My Own Sleep Blips

As a sleep therapist, I think it helps people recover from their insomnia to normalise imperfect sleep. I'm not talking about normalising insomnia, but the kind of sleep that one can have before insomnia (perhaps a long-forgotten memory) – and after recovering from it (which may seem like an impossibility).

Being reminded that irregularity in sleep is completely normal can help some people avoid putting the idea of recovery in a box marked "impossible." Somewhere deep inside, they just KNOW that their sleep isn't always going to be perfect – even though it CAN get better.

There is nothing abnormal about sleep blips

In the beginning, this "knowledge" comes from having such a hard time with their sleep and later on, it comes through being reminded that real life will always throw us curveballs – and there is nothing "abnormal" about sleep blips.

The gift that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTi) gave me is that I no longer respond to those sleep blips in my own sleep in a way that makes my sleep worse.

Life recently threw me sleep blips

After many years of insomnia and crossing the threshold into "normal" sleep, life threw me multiple sleep blips to challenge my newfound confidence in my sleep. More recently, I had a big wobble when everything closed down here in the UK as a result of the pandemic – this one lasted a week or 10 days.

I had another recent one as well, which lasted a little bit longer. They tended to look a lot like my longer-term bouts of insomnia, with tossing and turning until finally waking and not being able to get back to sleep. I tend to get 3 or 4 hours for a short period of time, and my sleep then returns to normal.

Learning to put my fears in perspective

Over the initial year or 2 after doing CBTi, it took time and practice to move through these blips. My feet grew steadier in time, and eventually, I was no longer "thrown" by these patches of sleep trouble.

At first, I would start to go down the rabbit hole of "oh my goodness, is it coming back!?!?!" and my sleep blip would grow larger and longer for a few days until I really and truly remembered – "I can do this."

I could put my fears into perspective and reconnect to the knowledge that my sleep can be fine. It just wasn't fine at that moment. Allowing that to be okay became part of the key for my sleep returning to normal.

I no longer fear spells of sleep trouble

When I have sleep trouble now, I no longer question if insomnia is returning. I no longer fear being awake at night or being unable to cope with the consequences. This is not to say I enjoy it – I don't! – but I learned not to fear it and to watch the feelings pass instead of getting caught up in trying to "fix things" or change what was happening. So the hyperarousal that maintains insomnia never rears its unhelpful head and starts to feed sleeplessness that could go on longer.

Life will throw me more curveballs, of course – and I'll have more spells of sleeping trouble. I just now have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to accept those as normal and to not respond in a way that contributes to my sleeping challenges.

What kinds of things have helped you build your own sleep confidence?

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