Ep 1. Redefining Insomnia: My 3 Core Philosophies

Aug 17, 2023

In this groundbreaking episode, we challenge the conventional view of insomnia and dive deep into the three core philosophies that not only shape everything in my business, but will also revolutionize the way you perceive insomnia.

  • Discover what it means to embrace a holistic approach to sleep coaching.
  • Explore the profound connection between insomnia and survival. 
  • Unravel the mystery behind sleepless nights.
  • Gain a profound understanding of the mind-body factors that contribute to hyperarousal.

But that's not all…

I'll also be sharing five empowering tips to keep you firmly on the recovery path.

As we delve deeper into understanding insomnia, you'll find that it becomes less of a mystery. By shedding the mystery, fear comes down and we pave the way for natural sleep to reclaim its rightful place in your life.

Get ready for a shift in your perspective on sleep.

Are you coming?

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Full Transcript Below:

About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP: 

For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights. 

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Redefining Insomnia: My 3 Core Philosophies

 Hello and welcome! I am SO excited because I’ve been wanting to do this podcast for a very long time and the day has finally come where I’m sitting down to record my first episode.

So, being new to podcasting, I had no idea where to even begin because there are about a million things that I could talk about with regards to sleep and specifically insomnia. 

But I thought the BEST place to start would be to talk about my unique philosophies – the foundational concepts that inform everything in my business, what I teach in my program, my coaching and what I’ll talk about on this podcast. 

There are three big philosophies that fit into this category…

But before we even go there, I want to talk a little bit about what it means to be a holistic sleep coach and what the name of this podcast, mind-body-sleep means to me. 

Defining the Word Holistic for Insomnia

For most of my life, I always just liked the world “holistic”, it always really resonated with me and if something had the word holistic in front of it, I just naturally gravitated towards it. But I don’t think I really thought that critically about what the word truly represents.

The term holism refers to the theory that: “all parts of a whole are interconnected.” So, JUST looking at a part, or even multiple parts separately isn’t conducive to treating the whole person. 

Well, this makes sense, and it was pretty much how I interpreted the word holistic. 

When I started my master’s in Holistic Health Studies, this word started taking on a much deeper dimension in my life because I was introduced to all these super cool classes and ideas around what holism represents in an even broader context beyond JUST health. And this program was seriously one of the best experiences of my life, I just soaked it up and someday I’ll talk more about how I even ended up in that program. 

But it was during that education journey that I took a particular interest in the concept of neuroplasticity. I don’t even know what it was you guys, it just sparked something in me. And my thesis research ended up being around self-directed neuroplasticity which was even MORE exciting because self-directed just means that we can use the MIND to change the BRAIN.

And I just can’t even tell you how much I loved this idea, it was wait, what?? We can actually DO this? That’s amazing.

This lead me down SO many interesting rabbit holes of learning in the field of neuroscience, like: psychoneuroimmunology, the nervous system and polyvagal theory, a greater understanding of the unconscious mind, the quantum field and just all of the things. 

I had no idea what I was going to do with this knowledge, and I had never heard of something called a sleep coach even though I struggled with insomnia for almost 40 years at this point. I just knew that I was incredibly passionate about what I was learning in a way that doesn’t just fall from trees for me. 

The Relationship Between Mind and Body

So, the context with which I use my social media moniker “The Holistic Sleep Coach” and the name of this podcast comes from the perspective that the mind and body are bidirectional and reciprocal. So, when the brain changes, the mind changes. And when the mind changes, the brain changes — it’s a constant unified system like a two-way street. 

Now down the road, I’ll be going deep in this podcast about how to apply a mind-body lens to insomnia, but for now I’d like to share the three main philosophies that inform my work. 

These philosophies are pretty much the WHY behind everything that I do in my business from my program to this podcast. Now, I suspect that the tools, or techniques of my approach will continue to evolve and change over time, in fact I hope they do. But my philosophies will likely remain pretty much the same. 

So, let’s dig in…

My 3 Unique Philosophies

My first philosophy is that:

  1. Insomnia is based in survival. So, what do I mean by that…

I don’t view insomnia as a sleep problem as much as I do a conditioned fear problem. It’s a surface expression of fear — a protective pattern. 

Essentially, we develop a fear of not being able to sleep. 

Now the way this usually happens is typically we go through some sort of life circumstance that causes some sleep disruption. And during this period of disruption, our relationship with sleep starts to change. Maybe we have the thought that there’s something wrong with our sleep, or maybe we start doubting our ability to sleep. 

Our brain somehow determines that not sleeping, or the consequences of not sleeping are a threat to our safety and survival. 

So at this point in time, we start interacting our sleep differently, something shifts, our orientation changes — it’s almost like there’s a heighted state of alertness around anything having to do with our sleep. 

This turns on the fight or flight response which leads to hyperarousal which is what keeps sleep from happening. 

Over time hyperarousal can become a conditioned response — something that happens on automatic even after the circumstance that caused the disruption has resolved or passed. 

But you know, there’s even a little bit more to it which leads me to my second philosophy which is…

  1. Sleep is a passive process, it’s an effortless process, right. It can’t be forced or controlled. 

In my opinion, this is probably THE most important thing to understand about sleep. 

When we go through the initial event that tips us into some fear about not sleeping, we respond the way any human would which is to freak out and start doing everything imaginable to fix our sleep — which is totally normal, because isn’t this is how we handle most of life’s problems?

Now, here’s the thing… not only is sleep a passive process but it responds paradoxically to effort. Meaning the harder we try, the harder it is. 

Problem-solving our way into sleep is really the beginning of insomnia and the quest to control sleep. 

But, when you think about it, the effortless nature of sleep as a biological function like breathing or pumping blood makes total sense. 

Because can you imagine if we had to force or earn this ability? We’d all have insomnia because the pressure and performance anxiety of that would be out of this world, it would kick us right into that fight or flight response. 

Yet the path of insomnia is pretty much just this, it’s a change in our relationship to sleep from one of effortlessness (where we never really thought that much about it) to one of achievement.  Something that is our birthright, into something we must do right. 

Suddenly the incredibly simple act of sleep becomes complicated. And as we continue to problem-solve our way back into what used to come effortlessly, we unintentionally reinforce the brains newly hardwired perception that being awake at night is a threat. 

Which brings me right into my third philosophy which is…

  1.  Our brains are changeable. 

I mentioned earlier how integral the concept of neuroplasticity is to what I do because it’s the basis of all learning. Our brains learn through association. 

So, in the case of insomnia, the brain creates a link between not sleeping and danger — it begins to associate being awake at night as a threat in the same way it would if there was a gun pointed at you or you were about to get hit by a car.

Now, being awake at night can be deeply uncomfortable — it’s usually not our first choice, but it’s still a safe thing to experience, all humans wake up multiple times a night. The act of being awake poses no immediate threat. 

You can think of it like a fear of heights, or a fear of water. Being in a tall building, or in a pool of water poses no immediate threat unless you have a fear of those things in which case your brain is going to kick into fight or flight at the mere mention of the top floor or jumping in the ocean. 

With the fear of not sleeping, hyperarousal gets triggered just by going to bed — the brain starts sending out alarm bells — it’s trying to alert us to the potential threat of not sleeping based on its perception of danger. 

Now, I know from personal experience that this is one of the most perplexing things you can ever go through. Because we know we’re safe, and we don’t always feel outwardly anxious or fearful, but our brain is just doing something totally different, it’s like it just won’t let you fall asleep. 

Which is why it’s so common to feel like you have a broken brain when you’re going through insomnia — it truly feels like your brain just won’t sleep like other people. 

But here’s where what I really want you to know because it’s so hopeful… nothing changes with your ability to sleep; you haven’t lost that capacity in any way. There’s simply this habituated arousal response that keep getting in the way of that happening. 

Alright, just to go a little deeper here on this thread… our brains don’t create these associations all on their own – they’re always looking to us, too. Remember how I talked about the mind and brain as a bidirectional highway — one is always informing the other. 

Well, this is where we have a lot of influence. And it’s the reason I get these goosebumps every time I talk about neuroplasticity, especially the self-directed kind. 

The way we respond to fear ultimately shapes the future expression of that fear. So, we are in no way powerless over insomnia because our brains are malleable and changing all of the time. 

And any time we learn fear, we can also unlearn it

I’ll be talking so much more about all of this down the road, but these are the 3 overarching philosophies that inspire everything that I create. 

What Approach Do I Use?

Now a lot of times, people will reach out and ask me about what approaches I use?

Do I use CBTI, do I use ACTi, do I take a behavioral approach, do I use this method or that method… and really, I use all of them to some degree. And I think too, that it’s really quite individualized — I consider where someone is on their journey and how their nervous systems tend to operate and while I think that the sleep education that I provide around what insomnia is and why it happens is pretty much across the board, the way someone integrates that information is unique to them.  

But I do bring in concepts around mindfulness and acceptance and understanding the unconscious the mind as well as honoring your own nervous system through self-compassion. 

5 Additional Tips for Insomnia Recovery

For those of you on the insomnia recovery path (which is probably a lot of you or you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast ), here are 5 additional ideas I’d like to share based on my own experience with insomnia as well as helping others:

1. You are not your brain, okay, we’re not just victims of our automatic programming, we have a lot of agency over how we want to wire our own circuitry.

2. When it comes to sleep and insomnia
acceptance will be your friend. Because when we’re in a state of resistance, or we’re doing everything possible to force or make ourselves sleep, we’re unconsciously activating the hyperarousal that keep insomnia alive.

  1. Insomnia is not your fault you did nothing wrong to cause it. Learning fears, and unlearning fears is a normal part of the human experience, your brain just happened to connect fear to not sleeping.
  2. Self-kindness is everything — you literally cannot overdo it. I’ve learned so much more about self-compassion in the last few years and how to apply it during the recovery process. I encourage and remind my students of this often because it’s so key in terms of wiring safety into the nervous system.  
  3. Sleep always wins in the end – your body will always give you enough core sleep to survive and while I know that’s not always ideal, there is something comforting in knowing we have this mechanism built right into our biology. 

All right, that wraps up episode one, thank you so much for being here!

Why I'm Doing This Podcast

My big, bold goal for this podcast is to change the way the world thinks about sleep and provide hope for people going through insomnia. 

When I was going through it myself, I couldn’t find anything out there that actually made sense to me — I felt very alone and trapped and powerless and eventually I even got to the point where I doubted that I could ever get beyond this problem. Now, I am completely recovered and don’t even think about sleep, a lot like those people that used to really annoy me.

So, I’ll be here recording every week; I hope you join me. 

Bye for now. 

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