This post is meant to be informative so I will really try to refrain from mentioning my parsnip muffins (that are btw all eaten now) or any other healthy muffins, my childhood, my mum, my alcoholic brother (I’d really like if he stopped drinking, but somehow I can’t even imagine him being sober), Polish Christmas traditions, pierogi, SAD lamp or The Friend.
I’ll also try not to mention Home Group in this post, although it’s them that caused me my first, stress and insomnia inducted psychosis. So yes, good quality sleep is very important, but poor sleep is still better than no sleep at all, please remember it.
It is said that autistic people don’t sleep well and I certainly believed that as my problems with sleep were with me as long as I remember. My parents would make sure I’m in bed by 9pm but very often I was still awake at 1am, and that was when I was a child! It was also very difficult for me to nap during the day, although it would happen occasionally.
When I was put to do night shifts at work for a few weeks I could barely get any sleep during the day. I’d thought I’d get used to it but the second week was even worse than the first: in total I slept 14h during the entire week, I felt partly unconscious and had to go to GP for sleeping tablets.
After my second psychotic episode I started looking for ways to improve my sleep. Initially I found a program based on sleep restriction, which was available on the NHS but I wouldn’t be able to take it due to my mental illness history, which was a relief really as treating my inability to sleep with restricting sleep even further felt even worse than pulling teeth!
And then I found an app called Sleep School created by dr Guy Meadows, a sleep physiologist from London. The app is based on acceptance and commitment therapy and doesn’t requite any sleep restrictions, more over, dr Meadows advises to stay in bed and rest if you wake up in the middle of the night.
I reluctantly signed up and started doing all the exercises. It felt really weird at first, how observing what my senses are telling me was supposed to help me with insomnia? But somehow it worked. I started seeing first results after around two weeks: falling asleep was getting easier and easier and after a few months I was able to fall asleep within 3 minutes (down from 2-3h). I got slightly disappointed later when I found out dr Meadows stated falling asleep quicker that 15 minutes could mean we’re overtired.
Mind you, I fall asleep without using the app now, just practicing techniques I learned from it, and after a while they got so automatic that I don’t even think about using them. One could say I retrained my brain.
I still had problems with falling back to sleep if I woke up around 2-3 hours before my alarm was due, so, again, following the knowledge from the app (even a little bit of light is damaging to our sleep) I decided to try eye mask and that reduced number of early morning awakenings, but didn’t fully eliminate them.
Mind you, I wasn’t even actively using the app any more and some of the courses were still not done. So I went back to it to find out what to do to fall back asleep and it turned out we have to try noticing body meditation again, which is exactly the same techniqueto get us to fall asleep in the first place. I tried it yesterday and it worked! I fell back to sleep at 4am, even though my alarm was set for 6.
Since adding eye mask to my sleep routine I consider good sleep to be 9h, no kidding, I slept 9h on number of nights, even though I wasn’t overtired. 5h is now poor sleep, while it was almost standard before using the app.
As I said the techniques provided by the app are a bit strange at first and I really didn’t see how they would improve my sleep but I was determined as I wanted to avoid another psychotic episode and being on meds to the end of my life. And, surprisingly, it worked!
Dr Meadows warns us that insomnia cannot be fully eliminated and therefore I wonder if I ever get to a point when I don’t need to use sleeping tablets even if I’m under severe stress. Possibly not, but still, I am suprised how well it works for me when I’m not under stress and how easy it is to switch back to the techniques learned when stress is eliminated. I’d really recommend everyone to use this app. It can be life changing.