Insomnia is a reason I became a therapist
Insomnia is one of the three drivers behind my career change to become a therapist and coach. I had chronic insomnia for four years and during that time I had 3 MRI’s, took medication like Valium, Zopiclone and Clonazepam and nothing helped. If you have ever experienced chronic sleep problems, then you may feel that you are wading through treacle whilst wearing lead boots. Exhausted to the point that everything hurts. You feel like the living dead.
It’s another area where people, often trying to be helpful, can be insensitive. They say things like “Oh, I know how you feel I only had five hours sleep last night” or “I know I’m rubbish if I don’t get eight hours.”
Sleep isn't simple...
I remember seeing one of the top neurologists in the North-west of England when, for months, I’d been sleeping for about an hour a night. He told me, “I know how you feel, I have a new baby.” With all due respect he had no idea what insomnia feels like because unlike having a new baby insomnia is hopeless and terrifying.
Insomnia is not a choice and if you want to know what a 21st century zombie looks like find a chronic insomniac!
All the available literature and all the experts tell us we have to have 7 or 8 hours a night, or else! I get frustrated by this because firstly “or else” isn’t helpful to me. Please don’t tell me that I am damaging myself because I’m not sleeping and then not give me any ways forward. Please don’t try and simplify what can be a very complex issue by imparting the advice “You just need to put lavender drops on your pillow or…[fill in the blank].
One thing my own experience taught me is that if you have chronic sleep problems it’s unlikely to be a simple issue and that means there’s unlikely to be a simple solution. That’s not to say there won’t be solutions for you, but what I mean is beware of people offering snake oil because chronic sleep problems can be complex. Any quick fixes are likely to be short-term.
My own sleep issues have four components:
- Post-Concussion Syndrome
- Hypervigilance (built during childhood)
- Parasomnias (Night Terrors)
- Sleep Paralysis
Your list is likely to be different and may be longer or shorter.
I’ve learned that insomnia is now my Achilles heel. The same is true for many of my clients.
If I am stressed, and not managing my stress properly, then very quickly things will escalate and my sleep will be impacted. I have had to learn to be very precious about my sleep and ahead of that I must be very responsive to any stress that I find myself under. Otherwise, every time I encounter stress – and life is stressful at times – if I am not proactive about managing it, my sleep will deteriorate. Very quickly that can escalate into a sleep problem for me, it’s as though my sleep program now has a very low tolerance for stress.
How does this work?
When I work with clients with insomnia and sleep problems, I’m your therapist, your coach, and your accountability buddy. I will keep you honest about your sleep hygiene. I will keep you honest when your commitment wavers and I will help you understand what is going on for you.
In the therapy room we will make a plan for good sleep hygiene, find ways to help you begin to switch off, learn how to address worries that may be impacting your sleep routine. I have a toolbox of therapeutic modalities ready to help.