Discover . . . why you need to stop ‘trying’ – to start sleeping
Chronic insomnia could be likened to struggling in quicksand, the more you struggle, the deeper down you go. To escape quicksand you need to first stop struggling and the same is true for insomnia. However, if it was this easy, then you would not be reading this blog!
The reality of the situation is that we are born strugglers. It is our way of feeling like we are in control of our lives. If something goes wrong then we fix it. And for the majority of problems, this ‘fix it’ attitude works really well and takes us closer to what we value in life. However, as you have probably guessed, sleep is not like the majority problems. It is a natural physiological process that can’t be turned on and off like a switch!
This presents a serious problem and a deeper question… “Are all your efforts to try and solve or control your sleep actually helping or are they part of the problem?” … In the same way that struggling in quicksand makes you sink deeper, trying to control sleep makes you more awake.
Take a moment now to think of all of the things that you have done or are currently doing to try and fix your insomnia. If you are anything like many of my clients you have tried most things to a greater or lesser degree and despite many not working in the long term, you feel compelled to keep trying because you are desperate and don’t know what else to do. If you are not sure how you might be controlling your sleep, here are a few examples…
– We try to control our lifestyles by cutting out caffeine and alcohol or exercising more.
– We try to manage our level of relaxation by following strict winding down routines including baths, milk, CD’s and deep breathing.
– We try to manage our bedrooms by blocking out noise, light and even our partners.
– We try to manage our minds by blocking out, arguing or positively challenging thoughts.
– We try to control our sleep by going to bed earlier, lying in later or sleeping during the day.
– We try to manage our lives by avoiding staying away in hotels, going on holiday or visiting family.
…and all in the name of trying to get some sleep.
It is true that some of the things noted above could actually be helpful. For example, if you are drinking 10 cups of coffee a day, then cutting down will be helpful, not least for your blood pressure. However, the majority of us drink a normal amount of caffeine and sleep absolutely fine.
Equally, keeping a regular sleep wake cycle does help to keep your internal clock on time and maintain the natural drive to sleep. However, the majority of us don’t go to bed at exactly the same time every night and sleep absolutely fine!
…and so once again, if it was this easy you would not be reading this blog!
I believe that solution to insomnia can, therefore, be found in understanding why we struggle with sleep in the first place. For my clients, it is because they fear how it will affect their lives such as their ability to be a mother or father, partner or friend, or their ability to do their job, keep fit or just have fun. It is the fear that whispers in their ear… “If you don’t sleep you won’t be able to cope,…you will look awful,…you will get cancer,…you will never be in a relationship and so on”.
No one likes to hear such things especially in the middle of the night. And when accompanied by their friends, the pounding heart, the knot in the stomach, the muscular tension and the splitting head aches, to name but a few of the common sensations, it is hardly surprising we do all we can to struggle against poor sleep. In fact, there is often no limit to how much energy, time, expense and emotion we are willing to expend in attempting to try and control our fears of not sleeping.
The curious paradox is that such actions are often done at the cost of living our lives. All of my clients report that since having insomnia their lives have shrunk and mostly at the hand of their actions of trying to control their insomnia.
For example, it was them who chose to move to the spare room, rather than share their bed with their partner.
– Or to leave parties early to avoid experiencing any anxiety.
– Or to avoid seeking a promotion at work and for fear of how the extra stress may affect their sleep.
– Or to start drinking alcohol before bed, to numb the feelings of anxiety that rise up inside them.
– Or to take another pill to silence their racing the mind in the early hours of the morning.
Ask yourself the question: “What would you be doing in your life, if you weren’t spending all your energy trying to control your sleep?”
For most of my clients, the answer is sharing a bed with their loved ones, going out to parties with their friends, seeking that promotion at work and getting on with their lives and sleeping naturally. So how do we, The Sleep School, fix insomnia? Well, it’s about gently teaching you to let go of trying to control your sleep and start using your energy to live your life. To us, this makes the most sense, because sleep needn’t be a struggle and life is for living! Deciding to start this program doesn’t mean that you will miraculously feel totally relaxed when you go to bed and fall to sleep within minutes of your head hitting the pillow and not wake until morning. What it does do is give you the tools to respond in a helpful manner to your poor sleep, one that gently retrains the brain to sleep naturally once more on a regular basis.