How Jim stopped chasing after sleep and put over 10 years of insomnia behind him (#42)

Jim struggled with insomnia for over 10 years. At first, he thought it was a symptom of heavy drinking, a poor diet, working late, and experiencing a lot of stress. However, the insomnia stuck around even after Jim addressed these issues. This led to many years of ongoing sleep disruption, fear, frustration, and anxiety.

In this episode, Jim shares the changes he made that helped him put his insomnia behind him. Ultimately, Jim stopped trying to fight or avoid nighttime wakefulness. He stopped trying to fight or avoid the difficult thoughts and feelings that often come with nighttime wakefulness.

Today, Jim knows that he can still enjoy really good nights of sleep — even after the most stressful days — because he is no longer engaged in a competition with sleep.

How Nick stopped his mind (and sleep) from controlling his life by letting go of the struggle with his mind (and sleep) (#41)

Nick’s insomnia journey began in 2000 when he relocated and started a new job. Stress, uncertainty, and anxiety took over his life as he found that the more he tried to fight or avoid his thoughts the more powerful they became.

Nick felt helpless. He didn’t know how to deal with the difficult thoughts and feelings he was experiencing and he didn’t know how to improve his sleep. The more he tried, the more he struggled.

In this episode, Nick shares how he adopted a new approach to dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings. Instead of trying to control them, he began to acknowledge them and make space for them. Instead of fighting with them and getting distracted by them, he validated them and then redirected his attention on actions that would help him move toward the life he wanted to live.

Nick practiced kindly bringing his mind back to the present whenever it started to time travel. He began to notice and savor all the things he was missing out on when he found himself running on autopilot. He started to focus on living a life aligned with his values — doing things that were important to him — even after difficult nights and even in the presence of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

Today, Nick has a different and more workable relationship with sleep and the full range of thoughts and feelings he experiences as a human being. He is no longer haunted by sleep. He sees sleep as part of his life but not his entire life.

How Adam released himself from the prison cell he had built to protect him from insomnia (#40)

Adam’s insomnia began the night before an important work presentation. After a really difficult night, Adam ended up calling in sick — and this planted a seed in his mind that told him that difficult nights would mean he couldn’t go through with important plans.

Safety behaviors such as canceling plans or avoiding activities in order to protect his sleep helped Adam feel a bit better in the short-term but over the long-term they were preventing him from living the kind of life he wanted to live.

In other words, his comfort zone became more like a prison.

In this episode, Adam shares how he learned to let go of his anxiety, his anger, his fear, and his intense desire to avoid nighttime wakefulness. He also talks about the benefits of self-kindness and how he managed to separate how he slept at night from his ability to engage in things that would help him live the kind of life he wanted to live and be the kind of person he wanted to be.

Today, Adam has released himself from that prison cell. He is living his life and sleeping a lot better!

How Juergen improved his sleep by becoming more willing to experience wakefulness and difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions (#39)

As Juergen got older, his sleep began to change. Although this is normal, Juergen didn’t know that at the time! And, just as he began to pay more attention to sleep, COVID hit, work stress increased, and all the places he used to enjoy going to got shut down.

Juergen felt as though insomnia and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that come with it were starting to control his life. He felt as though he was losing himself and getting pulled away from the kind of life he wanted to live. This was when we started working together.

Ultimately, Juergen became more willing to experience nighttime wakefulness. He became more accepting of the difficult thoughts and feelings that would show up. Juergen discovered that as long as he didn’t try to battle with all the stuff that was out of his control he could free up all that energy to do things that would help him live the kind of life he wanted to live instead. The skills Juergen learned and repeatedly practiced also helped when tinnitus returned after a long absence.

As a result, all the difficult stuff that is out of his control now has far less of an influence over his life — and he is also sleeping a lot better!

How Kristina dealt with anxiety, worry, and stress as her insomnia shifted from difficulty staying asleep to difficulty falling asleep (#38)

Kristina had a very stressful job. One night, her husband woke her suddenly after experiencing a really bad nightmare. This event seemed to trigger the release of a lot of anxiety that had been building for some time and Kristina was unable to fall back to sleep. Unfortunately, sleep proved to be difficult on subsequent nights, too — and this created even more worry and anxiety.

At first, Kristina found that she could fall asleep but would wake in the middle of the night with a racing mind and find it hard to fall back to sleep. This then shifted into difficulty falling asleep — and this change created even more anxiety and sleep disruption.

After trying lots of things that didn’t seem to help, Kristina started to do things that are known to starve insomnia of the oxygen it needs to survive. Instead of chasing sleep by going to bed earlier and staying in bed later, she started going to bed later at night — when she felt truly sleepy enough for sleep, rather than fatigued. She got out of bed by the same time each morning — no matter what. Whenever being awake at night didn’t feel good, she did something more enjoyable instead.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Kristina decided to work on shifting her focus back to the present moment and what was in her control. She engaged in things each day that helped her continue to move toward the kind of life she wanted to live, independently of sleep and even in the presence of difficult thoughts and feelings.

How Deeandra reclaimed her life from insomnia and got her sleep back on track without medication (#37)

Deeandra always slept well but a stressful period in her life led to 48 hours of no sleep whatsoever and this generated a lot of anxiety. Deeandra started to panic and thought that she had lost the ability to sleep. Doctors gave her different medications that didn’t always seem to be helpful and came with their own set of side effects. For three years, Deeandra put her life on hold while she engaged in a long list of rituals and experiments in an attempt to improve her sleep.

Gradually, Deeandra moved away from trying to control sleep and avoid nighttime wakefulness. She started to go to bed only when sleepy enough for sleep. She decided to live her life regardless of how she slept at night. She started to do things she’d withdrawn from — she no longer canceled plans, she started to exercise again. Little by little she reclaimed her life from insomnia — and her sleep began to improve.

Today, Deeandra averages around six to seven hours of sleep. She still has difficult nights from time to time but they no longer have such an effect on her life. In Deeandra’s own words, “life is about the time we spend awake, not the time that we sleep”.

How Wayne improved his sleep by thinking of sleep as a friend that doesn’t need to be controlled (#36)

Wayne’s experience with insomnia began when he was preparing for his board exams. Because he needed to get up earlier than usual, he started going to bed earlier than usual. Unfortunately, this made it harder for Wayne to fall asleep — and, as a result, nights started to become stressful and he began to experience a lot of sleep-related anxiety.

Ultimately, Wayne got his sleep back on track by recognizing that sleep is a natural process that doesn’t require or respond well to effort. He started to go to bed later at night. He started to make some space for difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions rather than trying to fight them, and he reminded himself that sleep always happens in the end.

This process took time but today, Wayne thinks of sleep as a friend — not as an enemy or something to be feared. He no longer puts pressure on himself to sleep and he no longer puts any effort into sleep. As a result, he sleeps well and is living the kind of life he wants to live.

How Felicity transformed her relationship with sleep by practicing new sleep habits, being kinder to herself, and living life independently of sleep (#35)

Felicity had struggled with sleep, on and off, for her entire life. Usually, her sleep would get back on track after a few months of sleep disruption — however, when sleep issues returned due to some big life changes, Felicity’s sleep didn’t recover.

Fortunately, Felicity was able to get her sleep back on track and change her mindset about sleep by implementing behaviors that created better conditions for sleep. She practiced self-care and did things that helped her continue to move toward the kind of life she wanted to live, independently of sleep.

Sleep is no longer something that gets in the way of Felicity’s life — she lives her life independently of sleep and, as a result, she is sleeping well and living well.

How Amy went from an intense fear of insomnia and feeling her situation was hopeless to averaging over seven hours of sleep each night (#34)

Night after night of wakefulness led Amy to a dark place where she saw no way out. She felt helpless and doomed to a life of insomnia.

Ironically, Amy became friends with someone else who was struggling with insomnia. This friend ended up enrolling as a client of mine and started to experience improvements in their sleep. Amy learned more about the behavioral changes he was making, and — even though she assumed these wouldn’t work for her — she figured she was already suffering so much, nothing she could do could make her situation worse.

So, Amy started to spend less time in bed, she abandoned her sleep rituals, and she shifted away from trying to control sleep and all the thoughts and worries her mind would generate. After weeks of ups and downs, Amy started to get more sleep, more consistently. Now, she averages around seven or more hours of sleep each night and considers her transformation nothing short of a miracle.

Amy’s story shows that no matter how desperate things feel, no matter how severe your insomnia may be, there is always hope. If you are willing and able to make some changes to your current sleep habits and your current relationship with the difficult thoughts and emotions that like to accompany insomnia, you can get to a place where you will realize that you CAN sleep!

How Jennifer moved past 18 years of insomnia by exploring her sleep-related beliefs and recognizing her own insomnia in the stories of others (#33)

Jennifer’s issues with sleep began 18 years ago when she started to wean her firstborn from breastfeeding. When Jennifer fell pregnant again, things got better — until it was time to wean her second child. As the mother of five children, Jennifer went through this cycle for a long time — and when she decided that she was done having children, she started to get really nervous about sleep.

After listening to a few episodes of the Insomnia Coach podcast, Jennifer felt that it was her belief system that was the real reason why she was enduring an endless struggle with sleep. At this point, she felt ready to implement some changes that would lead to new habits and a new relationship with her thoughts and beliefs that would help create better conditions for sleep.

Ultimately, Jennifer regained confidence in her natural ability to sleep after learning that she wasn’t alone and that other people were experiencing insomnia in a similar way to her, and by making changes to her behaviors and the relationship she had with her thoughts. It was these changes that helped create better conditions for sleep and helped Jennifer put chronic insomnia behind her.