Insomnia Soul-u-tions


I don’t often talk about my three years of insomnia from 2005 – 2007, but now with more than a few clients facing this issue— here goes.

It started in 2005 the year after our move to California (oh yeah, I didn’t do well at trying to control what couldn’t be controlled.)

I’d go to bed and lie awake for hours. Going to bed became like going into a boxing ring with me fighting the darkness. Tossing and turning I couldn’t get comfortable. My knees hurt, my shoulder hurt and my neck was stiff…I had hot flashes and an overactive bladder that could barely make it to the bathroom. My eyes went dry when I did fall asleep and waking about every 45 minutes they would feel like sandpaper…..and I was MISERABLE! I’d get angry, give up and get up to read (that was actually smart). I’d be tired after reading but afraid to face my bed. So I would eat (that was not smart). Getting on the computer (not smart) exhausted me so I’d head back to bed only for an instant replay.

I went into work feeling like I’d walked a hundred miles each night—aching, foggy and fearful. I felt crazed. Other nurses told me to take night time cold medicine to get to sleep. It helped a little at first. When it stopped working, one doctor put me on Trazadone which made me feel hungover the next day, worse than tired.

Needless to say having gone through all of that and recovered from it by reducing my stress levels and proper nutrition, I have the GREATEST compassion for anyone with a sleep issue.

In reading the book Say Good Night to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs, PH.D this week I am impressed.

This book could have helped me in many ways, if I had only had it at the time. His work has resulted in a 100 percent improvement in his research of client’s sleep, with 75% becoming normal sleepers, and 90% reducing or eliminating sleeping pills.

THAT is astounding.

The book is brimming with suggestions, research and has a six week plan to get insomniacs off meds purely with cognitive behavior therapy.

He stresses that sleeping pills last only 4-6 weeks before the body adjusts to them (yes, like an addiction). Unless you increase their dosage you will only be getting the placebo effect, while enduring all the side effects either way. He insist pills should only be prescribed short term, yet people are put on them for years which leads to chronic insomnia.

He educates us to the fact that how we sleep is a learned behavior. The first half of the night gives us deep sleep and the second half gives us dream sleep and we need both for different reasons in different amounts. Our thoughts and behaviors either enhance these phases or short change them.

Understandably insomniacs have heads full of negative thoughts about sleep, like I did, and it often leads to taking actions that make recovery prolonged or impossible with out a change in behavior. Forcing ourselves to go to bed earlier, sleeping in later on weekends, avoiding the brief naps that could actually help, or using alcohol to relax in the evening (which blocks deep sleep) are just a few that work against us.

Many steps that ease and even cure insomnia are counter intuitive. Like getting out of bed earlier in the morning and exercising for sedentary types. Increasing our amount of “wakefulness” is key to being able to sleep well as wakefulness—increased by exposure to sunlight, enjoying our work, raising our body temp through movement increases our sleep efficiency. Increasing wakefulness increases our need for and ability to sleep.

I love his reassurances: it can be adequate, even beneficial to get 7 hours of sleep where as 8 is actually less beneficial for many. It is normal to take a rest after lunch (no longer than 40 mins. though or it will mess up your deep sleep). It is good to get up early and get outside into the daylight. Exercising our muscles 4- 6 hours before bedtime moderately will induce quicker sleep. It is great to have proper calcium, magnesium and Vit B levels to make sure our muscles can relax at night.

It is normal for upsetting events (a death, a move, a trauma) to create temporary sleep issues as we process our thoughts at night about these upsets, but if we are not careful with our actions and thoughts about these interrupted sleep times we can perpetuate them into chronic insomnia.

It is normal to wake up several times a night especially as we get older, and that if we stay relaxed about it we can return to sleep easily. If we can’t fall asleep in ten or twenty minutes, then by all means get up and read or listen to something peaceful until you feel sleepy- but don’t sleep on the couch creating another bad habit you’ll have to break.

It is really important to make a good relationship with your BED, free of devices and distractions and not sleep with partners that don’t sleep well!

It is normal that hot tub baths and jacuzzi’s will keep us awake until our temperatures cool down (which takes about an hour). Lowering body temperatures is crucial to when we fall sleep. Cool bedrooms are most helpful.

I loved hearing that relaxation is the key to sleeping. I hope we figure out how to make raising children in more relaxed, going to work more relaxed and well—keeping ourselves more relaxed.

Have you got a sleep issue or question? Let’s hear it! ….I’d love help you find your answers!

Life Support for the hard working woman,
Love, Gwendolyn

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