When I was in the throes of chronic insomnia, I tried literally everything out there to get my sleep back on track.
A typical night for me consisted of lying in bed WIDE AWAKE with insomnia while researching insomnia.
In high school, I lived in a dorm for part of the year. My crazy roommates often made fun of me because while they were busy snoozing away like logs, I’d be up on the top bunk, wired at 3am, reading books about insomnia.
(I had zero clue that my determination to "fix" insomnia was just attracting more insomnia.)
Later in life, as I graduated to the internet, I noticed that everything I was reading online was just the same advice over and over… Sleep hygiene, MORE sleep hygiene, bedtime routines, morning routines, pills, supplements, and every kind of YouTube meditation you could possibly imagine.
Don’t get me wrong, all of these things have value, buuttt... (you knew there was a but coming, didn't you?) they just don’t cut it when it comes to a wicked case of insomnia. Not to mention that after a while? Once you've already tried all the crazy things only to find out they really don't work, a person can start to feel a bit hopeless. I personally Googled, “can you die from chronic insomnia?” more than a few times during my decades of sleep deprivation.
What my mind needed was a different approach. Something that would inspire the deeply ingrained pathways in my brain to let down their guard and shift gears for a change.
Most of the chronic insomnia clients I work with are very knowledgeable about sleep. They’re highly motivated, ambitious, productive individuals who enjoy having some control over their lives.
Like me, they’ve already tried all the tips and tricks out there. They’re usually very disciplined about their actions and genuinely want to do whatever is necessary to get their sleep back on track.
Often, they've spent an insane amount of money on things that don't work and after being let down so many times, they’re pretty skeptical that ANYTHING could work.
Most people in the sleep industry approach insomnia from the outside in. They look at all the outer factors that could be influencing sleep. I tend to start from the inside out and look at what’s going on in the mind that is impacting sleep.
This is a far more comprehensive approach in my experience because chronic insomnia is a mind-body experience.
If you know anything about me, you know I'm always blabbing on about the subconscious mind. I talk so much about it because I believe that if you want real, sustainable change (not just a bandaid approach) this is about as far upstream as you can go. Your subconscious dictates your thoughts, actions, and beliefs. Read this easy overview of the subconscious to learn more about taking massive control of your life.
The subconscious is holding on to all of the reasons you do what you do. It knows exactly why you’re not sleeping. If you were sitting across a table, discussing insomnia with your subconscious, it would give you the specific references and data it’s working off of to produce this pattern in your life.
Remember, the body can’t do anything without the mind’s permission.
Mental creation precedes physical creation.
If you’re not sleeping, it’s because the mind is giving your brain instructions to not sleep based on the data it’s holding.
That data is made up of billions and billions of past memories, emotions, and beliefs.
Beliefs in particular have a profound influence over how we live our lives.
Which is why I always ask this one particular question...
I work with people to find the unconscious reasons they're not sleeping. Often, there are memories or past experiences (possibly from childhood but not necessarily) beneath their conscious awareness that are factoring into how they sleep. Every session looks different as we explore what’s going on in the mind.
There is one question, however, that I ask every single client without fail. That question is:
What do you believe about sleep?
This simple, yet telling question is your jackpot!
If you want to get to the root cause of your sleep problems, this is the number one question to ask yourself.
What do you believe about sleep?
You see, the subconscious being the subconscious does everything possible to keep you in alignment with what you believe. You may have core beliefs about sleep you're not even aware of!
This one question provides a ton information and it can help you get to the root cause of chronic insomnia.
You might be wondering how to dig a little deeper into your sleep beliefs…
Here are some examples:
Another useful exercise that will help you figure out what you believe about sleep is to simply finish this sentence:
Sleep is ___________.
* Repeat it out loud 10 times fast and say whatever comes to mind *
Sleep is ___________, Sleep is ____________, Sleep is ___________...
Remember, (and this is important), while you are doing this:
Do not think about, or consciously try to filter or analyze your answers. It DOESN’T have to make sense!
Write down your answers or say them out loud:
Then, after you've finished the sentence at least ten times fast, take a look at all the words you came up with. And ask yourself, "Does this represent anything in my life?" Could your experience with sleep be a metaphorical expression for something else in your life?
You might be wondering why sleep beliefs even matter.
Underlying beliefs (especially familial beliefs) about sleep are powerful and can creep up on us later in life. Even if they weren't an issue in the past, they can be triggered by a life experience at any time.
Logically we know that a well-rested body leads to a more productive life. But the subconscious might be running off of information it took in a long time ago. These can be deeply held familial beliefs or beliefs we developed along the way.
In its quest to keep us safe, the subconscious produces whatever we believe. For example, if you have the deep-seated belief that sleep is a waste of time, it will create some pretty interesting scenarios to make that true for you.
Let’s take a closer look at this example…
Let's just say you are an adult in midlife at the height of your professional career. Work demands increase, and you find yourself scrambling for TIME trying to get everything done.
Night comes and even though you are dog tired, you can't sleep. You become more and more frustrated and exhausted with this cycle.
Remember, the brain has two main jobs: keeping you safe and keeping you in alignment.
As professional responsibilities increase, time gets crunched, and you become stressed. So, guess what information the ol' subconscious starts to run off of? That old saying from childhood that you heard your parents or grandparents say...
"SLEEP IS A WASTE OF TIME."
The subconscious, in a misguided effort to protect you, decides: Well, we better not do that! In fact, the mind may go so far as to actually RESENT sleep because it's taking up So. Much. TIME.
See how that works?
Once you figure out the beliefs that are perpetuating the patterns in your life, you can go about changing them.
Some beliefs are easy to figure out, others require working with a coach. The subconscious mind may resist change and throw up some pretty nutty road blocks when new ideas are introduced. It does this because it wants to stay in the known.
It will always choose the path of least resistance.
The very good news here is that once you figure out the subconscious structure that is creating insomnia, you can change it. This is the hope behind neuroplasticity. Our brains are changeable and our beliefs are.... just beliefs. Not necessarily facts.
Isn’t that a relief?
Cheering you on,
Beth Kendall MA, FNTP
Holistic Sleep Coach
P.S. The truth is, asking yourself, "What do I believe about this?" is the first step towards creating anything in life!
Health Disclaimer: The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
- Why there's no mystery to insomnia
- The most important thing to know about sleep
- Why sleep hygiene doesn't work
-How to create a "sleeper's identity"
- The ONE (and only) thing you need to sleep
-Why most sleep programs miss the mark
- The biggest myths about sleep
- How to end insomnia for good
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