How to sleep with chronic insomnia – is there hope after years of poor sleep?

Yes there is, and you hold the key. The underlying question is what are you willing to do in order to sleep better. If the answer is ‘nothing really as I am otherwise content with my life’ you are not going to get very far with your sleep quest. If, however, you are ready to carry the responsibility of this task yourself and motivated to make lasting changes, you will end up sleeping (much) better. For some these changes are more to do with lifestyle, for some they are more to do with mind management.  Sleep therapist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan wrote that: “Sorting out a person’s sleep problems is like detective work. It could be alcohol, dehydration, caffeine, or they may be overweight. If person is talking in their sleep, that could be someone who needs to access their creative outlets. A lot of it is about expression.”

How to sleep with chronic insomnia

Better sleep lives within us. We discover it, when we believe we can.

Can sleep props, sleeping aids, various products, herbs and stuff help to sleep better? In an article ”Is there any way to cure Insomnia?” in The Telegraph the poorly sleeping journalist has tried hot baths, warm milk, caffeine bans, lavender, chamomile, valerian, magnesium, calcium, cherry capsules, alcohol, Nytol, antidepressants, massage, intercourse, foot patches, aromatherapy oils, eye masks, ear plugs, state-of-art clocks, open windows, electric blankets, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, yoga, exercise, nutritional approach, hypnosis, nature noises, sound-wave technology and apps.  So how on earth isn’t she already sleeping? My theory is that as long as we look for ‘quick fixes’ we remain lost. As soon as we realize there are no ‘fixes’ and accept that we need to restore our lost connection with sleep we can start the healing. The above ‘props’ can have very valuable role in helping us to relax (which in turn helps us to restore our connection with sleep), but they don’t fix poor sleep. Expecting props to solve the problem for us leads us in the wrong direction.

We are selling sleep products in our shop. Why on earth, if they don’t deliver sleep? Because they deliver something else – something that is equally important. Sensitive sleepers have often lost their enjoyment of sleeping, and what’s even more important, art of relaxation. The key question in fact is: How can we run, if we don’t first know how to walk? When we use different products (and services) to relax and pamper (without unrealistic expectations to restore our poor sleep) we are on a right track. The moment we start to enjoy relaxation, quiet moments, napping, silence, our senses and just being in our very own skin something strange starts to happen. We learn to lose tensions in the body, and then, as a natural follow-up, our mind starts to calm down. Many sensitive sleepers are very dutiful people. We try to remember everything, keep to dead-lines and just be perfect in various ways. We can put ourselves first. Just never give that role to insomnia.

Sleep experts have many different opinions but they all agree on one topic: sleeping pills don’t help with chronic insomnia. Non-drug treatments have been under-used, but many sleep experts say that they offer the best long-term solutions to chronic sleep problems. Professor Kevin Morgan of Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre says that sleeping tablets treat the symptoms of insomnia, not its causes. Sleeping pills also break the natural, inbuilt confidence to fall sleep: we feel unable to asleep without any aid.

What is the right approach for you? CBT or ACT? Professor Espie is a co-counder of the online sleep-improvement programme Sleepio which costs from £6.99 a week. He tells that the CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) has been shown to help around 70% of sufferers and has been most effective in controlled clinical studies. CBT combines behaviours and thought processes through goal-oriented, systematic procedures. Dr Meadows, founder of London’s Sleep School, is pioneering an ‘acceptance technique’ and applies ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) to sleep. His work centers on a mindful approach and befriending the mind’s demons. We can’t control sleeplessness but we can control our reaction to it. He reports a success rate of 87% in 2010-2011 patients. Remarkable! What still bothers me a bit that these ‘very exact numbers’ don’t yet reveal how long-term these results are. To me the only thing that matters is that the good sleep has come to stay.

What cured me? Is there a solution available? After years and years of poor sleep I now have sleep of good-quality ~45-50 hours nearly every week. How is this possible? Even I didn’t know couple of years ago that this could be possible. Yet here I am, feeling pretty normal. And yes, I do get setbacks but they no longer lead to insomnia bouts. I regard my healing closer to ACT and acceptance approach. I realised (from yoga) that acceptance is key for me. In fact, I experienced an AHA!-moment while I was walking on the downs one day and it just hit my like a stroke. I had just lost my father and two friends for cancer and I was sad, full of irrational fears and devastated. All these upheavals gave me valuable perspective. How do I want to live my precious life? Do I want to live it worrying and whining, or something else? I chose something else. Getting started was hardest. But when I got over the first step, it led to another and another and the snowball was soon running down the hill. So what’s right for you? My sleep tool box is not yours, we all have our own causes, lifestyles and sensitivities.

My key advice is: stop fighting, accept your sensitivity and start testing and creating your own sleep tool box. Be active and be grateful for every good day to the level of syrupy. And yes, learn to walk before you run. Restoring your connection to sleep, starts by learning to relax. Baby steps and patience will take you there. And just remember this, good days lead to good nights.

Have you lost your hope with poor sleep? Share your story – and help other sensitive sleepers realise they are not alone.

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