By Tom Wavre
Disturbed sleep patterns are the number 1 symptom of many conditions such as depression and anxiety. There is a vicious cycle whereby poor sleep can lead to developing or worsening depression, and having depression often leads to poor sleep. The link is clear but what can we do about it? How do we improve our sleeping patterns and beat insomnia, when depression is both the cause and the effect?
As you have clicked on this link I’m going to assume you or someone you love has very poor sleep. I’m also going to assume that you have tried many of the ‘sleep hygiene’ tips that get thrown around. If you are like me, you tried these but they didn’t make much of a difference to you. However, that doesn’t mean all is lost, there is still hope for your sleep.
So there are no surprises, I’m going to be directing you to a book on sleep CBT by Colin Espie, currently priced on Amazon at £8.29 or £5.49 on kindle. I will be giving you some of the tips from the book and an outline as to what it involves. However, I’m not going to plagiarise his content. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know how to shrink his 200+ pages down to one article. For the cynics reading, yes if you purchase on the link at the bottom we make a small referral fee. HOWEVER, I am only singing its praises as it has made a very real and significant difference to me and I firmly believe it can for you too.
Finally, I Can Sleep
I have had difficulties with sleep since my early teens and am now 39 (you may not give a crap about the bit where I talk about how my sleep has improved, if so skip straight to the title ‘So What Do I Do?’). My insomnia would often have me up until the not so early hours, sometimes seemingly awake the entire night. In the last few years not only was getting to sleep a problem but waking FAR too early was being added into the mix. Fun combo!
I had tried the majority of the sleep hygiene tips that float around the internet and none had really worked for me. Poor sleep was the reason I found out I had depression – so in a way I should thank it (??). I went to the doctors, finally unable to put up with my poor sleep any more and desperate for some kind of solution. To cut a long story short, the link of sleep to depression was made and I realised sleep was just a part of a bigger picture for me. Not that this knowledge did me any good, my sleep continued to be rubbish for a long time.
Eventually I got put on to a book about sleep CBT, and whilst not perfect, my sleep is now consistently far better than it has been in perhaps 30 years.
So What Do I Do?
First, none of what I’m going to say will be easy. If you want something that is easy and life-changing you can close this article now. I have no idea what that solution would be. However, keep reading if you are prepared to really put the effort in over a number of weeks, implementing best practice and really making a longstanding difference.
The crux of sleep CBT revolves around this: Right now your mind associates your bed with a place you TRY but FAIL to sleep; you need to change this association with your bed to be a place where you do sleep. This is not a quick and easy process, but it is a very worthwhile one.
A Beginning, A Middle, An End
Like any project, trip or task of any magnitude, you need to fully know your starting point and your desired outcome. Then you can plan how to get there. Learning to beat insomnia is no different. So whilst it is tempting to skip past this part, the first thing you need to do is fully measure your sleep. What are your patterns, your current routines, how much time do you spend asleep and how much time awake?
The end result the book aims for is to be sleeping for over 90% of your time in bed. In case quick maths isn’t your thing, that means if you go to bed at 11 and get up at 7, you will have been asleep for a MINIMUM of 7 hours 12 minutes. Ridiculous pipe dream right? Well maybe. It is very ambitious and getting there will be very hard but depending on your age it is possible. As you get older you quite simply need less sleep. As such, getting over 7 hours may never be the thing you aim for. That doesn’t mean you can’t be aiming for a healthy and productive night’s sleep. The book will help you work out what that target should be.
The Steps to Beat Insomnia
Take it slow, there are a number of steps to go through. Aim to tackle one step per week as you need to do it in order and implement all of the best practice ideas. In short these steps are:
- Know your sleep – detailed records of how you sleep on average
- Improving your knowledge – like anything you want to tackle and overcome, the more you know the better your chances. The better you’ll understand why some of the tactics might work and why some of the others won’t
- Sleep hygiene and routine – those sleep hygiene tips we mentioned but never had success with? Some of them you’re going to want to keep doing and create a routine around them
- New sleeping patterns – counter-intuitively, this is where you now start to have some VERY late nights and quite simply don’t allow yourself to spend time in bed when you are awake
- Holy hell you want me to do what now? – not the actual title of the chapter in his book but this week ain’t gonna be easy! This is where your nights get even later!
The summary of these steps would be that you are going to want to do NOTHING in your bed other than sleep. That said, that other thing is fine as well, hell it tends to help us blokes sleep afterwards anyway! Be strict with yourself, if you’re awake for any amount of time, you get out of bed. No phones, no tv, no books, no pillow talk. Turns out much of the sleep hygiene we’ve already tried and failed with probably didn’t work as we didn’t do enough of them and weren’t strict enough with them (that’s certainly true for me, might not be for you).
Commitment Needed to Beat Insomnia
The difference this book is capable of making is huge but only if you put in the effort. It’s hard, some of it will feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better.
Read and implement just one chapter a week. The first few chapters lay a solid foundation but in my experience it is in the later, much harder chapters, that the real difference is made. You will need to be strict with yourself, and fight the temptation to skip ahead in the book though. Getting the early chapters right is why the later ones work.
I’ll close by repeating something I said earlier. Right now your mind associates your bed with a place you TRY but FAIL to sleep. It is not a quick and easy process, but to beat insomnia, changing that association is a very worthwhile one.
In the interest of transparency – we make a small referral fee if you purchase via the link below: