How Scott overcame sleep-related worry and anxiety and got rid of insomnia (#4)

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Scott slept well his entire life until he listened to a podcast that led him to worry about how much sleep he was getting and the health consequences of insufficient sleep. That night, Scott had a terrible night of sleep and this triggered a vicious cycle of ever-increasing worry about sleep and increasingly worse sleep that lasted for ten months.

In this episode, we’ll discover how Scott managed to get his sleep back on track, how well he sleeps now, and what life is like now he no longer worries about sleep.

Click here for a full transcript of this episode.


Martin Reed: Welcome to The Insomnia Coach Podcast. My name is Martin Reed. I believe that nobody needs to live with chronic insomnia and that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) techniques can help you enjoy better sleep for the rest of your life.

Martin Reed: Scott slept well his entire life until he listened to a podcast that led him to worry about how much sleep he was getting and the health consequences of insufficient sleep. That night, Scott had a terrible night of sleep and this triggered a vicious cycle of ever-increasing worry about sleep and increasingly worse sleep that lasted for ten months.

Martin Reed: In this episode, we’ll discover how Scott managed to get his sleep back on track, how well he sleeps now, and what life is like now he no longer worries about sleep.

Martin Reed: A full transcript of this podcast, and an accompanying video, can be found at

Martin Reed: Alright, Scott. Thank you so much for being on with us today.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Martin Reed: Can you tell us a little bit more about your insomnia? When did it begin and how did sleep become a problem for you?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, that was a question that went through my mind for weeks after the insomnia set in. I just couldn’t figure it out, and then one day I was discussing my insomnia problem with a friend of mine and I really was able to pinpoint the exact time and date that it had occurred.

Scott Johnson: I’m an avid podcast listener, especially when it’s a health-related issues, and I remember that day that insomnia occurred that a friend of mine sent me a link to a very popular podcast featuring, I believe his name is Dr. Matt Walker.

Scott Johnson: As I was driving home listening to the podcast, even though I didn’t have insomnia or sleep issues at the time, I started thinking and evaluating my own sleep patterns. “Well, am I getting the desired amount of sleep that he’s recommending, and if I don’t, then all of these health-related issues are going to start setting in. I’m going to start having cancers, heart disease is going to go up, my mortality rate is, I’m going to live shorter.”

Scott Johnson: My anxiety started building as I was driving to the house and then I started having a conversation with my wife and explaining to her the podcast, and then again continuing to evaluate my own sleep pattern, even though I didn’t even have a problem. Then as bedtime started settling in a little bit, anticipatory anxiety just really kicked in. My mind started racing wondering if I was going to be able to sleep tonight.

Scott Johnson: That’s the night that I got zero hours of sleep, and then of course you get into this vicious cycle. The next day you start again analyzing why I didn’t sleep, and at the time I didn’t know it was because of the podcast. That was the only thing at the time that I could pinpoint back, but this was months later after thinking about, “How did this all start? Why did it occur? Did I change something in my lifestyle? Am I eating the right foods? Am I vitamin deficient?”

Scott Johnson: A lot of things were going through my head, but to be honest with you, Martin, I just relate everything back to unfortunately a podcast I listened to, as simple as this sounds.

Martin Reed: What was it about that podcast that you feel got you worried about your sleep? I know you mentioned like he was talking about these health connections, but was it, how did you see that there was a problem with your sleep? Was it because he was talking about sleep duration or was there something else that you kind of identified with and started to think maybe there’s a problem?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, I don’t think there was one particular moment in the podcast that he mentioned or a specific fact. I think it was just overall, the overall health consequences of not getting enough sleep. I tend to try to solve my own health problems and that can be kind of an evil mindset to have some times.

Scott Johnson: I remember back nine years ago, I started a plant-based diet because I visited my general practitioner and had some blood work done and he mentioned my cholesterol was high, my triglycerides were really high and that he recommended and wrote me a prescription for both of those pharmaceuticals to lower those levels and get those in line with where they needed to be. I remember sitting in his office and saying, “I’m just not going to take the pharmaceuticals. I’m going to fix this myself and do it the natural way.”

Scott Johnson: I started exploring a lot with food and after nine years, after years of being on that, I was able to get it on track. When I listened to this podcast, even though I didn’t have sleep problems, it’s that self-evaluation.

Scott Johnson: Well, is the seven hours I’m getting, is it enough because you’ve recommended an eight to 10, so I’m falling an hour short. I remember that night I listened to the podcast. I went to bed earlier to compensate and obviously, that didn’t help because I laid in bed all night. I didn’t get any sleep.

Martin Reed: Yeah, it’s really interesting because I think it’s such a common trigger for people. There’s so much of our life and our health that we can directly control and influence. For example, our diet or weight, we just eat differently and our health responds and our weight responds, but when it comes to sleep, it’s the opposite.

Martin Reed: As soon as we start to think about it, as soon as you try and control it, we make it worse. Like there’s no direct way we can make sleep better. It’s when we try and intervene that it creates the problem.

Scott Johnson: Right, and it’s been consuming my day every day for 10 months, and I know I’m one of the lucky ones because I’ve only had it for 10 months and now I consider it resolved, but I know friends and family that have had it for 20, 30 years or practically all their life.

Scott Johnson: It’s ironic that you start thinking about why you start having insomnia and sleep problems and then it just, it just takes over your day because then you start analyzing and researching for solutions on the internet and then you start looking inward. “Is something really wrong with me mentally, physically, health wise? Am I vitamin deficient?”

Scott Johnson: All these thoughts went through my head and obviously the more thoughts that went through my head, the more research that I did that led me down rabbit holes that obviously didn’t work.

Martin Reed: Yeah, and I think we kind of have this messaging problem where there’s so many people out there spreading this message about how important sleep is. That we need to get certain number of hours and if we don’t, all these terrible things will happen to us, right? I understand why they’re doing that because they are aiming that message at people who have no problem with sleep, but they’re kind of like burning the candle at both ends.

Martin Reed: They’re deliberately depriving themselves of sleep. So, their message is pay more attention to sleep, get more sleep, but the problem is the only people reading these messages or paying attention are the people with insomnia, and these messages are the exact opposite of what we need people with insomnia to hear, and so this is something I’ve discussed a lot with people that are on the same page as me, like in terms of CBT-I and changing the messaging around insomnia.

Martin Reed: We say to a lot of the people that are spreading these messages, “Do you know how damaging that this can be to people with insomnia,” and their take is always like, “Well, first of all we’re aiming it at people that don’t have insomnia.” So, they don’t really recognize the potential there. Second of all, “Okay, so maybe it upset some people with insomnia, but if it just gets that one person without any problem with sleep to pay more attention to sleep then surely that’s a good thing.”

Martin Reed: Our counter argument is, “No, because those kinds of people aren’t listening to your message. It’s only the people with insomnia that are listening and it’s so destructive,” and like myself and a number of colleagues who work with people with insomnia every day, we see how damaging this is. You’re not the only person that’s said to me, “You slept fine until you heard this kind of messaging.”

Martin Reed: That’s a real challenge for us, and just for anyone listening, I also want to just emphasize that there haven’t actually been any studies that have found chronic insomnia to cause any health problem whatsoever and the studies that people tend to reference, they either don’t look at people with insomnia, they look at healthy sleepers, good sleepers and they deliberately deprive them of sleep. Are they using like wraps or fruit flies or even the ones that do use people with insomnia do involve people with insomnia, they sometimes find associations but they’re never finding causation.

Martin Reed: These associations could be down to any number of things, but because it involved people with insomnia, it’s just so easy to emphasize that association and then the mass media picks up on it and kind of somewhere along the way the word association changes to causes and that just triggers this whole chain of worry and then we’re down the rabbit hole of exactly what you’ve described. This vicious circle of just worry about sleep and then worse sleep.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, that’s absolutely right, and I caught myself in a vicious cycle of continuing to just do more research, more reading, and those articles are just traps, like you said, for people who have insomnia and can be very misleading.

Martin Reed: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the best things you can do is try not to even think about sleep. Don’t even do the research. Don’t just, if you have a bad night, it would be great, I think Daniel Erichsen, the sleep physician who just lives up the road in Eugene from me, he was talking I think on a podcast the other day and he was talking about, in the Men In Black movie, they have these kind of pointy mind-eraser sticks. If you could just go up to someone with insomnia and click that switch and erase the memories of insomnia and sleep, they would probably sleep fine the next day.

Scott Johnson: Right, and unfortunately it’s just not that simple. Especially when you get caught in that trap, you have that restless night or even possible of not being able to sleep at all, and then it just starts as soon as the alarm clock goes off, whether you got sleep or not. You’re immediately starting to analyze, “Why didn’t I sleep for seven or eight hours? Why didn’t I sleep at all?”

Scott Johnson: Or, “What can I do different today?” It’s just consuming your entire day from the time you get out of bed, whether you sleep or not, until you’re lying in bed and then you, it just ramps up even more because your mind starts racing. “I wonder if I’m going to sleep tonight? How many hours am I going to sleep? If I don’t sleep tonight, am I going to be productive at work? What am I going to feel like?” All those thoughts and anxiety, it’s just, it consumes you.

Martin Reed: Yeah, and a lot of people without insomnia don’t realize that it does consume you. It’s not just a nighttime issue. It leaches over into the daytime. It just becomes like this 24/7 issue. It’s not really a sleep issue in itself in terms of it only happens at night, it just, it’s throughout the day you’re just thinking and worrying about it and then obviously at night you’re just struggling with it.

Martin Reed: It really is like this 24 hour thing. It is very difficult.

Scott Johnson: Sure.

Martin Reed: Talking about your insomnia, like how are you struggling with sleep? Was it just falling asleep at the start of the night or would you kind of wake and then find it hard to fall back to sleep or maybe a combination of both of those things?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, I think in that 10-month period is definitely a mixed bag. It started out for several weeks where I would fall asleep fairly easily within a certain amount of time, a few minutes, but then I would wake up at between 1:00 and 3:30, 4:00 and not be able to get back to sleep.

Scott Johnson: Then it transitioned to not sleeping at all. I would go to bed when I thought I was sleepy. I would, and just lie there for the entire night until the alarm went off and not sleep at all. Then it transitioned to, again going to bed, but not being able to fall asleep and then getting out of bed and walking around the house and trying to find things to do and then going back to bed and still not being able to fall asleep. Then it just started alternating from there. It was a mixed bag.

Martin Reed: Yeah. Were there any kinds of things you did to, once you recognize that sleep was an issue that you implemented to try and get your sleep back on track?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, I mean the list is a mile long as you can imagine. Any insomniac would just do the research, and then for me it was the typical things at first that you would find on the internet, set your temperature down to 68 degrees, take a shower, warm bath an hour before bedtime, no blue light an hour before bedtime, no coffee after 12:00, no wine or alcohol at dinner time.

Scott Johnson: The traditional things that you would, if you just typed in insomnia on Google, it’ll come up with the same list on every website. I started those and obviously didn’t have any impact, and then I started reading more studies and found that if it mentioned any vitamin, herbal or supplement that improved insomnia, sleep in insomnia patients, I went and bought it. Whether it on Amazon or Target or wherever. If it was on the shelf somewhere, I went and bought it.

Scott Johnson: Of course, those might’ve worked for a couple of nights, but I strongly believe that that was just kind of a placebo effect for me, and then they quickly just faded off and not not worked at all. Then I’ve been doing meditation for years and so I started exploring guided meditations at bedtime. It just, that didn’t work either because of the headphones prevented me from really relaxing.

Scott Johnson: Then Blue Wave or alpha wave, I believe is what it’s called, music. I tried that at bedtime. Again, it didn’t work, and then I bought a book from Dr. Guy Meadows, The Sleep Book, very well written. I felt like I gained some traction with that book, especially when it came to how I approached my thoughts.

Scott Johnson: Instead of looking at them from a negative perspective, make it a positive twist on it. I felt like I had some good results from that book, but just didn’t quite get over the hump with it. Some things just, it didn’t resonate with me even though I was 100% committed to implementing the theories that he had in his book.

Scott Johnson: I’ve tried probably everything out there. It’s just I didn’t have any consistent results with anything.

Martin Reed: Right, yeah. So, you tried all these different things, which I think everyone listening to is going to identify with probably almost every single thing that you mentioned there. Especially like the very early things, the sleep hygiene stuff which is very environmental in nature, which is actually, there’s no evidence to say that it actually helps when it comes to chronic insomnia.

Martin Reed: It’s just one of these things that it’s like a general hygiene thing. If you go to the dental hygienist, right, and you go there, that’s good for kind of preventing problems from happening, but once you’ve got that cavity, that’s not gonna help. That’s when you need to like seek out the proper treatment. Which is, because I know and I think you know now is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia techniques, these CBT-I techniques.

Martin Reed: Had you heard about CBT-I before or did you just stumble across it?

Scott Johnson: Well, it’s ironic because I had read several studies about CBT-I and how it was being implemented and very helpful with soldiers that were coming back from the war zone with PTSD and how the Veterans Association was using it as well and was having good success rates.

Scott Johnson: But, I think as most Americans, we look for that magic pill instead of information and knowledge to be able to implement because we want instant gratification. We want to be able to take a pill and be able to go to sleep for eight hours a night and problem solved. That’s why I kind of put it on the back burner a little bit, even though I continuously read about it.

Scott Johnson: About the same time I learned about ACT theory, therapy as well, or theory, and so when I came across your website, I was already, I guess from my perspective as a consumer, well-versed in what CBT-I was and kind of the theories that was involved with that.

Martin Reed: That’s great. Just to clarify, the ACT or act, this is the acceptance and commitment therapy, which is what Guy Meadows talks about in his book, right?

Scott Johnson: That’s correct.

Martin Reed: Okay, I just wanted to clarify that. There are so many acronyms associated with insomnia and not everyone is familiar with them. I just wanted to clarify that.

Martin Reed: So were there any specific techniques that you implemented that were really helpful? Was there a moment when you noticed that it was actually having a positive effect?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, it was discussing sleep restriction or bedtime restriction and calculating what time from the time you wake up, counting backwards to being your sleep time and not going bed up before that time comes. Even if you’re not sleepy, don’t go to bed earlier, always wait until at least that sleep window kicks in.

Scott Johnson: That along with the stimulus control, meaning if I would wake up in the middle of the night and wasn’t able to go back to sleep for 15 to 30 minutes, then I would get out of bed and go find something not stimulating. For example, watching a TV show or reading a book or magazine. I even did some coloring, believe it or not, but something that didn’t really stimulate my senses, and then after I felt like I was sleepy, yawning, heavy eyelids, maybe a burning of the eyes a little bit, then I would go back to bed and was very successful in being able to fall asleep.

Scott Johnson: Those two techniques, I think from day seven on, from that first night on day seven it’s helped tremendously.

Martin Reed: That’s really good to hear. They are the two core techniques of CBT-I. The sleep restriction, which is spending the amount of time you spend in bed is as close as possible to what your current average nightly you sleep duration is. Not the amount of sleep that you want to be getting, but just what it is right now so that we really compressed sleep down into this big consolidated chunk.

Martin Reed: Then stimulus control, which is all about reconditioning the way you think about the bed because when you have a bad experience in bed night after night you learn that the bed is a bad place to be and that makes it hard to sleep there. So, the idea is if you’re not sleeping, you get out of bed. So, the only thing you’re doing bed is sleep.

Martin Reed: And they are the two core components of CBT-I. The problem that we have is, and you alluded to this earlier, is the techniques themselves are straightforward, but they can be challenging to implement. They take a lot of effort and you saw results relatively quickly. Someone else, it might take months for them of consistent implementation to get the same results. Some people might be weeks, everyone’s different, right?

Martin Reed: A common resistance that I get is when I tell people about these techniques, they tell me something like, “Well, the very thought of that gives more anxiety. So, how’s that going to help me sleep?”

Martin Reed: If you were just talking to someone and they mentioned that to you, like you said, “This worked for me. Why not give it a try,” and they said to you, “Well, that whole idea just gives me more anxiety,” what kind of thing would you say? What would you say to them?

Scott Johnson: Well, stay committed to it. I think again I go back to the instant gratification. We want to take an idea or maybe, a product or service implemented it and instantly get results. We want to go on a diet and lose 60 pounds overnight. It just doesn’t happen sometimes. Like you said, and alluded to, some people get results faster than others, but it is difficult.

Scott Johnson: The sleep restriction, I’ll be honest with you, for the first two weeks it was tough. I mean, I remember some nights and most nights for at least two or three weeks where I was going to bed at 12:30 and getting up at 6:00, which was my sleep window, but about 10:00, and you and I talked about this on the phone, I would be pacing the inside of the house, just trying to stay awake, but I knew the longer I stayed up, the greater my sleep drive continued, and sure enough, when I would hit the bed at 12:30 or 12:15, whatever my sleep window time was, it was almost instantaneous. I would fall asleep and stay asleep until the alarm went off, but it’s tough, and I would just encourage everybody to stay committed to it and you’ll see results.

Martin Reed: That is the key is commitment, and it’s also worth just highlighting the fact that it’s really common to make progress and just see say two weeks in a row of really good sleep and then just bam, suddenly have a bad night again and then become really concerned that, “Oh, maybe this isn’t working.”

Martin Reed: It’s important to just bear in mind that that’s normal because everyone has a bad night of sleep every now and then. It really is just the case of just staying committed and staying consistent. The more consistent you are with the techniques, the more consistent your sleep becomes.

Scott Johnson: Well, and we talked earlier about this vicious cycle they you get into when you have a bad night of sleep or not sleep at all, then the next day you continuously think about, “Well, am I gonna get sleep tonight?” While ironically, when you start implementing the CBT-I techniques and you start getting sleep, whether it be five and a half hours to start with, or seven or eight hours, whatever you move your sleep window to, you’ll feel and see the results of that the next day because you think less often about, “Am I going to get sleep tonight,” because you just had a great night’s sleep.

Scott Johnson: The more those small wins that you get on a weekly basis with being able to get sleep, the less you think about it and the less it’s on your mind, the less anxiety you have when you go to bed and it’s kind of resolving itself once you implement those techniques.

Martin Reed: Yeah, right. It’s kind of like the opposite of the vicious cycle, right? So, where normally you worry about sleep. You have a bad night, then you worry more. So, you have a bad night and you know it feeds negativity. It’s like the opposite of that, right?

Martin Reed: So you start to sleep a little bit better. You worry less. Then you sleep even better. Then you worry even less. Then you sleep even better, and it just turns it completely around. It is amazing just seeing people’s transformation and that’s why I’m really happy that you’re taught talking through your own transformation with us today.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, and the beauty of the CBT-I is that one, it’s a, there’s no pharmaceuticals involved, and matter of fact, I think it’s, if I’m not mistaken, geared toward if you are on some sort of a sleep aid pharmaceutical to maybe help you reduce or get off that.

Scott Johnson: That was very enticing to me because like I said earlier, you know, if I can solve a problem health-wise or health-related without pharmaceuticals, then that’s a solution I want to go for, but the other encouraging part about CBT-I is that you can take these with you.

Scott Johnson: If it recurs, you can implement those immediately without having to look for a bottle of pills or searching for other answers or starting to research all over again. They’re right there in your back pocket. You can implement those immediately.

Scott Johnson: Now, I think I’ve been, I started your program several weeks ago and I couldn’t admit that I’ve slept good every single night, but I think on a weekly basis there’s a ratio of 95%, 96% of sleep to bedtime ratio for me.

Scott Johnson: But, for example, I’ve had several nights where I would wake up at 2:30 in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep. I didn’t panic because I knew exactly what to do. I got up out of bed after 15, 20 minutes went and read a couple of chapters of a book and went back to bed.

Scott Johnson: Whereas before CBT-I, panic mode set in. The warming of the body, the rush, it feels like the whole body’s warming, anxiety is setting in, worries start setting in as well, and then I’d go back to bed and not fall asleep, but having those tools and techniques at the ready has made everything much calmer for me, knowing that I have the solutions right there.

Martin Reed: Yeah, it’s great because one of the reasons why I love CBT-I is it’s a skillset. Once you learn it, once you implement it, you become familiar with it. It’s exactly like you say, it’s with you for the rest of your life. If ever you have a bad patch of sleep again in the future, you can just go right back to them. Just them out of your back pocket again and just start implementing them.

Martin Reed: You don’t need to go hire a new consultant or buy a new box of pills or anything like that. You don’t have to spend any money. It’s a skill that’s with you forever and you just pull it out and you just reimplement it and then your sleep gets back on track.

Martin Reed: You just touched upon this now, but I just kind of wanted to explore a little bit more. How are you sleeping now generally? Do you find that you think about sleep still quite a lot? Or, is it something that just is like way down in your list of priorities?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, it’s a lot less. However, I do occasionally think of ways to improve the amount of sleep that I do get. Well, maybe the quality of the sleep. For example, the deep sleep phase, I don’t spend a great deal of time on it because I’m satisfied with where I’m at, and I actually consider the way I sleep now is pre-insomnia sleep quality.

Scott Johnson: My way of life today is much, much better than it was obviously when I had insomnia. I’m not canceling social events any longer because I’m not fatigued during the day. I have my coffee at 2:00 sometimes. Not every day, but I don’t, in the days that I don’t, it’s not because I think, “Well, if I have it at 2:30 today, I’m not going to be able to sleep today.” That doesn’t come into mind as well. I started bringing back my wine on occasion throughout the week for dinner. Slowly but surely all those things pre-insomnia have taken place again.

Martin Reed: Yeah, that’s excellent. I always think that the ultimate goal is as soon as you’re not really thinking about sleep anymore, that’s kind of when insomnia just isn’t an issue for you anymore, and just to go back on a couple of things you said like if your sleep efficiency is like 95%, that’s perfect. You’re not really going get much better than that. It’s quite unusual for someone to be in bed a hundred, like asleep, 100% of the time they’re in bed, and what was the other thing I want to say? It just escaped my mind now so maybe it will come back to me.

Martin Reed: Yeah, we might have to come back to that if it comes back to me. but yeah, it’s just about this process of just not thinking about it, and as soon as you don’t think about it and don’t worry about it, that’s kind of when sleep can get back on track, and I’ve just remember what I was gonna say because you mentioned sometimes you still think about deep sleep.

Martin Reed: “Am I getting enough of this deep sleep,” and I think this, I don’t know if you’ve kind of just noticed this yourself, but I’m seeing a lot more articles online now that have started to kind of, this is like the new obsession is all about deep sleep. Like, “Here’s how to get more deep sleep. Here’s what you need to do to get more deep sleep.”

Martin Reed: Well, here’s the thing, we can’t control how much deep sleep we get, but the good thing is the body prioritizes deep sleep. If we have a bad night, the next night, the body’s going to prioritize deep sleep. As soon as we fall asleep, which we will do eventually, it will just put us straight down into deep sleep and try and spend as much time there as it can without any involvement from us.

Martin Reed: If we try and get involved in controlling all the sleep stages, that’s when we mess things up, and it makes it harder for us to get deep sleep. If people are listening to this and they’ve read these articles about the importance of deep sleep or how to get more deep sleep, I just want to give them the message that first of all, we can’t control deep sleep.

Martin Reed: Second of all, the body does this all by itself. When we have bad nights, the body prioritizes it. It gives us more deep sleep, puts us into deep sleep quicker, and this is why, especially when you’re going through CBT-I, when you restrict that sleep window, you can often spend less time in bed and even less time asleep, but actually feel better the next day compared to when you spent a really long amount of time in bed, felt like you got more sleep but it was more fragmented and kind of asleep, awake, asleep, awake, and you didn’t really get that deep sleep.

Martin Reed: That’s evidence that this deep sleep is the good stuff and the body does it all by itself regardless of how long you’re sleeping.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, I think I caught myself researching the different sleep phases a few weeks ago, but then if I’m not mistaken, either you had a YouTube post or maybe it was one of the emails that you had published that talked about you can’t control the deep sleep.

Scott Johnson: If your sleep drive is greater like you just mentioned, then it prioritizes deep sleep and so at that point that’s when I stopped doing the research. I fall into that trap all the time with trying to tweak everything health-wise to the point where I just drive myself nuts sometimes I think.

Martin Reed: Yeah, I think it’s very common. So many of us, when we have insomnia, we think that our insomnia may be as unique or as different to everyone else’s, but just listening to your story, nothing you’ve told me sounds unusual. It’s very familiar. Although you as a person are completely unique, you’re insomnia isn’t. Your insomnia is very familiar to me. I feel like I know your insomnia very well, because it’s so common, and that’s good though because it means that this treatment, CBT-I that works for people with insomnia is gonna work for pretty much anyone who’s got insomnia because insomnia is almost identical from person to person and is often triggered by different things.

Martin Reed: But, the way it’s perpetuated, through the way we think and our behaviors, it’s just so similar. It really is, and sometimes I talk to people and they’re surprised when I’m not shocked, I’m not falling off my chair when they’re describing their insomnia. Well, the fact is I don’t really hear anything unusual or shocking to me because it is really, this is quite a uniform, what’s the word for it? It’s like a uniform beast. It is very familiar and it tends to be the same experience from person to person.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, I agree. I don’t have any family or friends that have it, but some of the case studies I read online, all the same concerns that other people who have insomnia are the same as mine, and like I mentioned earlier, learning the CBT-I techniques is very simple, very easy to implement. I think the key is that you do implement them and stay true to it. Stay committed to it, and I think you’ll see results.

Martin Reed: Yeah, that’s great. Just briefly, because I know I’ve taken a lot of your time already. I just want to, we talked about how insomnia isn’t just like a nighttime issue is a daytime issue too. It’s something you spend a lot of time thinking about.

Martin Reed: How are your daytimes now that you’ve got more sleep confidence back and you’re tending to worry less about sleep, how has it impacted your life during the daytime?

Scott Johnson: Well, I have a different approach. It’s certainly more positive now. Whereas before, again I started looking at, “Is something internally wrong with me mentally?”

Scott Johnson: I remember several mornings when I wouldn’t get any sleep and I would go out to the kitchen at 6:00 to start making breakfast for everybody and I would just start crying. It was that emotional. It just takes a toll on you and having eight hours cumulative amount of sleep, eight hours cumulative sleep for four days, so you’re operating on eight hours. It takes a mental and physical toll on you.

Scott Johnson: Now, it’s like I said, I don’t, I rarely think about, “Am I going to be able to sleep tonight?” I don’t have anxiety when I’m sitting there watching TV at 8:00 p.m. wondering if I’m going to get any sleep and then, my life today is what it was 11 months ago before insomnia. As far as I’m concerned, I’m back to back to normal.

Martin Reed: That’s great. That’s so good to hear. Are you still implementing any of the CBT-I techniques or are they kind of just put away to one side for now?

Scott Johnson: Yeah, stimulus control like I mentioned earlier is, if I wake up and I’m not able to fall back asleep, then I’ll certainly get up and do something non-stimulating, read a book, something like that. Even Watch TV, but maybe put it on Planet Earth or something like that. I also do some journaling during the daytime, which was I believe also a technique from ACT as well, but I do a different spin on it now.

Scott Johnson: Whereas before and before I implemented CBT-I, it was choosing a time in the afternoon to reflect on my fears for the day. Now, it’s gratitude. “What am I thankful for,” and it takes three to five minutes. A lot more positivity during my day now. I’m not consumed at work or on the weekends with trying to research solutions. Just just having my life back.

Martin Reed: That is great. All right, so I’ve got one last question for you. If someone with chronic insomnia is listening to this, they feel that they’ve tried everything, they’re beyond help, there’s nothing they can do to improve their sleep, what would you tell them?

Scott Johnson: I think if you look at CBT-I success rate as a whole, chances are you’re going to improve your insomnia and not, and it may not come on day seven as it did for me. It may take you several days after or even weeks and like you said, months, but the results will come. Just be patient and cherish those small wins and those small wins allow you to have less anxiety and to think less about sleep and that helps you improve your sleep as well.

Martin Reed: That’s great. Thank you. I really appreciate you spending the time to do this, Scott because I think it’s one thing me telling people how effective CBT-I is, but it’s so much more powerful when you can hear someone that’s gone through it. That’s gone through the struggle, that’s gone through the transformation and come out the other side. I just think it’s so much more powerful to hear the words from someone else who’s actually experienced and gone through it.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, you’re absolutely welcome, Martin. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Martin Reed: Thank you so much.

Martin Reed: Thanks for listening to The Insomnia Coach Podcast. If you’re ready to implement cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, CBT-I techniques to improve your sleep but think you might need some additional support and guidance, I would love to help. There are two ways we can work together. First, you can get my online coaching course. This is the most popular option. My course combines sleep education with unlimited support and guidance and is guaranteed to improve your sleep. I will teach you and help you implement new CBT-I techniques over a period of eight weeks. This gives you time to build sleep confidence and notice results without feeling overwhelmed. You can get the course and start right now at

Martin Reed: I also offer a phone coaching package where we start with a one hour call. This can be voice only or video, your choice. And we come up with an initial two week plan that will have you implementing CBT-I techniques that will lead to long term improvements in your sleep. You get unlimited email based support and guidance for two weeks after the call along with a half hour follow up call at the end of the two weeks. You can book the phone coaching package at

Martin Reed: 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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12 thoughts on “How Scott overcame sleep-related worry and anxiety and got rid of insomnia (#4)”

  1. I can totally relate to this! I’m seeing someone for CBT-I and am struggling with implementing the techniques of sleep restriction and stimulus control. I’m resistant because of the anxiety I have towards them, but I know this is what I must do to overcome it. Thank you for sharing!

    • I’m so glad to hear you are seeing someone for CBT-I, Kim! If you are struggling and still feel anxious about implementing sleep restriction and stimulus control techniques, please talk to your therapist. It’s so important to have a thorough understanding of the rationale behind these techniques — if you don’t, it can be hard to accept them and commit to them. Good luck on your journey, and please keep us updated with your progress!

  2. It has never been proven that everyone needs a certain amount of sleep. My problem started with a bad sinus infection. Plus my husband’s CPAP makes a air noise that wakes me up. I am going to try the sleep restriction thing. Plus, just as an aside, most doctors don’t know anything about nutrition. We can get all the scientific reports now. I would urge people to read the actual studies.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lucy! We all have a unique sleep requirement — there really is no “one size fits all” when it comes to sleep. In my opinion, saying we all need 8 hours of sleep is not really all that different from saying that we all need to be wearing size 8 shoes!

  3. Wow, thanks Martin and Scott. This morning I was wallowing after a couple of bad nights sleep (been doing sleep restriction and quarter hour rule for 2 weeks). I watched the podcast and it has given me a renewed sense of positivity and desire to stick with it … was really about to give up.

    Thankyou …

    • This is fantastic to hear! The goal of the podcast is to inspire and motivate — so I am really happy to know that this episode encouraged you to keep going. You’ve got this, Dan!

  4. Thanks Martin – I do have a question about the quarter of an hour rule though. I’m still not clear what I should/shouldn’t do. Can I lie down on the sofa in another room? Can I read a book? Watch TV (nothing too stimulating) or is it whatever I want as long as it’s in another room and I find it relaxing?!

    • Hello Dan. All you really need to do is get out of bed when you’re struggling to sleep. What you do when out of bed doesn’t really matter all that much. All the things you listed would be fine — just make sure you return to bed when you feel calm, relaxed, and sleepy (you don’t want to be falling asleep on the sofa since this would be a missed opportunity to associate your own bed with sleep).

      I hope this helps!

  5. Hello Martin, I tried sleep restriction for about 4 days and i felt it made me more anxious….I felt a pressure come over me and started to concentrate on sleep even more.I was becoming more anxious in the evening as i had to get to bed by a certain time and then when i went to bed at midnight and i would be still awake at 6: 00 in the morning (even after getting out of bed numerous times for 15 minutes to read as instructed)and then I’d panic about my 9:00 am wake up…I know that sleep restriction is the whole point but it just put more emphasis and pressure on me to get that sleep for my mental health…I have depression and anxiety and have been on antidepressants for 20 years…I find one of my triggers is if i have to set my alarm for say 7:00am in the morning for an appointmentor something,then the anticipation of that upcoming event and setying alarm sends me into a panic and anxiety about getting enough rest and because it has happened so many times before it’s like my mind is recognising it as trauma now and it scares me into not sleeping …Then it will continue on and on like a vicious cycle…If the sleep restriction tool is anxiety provoking in some people and increases their anxiety then is there an ulternative or do we just try to implement all the other steps instead….any help would be much appreciated….

    • Hello Kate! Whenever we make a change, the brain is going to be more active to monitor/evaluate for the effect of that change. So, it’s not unusual at all to experience even worse sleep when first implementing sleep restriction. It can often be helpful to combine sleep restriction with techniques that can help with the difficult thoughts and feelings (such as anxiety) that come with insomnia. Ultimately, sleep drive builds with every minute of wakefulness — we cannot remain awake indefinitely. So, after difficult nights, better nights become more likely on subsequent nights. Sometimes we have to ride out those difficult nights before we find sleep restriction to have any benefit — easier said than done, of course.

  6. Thankyou so much for responding martin….I understand what you are saying and will definitely give sleep restriction another go while also implementing cbt to help combat my anxiety around this issue…. thankyou for your kind and thoughtful words martin they have helped me immensely….?

    • Thanks for letting me know this was helpful, Kate! What you are going through is difficult — no doubt about it!

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