A while ago a new client was telling me how frustrated she felt about her lack of sleep. She was trying her best but sleep still wouldn’t come. Let’s call her Sue.
Sue worked as a teacher-trainer in a University setting – a highly demanding role involving long days and lots of travelling.
She was a highly competent individual and had conducted her own research into how to fix her sleep. She’d tried yoga in the evenings, going to the gym, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine – yet still sleep wouldn’t arrive when she so desperately needed it.
Her frustration was palpable. With real feeling she declared:
I’d rather have a broken arm than this sleep problem!”
You report to A&E. There may be a long wait but when you do see a doctor there’s a clear treatment pathway. You get the bones set, your arm goes in plaster and off you go. You know that in a few weeks’ time, the break will be fixed and the plaster will come off.
They open doors, carry your bag and make all sorts of comforting allowances. And you’re perfectly fine about people knowing you’ve broken your arm and them helping you. (Even if you broke it doing something ‘silly’ like putting the washing out or walking on icy pavements to the pub rather than in some ‘heroic’ or ‘worthy’ way – such as skiing, marathon training or a charity run!)
But when you’re struggling to sleep it feels very different. Although when you see yourself in the mirror you notice how tired you look, others probably won’t. Or if they do, they often won’t say anything. You battle on alone.
Your approach to your sleeping problem is also very different. Sue, for example, felt embarrassed and ashamed. She saw it as a personal weakness and blamed herself.
After all, she said, sleep is supposed to be natural, right?
So what’s wrong with me?
It’s much easier if you have a visible, physical health issue. This is rooted in outdated concepts. Although things are improving, as a society we’re far better at understanding and supporting people with physical disabilities than with mental and emotional health conditions. Sleep is still seen as a nice-to-have, not an essential. Despite all the clinical evidence, some people hold fast to the notion that ‘sleep is for wimps’ and you ‘should’ be able to survive on just a few hours.
No wonder that people feel alone with their sleeping problems. No wonder that when they consult me they’re often desperate and also quite cynical that anything or anyone can help them!
And yet –
Called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi) it’s the frontline treatment both here and in the US. It’s highly effective (bringing real sustainable improvement in just a few weeks) and is based on properly researched science.
This is the framework I use in all my Sleep Well programmes where I combine it with other tried and tested strategies that I’ve developed in my many years of showing my clients how to sleep more and stress less.
Steph came to me in a pretty desperate state. Chief Financial Officer in a large company, she’d tried many things over the years to fix her sleep. She woke up frequently during the night with her mind endlessly whirring. Her insomnia was seriously impacting her mental, physical and emotional health.
Steph and I worked together over the course of six weeks. At the end she kindly offered this feedback to anyone that finds themselves suffering in a similar way as she had been:
In the past I tried so many things to fix my sleep. Working with Frances felt like my last chance to cure my insomnia – and it worked! I enjoy good quality sleep and I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve commented on how well I now look. Steph, 54, CFO
If you’d like to feel like Steph does now then take the first step.