you kind of have to be okay with, with being up. And that’s so much easier said than done at times. But what really did shift, and I did notice it shift was some nights just been like, okay, actually, what am I going to do tonight? You know, and like actually thinking about things that I could do that are enjoyable, because like, I didn’t really have much time to myself anyway, because my baby was awake all the time.

Nina: So, you know, The tables did turn a little bit if I was like, you know, I’m surviving on no sleep. I’m probably not going to sleep anyway, but I’m going to enjoy this time. Cause I don’t get much time to myself and I would plan to do something, you know? And then it was that shift that I found actually, like, I’m enjoying myself now.

Nina: And funny enough, I’m able to sleep better. You know, it’s like shifting it from just being miserable and having that miserable existence to having nicer experiences. You know, and I guess when you’re having a nicer experience, you’re lowering your stress levels and you actually probably can sleep better because you’re not just stressed out all the time.

Nina: So yeah. And I do remember that at one specific moment kind of going, because I had, I had notes up in my kitchen and I used to write things like ideas that I could do at night time when I was awake, I’d write them down. And sometimes it was really just like household tasks because I thought, well, if I’m going to do some cleaning, at least it means I don’t need to do it tomorrow when I’m retired.

Nina: You know, and I would take some things off my list, do the dishwasher, clean the cooker, clean the kitchen, you know It’s better than sitting down just you know, like I’d be so alert Anyway, as soon as I’d hit the pillow my, you know, stress levels would go through the roof My heart would beat so fast, you know No amount of sitting down relaxing was gonna chill me out that much So at least if I got some things done, I could feel good about that, you know, and Go and relax and not just be like looking at the clock thinking I need to go back to sleep.

Nina: So all of those things kind of did help. And that getting that into my head that that was okay and allowed. And I don’t need to just think about the hours that I need to get. Because you’re either going to get them or you’re not. And I could never tell whether how many I was going to get. So I might as well be doing other things.

Nina: And that shift sort of, I think really made a difference. Because at least I was happier, you know?

Martin: Yeah, and you’re kind of giving yourself options, right? Because when you got that, the default option, which is maybe like just stay in bed and just try, try, try to make sleep happen. Because maybe your mind is saying, well, if you do something else, whether that’s in bed or out of bed, then sleep’s less likely to happen now.

Martin: Because you’re not trying. but maybe then we can acknowledge, thanks brain, okay, I can see you’re trying to look out for me here, but what does my experience tell me?

Martin: My experience might be telling me something different. My experience might be telling me, actually, the more I’m just trying to sleep, and that’s my core focus.

Martin: The more I tend to struggle, it doesn’t tend to make conditions any better for sleep. So how about I give myself alternative options? so if I do find myself really struggling, it becomes really unpleasant, I’ve got something else to do. whether it’s reading a book, watching TV, getting some stuff done off the to do list, it really doesn’t matter, because at this point, the goal isn’t really to make sleep happen, because that’s something your experience is probably telling you cannot be achieved through effort.

Martin: The goal is really to practice experiencing being awake at night with less of a struggle. So we’re just doing something else that kind of, in a way, is training the brain that alright, wakefulness can be unpleasant, I’d much rather be asleep, I’m not trying to trick myself, but at the same time, it’s not a threat, you know, it’s not something you have to be quite so alert to protect you from.

Martin: And I’m demonstrating that being awake at night isn’t a threat. by struggling less with it, by doing other things, by not going to war with this invisible enemy of nighttime wakefulness. and that in turn can also just take so much of the pressure we might put on ourselves to sleep, because now we’re not actively trying to sleep.

Martin: We’re just making use of that wakefulness, maybe in a more productive or a more constructive way.

Nina: Yeah, as well. And on knowing that, you know, you would always say as well that like, Thinking about your day the next day is so much worse than actually doing, living your day the next day. And although sometimes the days are hard, but like the days actually that I was in work exhausted were probably a little bit easier than the days that I was at home exhausted anyway.

Nina: You know, like thinking about having to go to work for me, thinking about having to drive was really scary. Like, Oh my God, having to drive to work. And that was part of it as well. If I had to go far, but the days that I was in work weren’t that bad, you know, even days where I didn’t get to sleep at all, worrying about not sleeping was so much worse.

Nina: You know, and even the days, the nights where you’re just struggling, lying in bed. I actually used to have a cathedral outside my window and the bell used to go off every single hour on the hour. So it was like, don’t watch the clock, but it was like, ding, Oh my God, it’s 1am. You know, ding, ding. Oh my God, it’s 2am.

Nina: And that just happened all night. So it was like pure torture. Those nights were so much worse. And as soon as I was up, you know, if I had the telly on or something, at least I couldn’t hear the bells. I could hide my clock. I could just stretch from the time, you know, and when I was also given, I guess, the allowance to stay up and not worry about the clock as well, like I’m being told to do this.

Nina: It was a bit easier as well, cause I wasn’t, at least I knew I was doing it for a reason. You know, this is actually going to help. Don’t worry about it. You know, this is actually the right thing to do. Don’t just lie in bed, torturing yourself. Just do something else. You know, it’ll eventually lead you to the place that you want to be.

Nina: You know, you just have to, you might as well be just enjoying it. You know, do something, do something other than just lie in bed, which I did so much of anyway, you know, like my link with that pillow was so strong for staying awake and. not sleeping, you know, it was like as soon as I went into the room, I was like, you know, I’d like look at my bed.

Nina: I’d look at the pillow and I would just like, I’d hate it. You know, he’s changed the covers all the time and be like, Oh, I need to get these covers off, you know, and then I’d still hate the bed straight away afterwards. Like

Martin: just, just hearing you describe How the worries or the time traveling, the time traveling brain, the thoughts that come with that and how the brain often predicts things kind of worst case scenario, right?

Martin: and then when we actually go about our days, they can still definitely be really difficult and really hard, but often they’re not as difficult or as bad as what the brain might suggest, and I think it can be helpful to just recognize that, because the brain is hardwired to think of worst possible scenarios, worst case outcomes, because that’s what keeps us alive, right?

Martin: If we see this creature walking down the street that we’ve never seen before, the brain’s like, Don’t touch it. It could, it could be like this alien life form that’s going to destroy you and everyone within a 50 mile radius of you if you touch it. So we don’t touch it. regardless of whether or not that’s true, now we’re safe, right?

Martin: Because we haven’t touched the strange creature.

Martin: but that can work against us too. If we kind of take it literally, if we take those worst case scenarios that the mind’s coming up with and we just see them as 100 percent facts. because then. We might withdraw from doing things that matter to us, do less of the things that are important.

Martin: And then, like you touched upon, maybe then we’re kind of sitting at home, doing nothing.

Nina: Mm hmm. No job.

Martin: Yeah, exactly.

Nina: No money. No friends.

Martin: Yeah, and it’s not, then it’s kind of, The question is, is it the insomnia that’s leading to this result, or is it the way I’m responding to the insomnia that’s leading to this result?

Martin: and I don’t say it that way to kind of attach blame, but I say it that way because it can, Give us a sense of control, you know, because if it’s down to our response, maybe if we respond differently, if we can keep doing at least some of the things that matter, even if they’re really small, and maybe we start to chip away at the power and influence that insomnia and the thoughts and the feelings that come with it are having over us.

Martin: And as we continue to do that. Maybe we can start to emerge from the struggle, you know, pull ourselves out of the quicksand and it’s not a it’s very rarely a quick and easy process often takes ongoing practice, especially when your brain is screaming at you, you know, there’s no way you can do this.

Martin: You’ve got to stay home. You’ve got to rest. You’ve got to recover. You’re too tired to do any of this stuff. it can be a real effort because you Those thoughts in themselves are difficult, but the reality is often difficult too, you know, this, we’re not pretending here, the days tend to be really difficult.

Martin: we can’t directly control, you know, our fatigue levels, or we can’t permanently, directly, you know, Permanently delete anxiety or fear, but what we can do is change our relationship with those things. maybe acknowledge their presence, be kind to ourselves when things are feeling difficult and continue to do things that matter even when this stuff shows up.

Nina: It’s like what you said about the bully and it’s so true because You know, you are letting it take all your power away. You’re letting it take all the things you enjoy away. because you are trying to conserve your energy and stuff, you know, but then you’re just not doing anything. Like one of the things that I did as well, then as I started, I was Just going to the gym, whether or not I slept, you know, and I probably wouldn’t have done that before.

Nina: and I was fine in the gym. I was absolutely grand. I was still able to lift whatever weights I wanted to lift and I felt great for it. You know, whereas before I might have thought, you know, probably shouldn’t go because I need my energy. But it’s like, no, I’m, I’m going to do everything. Some of the days I actually had the busiest days.

Nina: You know, I did the most amount of things because I was like, I was just booking so many things in because it was, I, I didn’t want to just be sitting at home feeling sorry for myself and wallowing and the fact that I’m not sleeping. And also it was good to just distract my mind, you know, and then little by little, I wasn’t, I didn’t have the time and the energy to think about sleep, you know, and then I started sleeping better.

Nina: but yeah, it, it, yeah, it was, it was a process. It definitely didn’t happen overnight, but it definitely did happen.

Martin: You touched upon how helpful you found it to continue to do things or to reintroduce things that matter into your life, even when, even while the insomnia was still present, even while the fear was still there, the anxiety, the fatigue, all that difficult stuff was there.

Martin: You weren’t kind of, I need this stuff to be gone before I can do these things. You kind of flipped it around. I’m going to do these things even though they’re there and then maybe they might fade into the background or maybe they might lose some of their power and influence and in effect, maybe I’ll start to emerge from the struggle and conditions for sleep will become a bit better because now I’m no longer putting quite so much effort in.

Martin: These things aren’t having quite so much power and influence over me. and maybe I think this kind of comes back to what you touched upon earlier when you said. You know, what really helped me was dropping that resistance to insomnia or being awake at night.

Martin: And it sounds as though what you’ve also been describing is dropping the resistance to all the difficult stuff that comes with insomnia during the daytime as well.

Martin: whether that’s what you’re thinking or what you’re feeling, how you’re feeling, Okay. And I know that people listening to this are going to be like, Yeah, that sounds great. Drop the resistance.

Martin: If someone says to you, how do I drop this resistance? So if we start at nighttime, how do I drop that resistance? Because I don’t want insomnia to exist. So I want to resist it. I want to get rid of it. How do I drop that resistance?

Nina: Well, I think. Okay, well it’s like you get caught in a loop of not wanting to be tired and feeling scared of being tired all the time.

Nina: and I found that that’s for me where you’re just like, I just want my sleep or you might have one night. It’s nearly the nights where you have a good sleep that make it worse. Because you’re like, Oh, I feel really good. And then you’re afraid of losing it. And then you’re tired again. And when you’re tired again, it’s worse because you know what it’s like to have good, to have good sleep.

Nina: But I guess then you’re still just micromanaging everything, right? I think if you just give in to being tired, you’re just kind of like, this is it for now. I’m just going to be tired. I’m just going to do these things hard, and I’m just going to do the best that I can tired, you know, it, it doesn’t matter for now, because this is not forever.

Nina: This is temporary. This is not forever. And you just kind of have to drill it in that it’s not forever. And you just kind of have to make it the now more manageable. And know that that is going to get better. It’s just going to get better and better and better. It might go up and down, but it will just get better.

Nina: And I kind of feel like for me, that was sort of, I just had to give into it and be like, you know what? If you’re going to be tired tomorrow, you’re going to be tired tomorrow. Whatever it is, it’s not going to be as bad as the way you’re imagining it now. Because even, Even how tired you are at the end of the day, like sometimes you feel more tired in the evening before you go to bed.

Nina: Even if you’ve been up all night struggling by the time that you’ve in the morning had a shower and had your breakfast, you’re even a little bit more revitalized. You know, it’s not the end of the day, like if you just do something to change the mood or you know, you, you won’t be as bad the next day as you think you’re gonna be.

Nina: It’s never as bad and. I think just accepting it for what it is at the time and making the best that you can and just remind yourself that it’s not forever. You know, it is very much temporary and you are doing the right thing. Like I think that’s, that’s probably what helped me. And also just like, I just really had enough of it.

Nina: You know, I really had just had enough. I’m like, Oh my God, like I was so bored of my own thoughts, you know? So like sometimes they come in, I’d be like, Oh my God, who cares? Do you know? Who cares? Who cares? Yeah, you’re tired. Great. You know, whatever. Like, this is it now. I’m just gonna be tired. Grand. You know, I’m just gonna do something else.

Nina: I’m just gonna clean up. At least I won’t have to do that tomorrow. Or, yeah, just watch a bit of telly. Like, grand. This is not what other people are doing, but I’m gonna do it. You know, and just have a bit of joy in what you’re doing. You know, everybody has different struggles and this is just the struggle that I have right now.

Nina: And it’s not forever. I’m gonna make the best of it.

Martin: I think it’s natural and normal that we have that resistance, right? Because it’s something we don’t want to experience. but just listening to you talk, what comes across is just the fact that there is an alternative option available if we wish to take it.

Martin: So we can continue trying to resist. You know, each individual listening to this are the experts in themselves, and if they feel that’s the right approach for them, then sure, then that’s the option that they can pursue. If someone is listening to this and they feel that that resistance isn’t really getting them where they want to be, then there are alternative options.

Martin: And so for you to put that kind of into practice, to physically put that into practice, it sounds as though your alternative options were to do something else physically at night. Alright. Other than resisting insomnia, trying to make sleep happen, and during the day, instead of trying to resist the tiredness, the fear, the anxiety, you kind of acknowledged it, you know, this is true, I’m not trying to trick myself, I am pretty tired, I’m, I’m feeling scared, I’m anxious, my brain is time traveling all over the place, I can’t focus.

Martin: Even though all that stuff is present, I’m gonna respond by doing things that are important to me, things that are meaningful. So even though that stuff is there, there’s also some other meaningful or important things as well. and I think that really is how we kind of, that’s how we move away from the resistance, just by giving ourselves alternative options.

Martin: If our experience is telling us that resistance isn’t getting us closer to where we want to be.

Nina: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I kind of kept myself busy. I think that’s what I did during the days when I felt like, okay, I’m really, I just really, I’m tired of this now and I want my life back. So at least I was giving myself my life back.

Nina: I was just doing it tired, you know, but it helped. But also like, you know, lying in bed is fine, but you don’t want to be lying in bed. struggling. So it’s like, you know, if I was really tired, I’d be like, well, maybe lying in bed is okay. I’m like, I’ll lie in bed, you know, but if I was going to struggle, and I know you, you would always say that if you want to go to bed, go to bed, you know, if you’re, if you’re, if you want to lie in bed and be awake, be awake in bed, but don’t struggle.

Nina: And I think that’s the thing that like, there’s no point in doing that, in being in bed struggling, you might as well just be up doing something else. You know, and at least I was doing something else that was going to benefit me somewhat and make my life a bit easier.

Martin: So when you were practicing this, this new approach, something that a lot of my clients tell me or a concern they share with me is what if, This doesn’t work for me.

Martin: You know, what if I’m that kind of outlier? What if all this extra effort I’m exerting into doing things during the day that matter to me or, you know, doing engaging an alternative activity instead of trying to sleep at night? What if this isn’t going to work for me? What if I’m not going to make progress . Did your mind generate any of those stories? And if so, how did you respond to them to kind of keep you on track?

Nina: Yeah, I mean, I thought that all the time.

Nina: I didn’t think I would be on, on. The podcast or on a podcast or, you know, I mean, if anything, I just had people around me who like suffered from sleep issues and who were just popping pills and that was them, you know, and I was just like, I, Oh my God, that’s all I saw, you know? And thanks to your podcast and thanks to your, YouTube channel, there’s just so many people and then the forum as well, you know, like you could see on your form who’s a client and who’s not a client and, you know, and I think that’s great as well because you’ve got people who are clients helping people who aren’t clients and stuff, but it also, you can see how people are evolving and, you know, how people are struggling and it’s, you know, I just thought there was so much evidence there to suggest that this works.

Nina: You know, and that just kept me going. And I thought, you know what, like, I, you know, if you try hard, you have to have some success in it, you know? And it’s like, I guess my, the last sleep coach that I had, she sort of said like people who tend to suffer from insomnia can be people who are like a type A personality who like need to fix things and who have to try really hard and stuff.

Nina: and maybe that’s why they don’t sleep. She, she suggested that, you know, and I thought, that’s really interesting. But I guess if you then are a kind of person who wants to try really hard at something, and she was saying, you know, you can’t force sleep, but at least if you’re given a plan that you can try really hard at, that works, then why not do that?

Nina: You know, you can’t force sleep, but you can force a plan to work, you know? So I just thought, no, I’m just going to have to. It just made sense to me. It did make sense to me because it’s like, in a way, it’s somewhat like an anxiety issue. Like it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, you know, like what you’ve said before as well.
I just thought that if I went with this plan, it would definitely work for me.

Nina: I felt like in a way I didn’t have a choice because I had to, I had to get on with my life regardless, you know, regardless of sleep. And at least that was part of the plan was, well, you have to get on with your, get on with your life, you know? So I was going to have to do that either way. but yeah, the fear was definitely there.

Nina: What if this doesn’t? work, you know, but it worked, it worked for so many other people, you know, and it definitely seemed like the best option because there wasn’t really that many more options out there. And I’d actually tried all of them, you know, I had literally tried all of them. but this definitely seemed like something that I, I did think it was going to work.

Nina: I did think it was going to work and I was going to stick it out as long as it took as well. You know, I think Watching everyone’s videos, the one thing that really stood out as well was that like everyone was a carbon copy of each other. I mean, even the symptoms that people had, you know, the thoughts that people had, just even knowing that there is so many people out there that were awake at night going through the same, you know, thinking the same crazy thoughts, having their whole life taken over by this thing, you know, like that helped.

Nina: And then knowing that so many people had come from that and overcome it. So I did, I did think that I would be able to get over this, but I also, there were often times when I was awake at night that I just wanted it to be over faster, you know, and then you’d think you’d get somewhere and then you kind of have a relapse.

Nina: And that was one thing as well, that you covered a lot in your videos and stuff, which I would then watch repeatedly, you know, to try and calm myself down. Yeah, but then it’s just like, like everybody says, I mean, everyone has the same, it’s the same for everyone, you know? And you can even find people in the videos that you relate to so much as well, like, Oh, this girl’s just had a baby and this girl, blah, blah, blah.

Nina: And, you know, it’s just, it’s like life events or, you know, seem to just make these things happen. and yeah, I mean, all of that, all of that definitely really helped. And I definitely wasn’t sure, but. You know, I think my sleep is fairly good now, so, yeah, it’s definitely better.

Martin: Talking about progress, can you describe the moment, if there was a memorable moment, or maybe it was more gradual, but Was there a moment when you kind of realized that things were changing?

Martin: that this whole new approach that you were experimenting with towards sleep and all the thoughts and the feelings that can come with it, that can come with insomnia were actually proving to be helpful, that this approach was, was proving to be useful.

Nina: Yeah, I mean, I did the course. I remember kind of getting to the end of that and being a little bit, like, afraid, oh my God, you know, I’m on my own now kind of thing.

Nina: Yeah. I remember thinking, okay, like if I struggle again, I’ll just sign up again, because it was, it was so helpful. Like I, I felt like a different person by the time I finished to be honest, but I, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to kind of go out on my own. Like, and also because I hadn’t really gone back to work.

Nina: So for me, it was different and I think it was dragged out so much longer because of the way that I work. I wasn’t taking on any long jobs because I didn’t have child care and all of that. So I was taking sporadic days and then, you know, like it would just bring the sleep thing back up or, you know, and you’d actually said before as well that normal people experience, You know, bad sleep from time to time.

Nina: And that was something that I genuinely didn’t really agree with. I was just like, do they know they don’t like I had completely forgotten. Like I had forgotten what my sleep was like. I think I was just totally clouded like to that. And I really didn’t believe it. And now I really, I do, I can see that, you know, and that it is normal.

Nina: But at the time I didn’t think that, So yeah, every time I would go back to work or have a day, I would be like, Oh my God, I’m asleep, blah, blah, blah, which I’d say a lot of that was somewhat normal. And then, you know, of course it was going to be heightened for me, not really only because of the insomnia, but because I hadn’t worked really in years, like at that rate, I hadn’t, you know, my skill was, you know, You know, what not really being practiced and I’d had the whole pandemic.

Nina: I was now a mom, like there was so much in that. And then I was just like trying to just flex my makeup artist muscle and just go back to work as if like nothing had happened. And I just think that I’m just going to be able to go sleep and have a great night’s sleep. You know, that’s probably not likely going to happen.

Nina: So in a way it took me longer and I was a bit more afraid at the end that I you know, might not have great sleep, but I actually got on grand and my sleep, even when I did have to go back to work, yeah, it wasn’t always perfect. Sometimes I did dabble a little bit in a sleeping tablet just so I could get into work and stuff like that.

Nina: And, you know, that wasn’t always a great idea. it might’ve gotten me over a hump or two and then blah, blah, blah. My sleep would always go back to normal. But I think having the tools that I had learned. I could always go back to them. my sleep never got bad and also, you know, I just ended up having to go, okay, the sleeping tablets there, you know, not really like, it was kind of awful having them because it was so easy to use them, you know?

Nina: And it took me a while to realize that actually, Yeah, I can use them if I want to, but the more that I use them, the more these thoughts can come back, you know, and it’s just taking, it’s, it’s taking more time for me to actually have a good night’s sleep because I started thinking, Oh God, maybe I need this to sleep, blah, blah, blah.

Nina: You know, so it was on and off because of the way that I worked. but, but my sleep got so much better. I mean, by the time I’d even finished the eight weeks, I was, I was sleeping well without the tablets. Most nights. You know, and only when I did work was I a little bit like not sleeping as well. But then there were lots of reasons for that too, you know, like, and before I’d started with you, it was every night.

Nina: I couldn’t sleep, you know, it was like really bad. so yeah, and I was kind of like, I was using the form and stuff as well, a little bit, and I was still kind of listening to the podcast, you know, and I think one of the, you know, When I really realized that sleep wasn’t controlling my life anymore, it was when I wasn’t listening to the podcast.

Nina: And when I wasn’t going on your YouTube channel, like when I go on and I didn’t see your face on my YouTube all the time as like one of the most watched people. I was like, uh, I haven’t been listening to the podcast. Do you know? Interesting. Like, cause it was such a crutch for me. It was such a help, you know?

Nina: So that was definitely a sign that my sleep was pretty good.

Martin: If we were to attach some kind of timeline, to all of this in terms of moving away from a struggle, like how long would you say that it took for you to get to a point where you felt as though you just weren’t constantly engaged in that struggle with sleep and all the thoughts and feelings that come with it when it felt like it was It was all losing its power and influence over your life.

Martin: You know, when you went online and no longer you were kind of going to YouTube looking for my face anymore, it felt like you kind of regained your independence from that struggle. how long would you say roughly, that that process took?

Nina: Probably six months, maybe a little longer, you know, like it was very gradual.

Nina: Six months, I’d say where I was like,

Nina: You know, I mean, after three months, it was a good bit better, but I was definitely, I’d say another, another three months after that. And then it was a year before I was like, okay, this is significantly like, I really feel like I’m over this. but I, I remember as well, you would kind of do check ins and every time you did a check in, I was in a significantly different place, you know, and that was great.

Nina: Like, it was like, okay, this is great, you know, and anytime I would have a struggle like the, you know, I would sort of go, okay, you know, this, this is actually going to be grand. Like, it’s like, I, whatever, it’s fine, you know, it wasn’t a big deal. It became less of a big deal really, but yeah, I would, yeah, I would say it’s probably six months, you know, but I mean, by then it was a lot better.

Martin: I remember when, when we first started working together I think it was about a year ago, how time flies.

Martin: I remember the, your goals, like when I asked you, like, what are your goals here? and you had a few that stood out, And that was returning to work because like you mentioned, you had this concern about, you know, if I returned to work, the insomnia comes back, then what? so you really were keen to return to work.

Martin: You really wanted to enjoy your bed again. As you described earlier, you kind of had that really strong association. Bed is a, is a kind of battleground. It creates a lot of fear. Being capable of being a good mom was one of your goals, obviously very important and just putting that struggle behind you so you could kind of move on with your life, you know, live the kind of life you wanted to live.

Martin: now you’re able to kind of reflect on your journey. how do you feel you’re doing with those goals?

Nina: Yeah, like that makes me really happy because I’ve definitely. Smashed all those goals and I’m, I’m genuinely like, so happy about that. And I think like the taking on that job as well, it was like, that was my last thing.

Nina: Cause if I’d only done the days and stuff and the shorter things, I mean, doing a longer project should be absolutely fine. But you always think, what if my insomnia comes back in the middle of it or what, you know, I guess it’s like, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, you know, like it, it won’t because you’ll be busy doing other things, you know, living your life.

Nina: and yeah, it’s, yeah, I definitely, all of those things, yeah, back to work definitely feel like I can be a good mom, you know, the struggle is gone. And I have my life back, yeah, absolutely, 100 percent all of those things, yeah, thank you.

Martin: If someone is listening, someone with chronic insomnia is listening, and they feel as though they’ve just tried everything.

Martin: They’re beyond help, you know, maybe they’re a unique case, they’ll never be able to stop struggling with insomnia. What would you say to them?

Nina: I would say sign up at Martin, definitely, you know, I would 100 percent I would say like listen to the podcast, go on to the YouTube, you’re definitely not alone.

Nina: You know, there’s so many people, everybody seems to have the exact same needs. Everyone has the same thoughts, the same feelings, the same response to everything, you know, definitely start now and just, yeah, start living your life again and you will be completely fine. You know, this 100 percent works, like there is, you know, there is no reason to just struggle any longer, you know, just, yeah.

Nina: Yeah, there’s help. There’s definitely help out there and it’s worth doing and you can just get on with your life. Like it’s just no way to, no way to live. I’ve just been terrified of sleep and it’s, it’s pointless, you know, like, and the worry. The worry just takes over just, yeah, you don’t, you don’t need to be worrying like that for no reason.

Nina: Yeah. Sign up with Martin. Definitely. That’s what I would say.

Martin: All right. Well, I appreciate that Nina. And thanks again so much for taking the time out of your day to come on and share your experience. I know that it’s going to be really helpful for lots and lots of people. So thank you.

Nina: Oh, thank you so much. It was great to be here.

Martin: Thanks for listening to the Insomnia Coach Podcast. If you’re ready to get your life back from insomnia, I would love to help. You can learn more about the sleep coaching programs I offer at Insomnia Coach — and, if you have any questions, you can email me.

Martin: I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Insomnia Coach Podcast. I’m Martin Reed, and as always, I’d like to leave you with this important reminder — you can sleep.

I want you to be the next insomnia success story I share! If you're ready to move away from the insomnia struggle so you can start living the life you want to live, click here to get my online insomnia coaching course.

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