The Struggle with Sleeplessness

One of the key tools that the world’s foremost sleep coaches at the Sleep School use is acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT. Guy Meadows nicely described ACT as “a revolutionary research-based psychological tool that recognises that it is our struggle or reaction to pain and suffering that actually makes them worse.” ACT promotes mental flexibility, openness and curiosity, so rather than struggling against negative thoughts and feelings, we learn to observe, accept and then let them go.

So how does this relate to chronic insomnia?

Research and clinical experience points to the struggle with sleeplessness is the critical process instigating and sustaining insomnia. Older approaches such as traditional cognitive behaviour therapy sometimes focus on getting rid of symptoms associated with poor sleep. Trying to block out or challenge certain thoughts, or remove anxious feelings. When it comes to the struggle with sleeping (as with anxiety, sadness, and so many other struggles), the thoughts and feelings end up coming back stronger, in greater numbers and with more frequency. Your energy is inadvertently put into trying to get rid of what you don’t want, rather than into what you do want, which is to sleep.

What if a sleep expert found he couldn’t sleep?

In the introduction to his fantastic “Sleep Book” Guy Meadows recounts when the thought popped into his head “what if I became an insomniac to?” Finding himself sleep sleepless, unable to switch off, his mind bringing up more and more worrisome thoughts, “I’m the guy who helps other people to sleep and now I can’t!” While his body wound up the tension, anxiety, urgency… Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, trying to clear the mind, all backfiring. Eventually falling asleep in the early hours of the morning. And the following day those thoughts showing up with even more urgency. He struggled to think back to what he used to do to get to sleep… nothing! Struggling with thoughts and feelings about sleep entangled and prevented. ACT skills are fantastic in this area.

How will we know this is working for you?

Is what you really want less worries about sleep, less agitation in the body, or simply more sleep? Is the quickest way to that battles with the mind, struggles with the body, or opening up to whatever thoughts and feelings are happening, letting them come and go as they will if we can but only actively let them, letting your body do its thing. Guy’s program helps his English clients discover how the struggle to sleep actually prevents sleep, learned through experience what they cannot change, through active coaching how to open up to those thoughts and feelings, to build a new sleeping pattern, and connect this with deeply held values for their personal and broader lives. We can’t take you to London, but we can train you in the skills to help sleep soundly, and live fully.

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