Why Insomnia Makes me a Better Therapist
8 Steps to Cure Your Insomnia
For years I have suffered with insomnia. Many sleepless nights, or nights of lying awake for hours, just to fall asleep a half an hour before the alarm was due to go off.
When I was a toddler, my mother would sneak upstairs to check on me while I was sleeping. Having been such a light sleeper, I would already be standing up, wide awake. While growing up, I was allowed to read far past bedtime in the hopes that it would make me sleepy. It wasn’t until years later that it finally changed.
My own health problems
When I started studying nutrition, I did it out of love for those around me who were suffering and out of a love of food. I wanted to understand how it could affect us so profoundly, why someone’s diet might give them dark circles under their eyes.
It wasn’t until I discovered my own health problems that I realised that I was able to empathise more; both with the problem, but also how difficult it is to make change.
I’ve also recently given up coffee and now just drink the occasional cup. It was HARD! Drinking coffee is so ingrained in the Dutch culture and I quickly went from 1 a day to 4. So much for walking the talk!
I tried cutting down, but felt weak and always gave in. So I decided to risk the horrible headaches and go cold turkey. I had to incorporate what I tell my clients to ensure success:
- Figure out your weaknesses; mine was working in my favourite cafe, which serves organic coffee, fresh vegetable juice and healthier sandwiches and also having a coffee at breakfast.
- Identify what this food or thing is satisfying for you; for me it was adrenaline and I realised that I was short on sleep. For some people it’s an emotion they are avoiding.
- Replace your addiction. I chose healthy smoothies; I tried out a lot of new recipes in the process, yum!
- Plan, plan, plan. Without a plan, you will not succeed. It’s annoying and takes a little bit of time and effort, but I planned. I avoided my cafe and stopped coffee at breakfast. I focussed on my sleep.
- Reward yourself for your hard work. Although the satisfaction that you’ve kicked it is a great reward, be kind to yourself and give yourself a non-food treat. You’ve earned it!
Sometimes I have clients in my office in tears; they struggle so much with their health and I have more compassion than ever before. Unless you have been through something yourself, it’s difficult to stand in someone else’s shoes.
So if you have insomnia; I feel for you. I remember the restless nights, the frustration and the fatigue. Reminding yourself that stressing about it isn’t going to help. I’ll leave you with this:
My top tips for minimising insomnia
- Clear your environment for sleeping: use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex; everything else must go!
- Make your bedroom a haven; it should be the perfect temperature, amount of fresh air, sounds and light.
- No electrical stimulation before sleep; that means computers, mobile phones, tablets and TV.
- Find what relaxes you and go for it!
- Eat foods that contain melatonin’s precursor, tryptophan and eat a small snack of it before bed (poultry, cottage cheese, eggs, tofu and nuts, esp. almonds).
- Use herbs such as chamomile, valerian, hops to relax.
- If muscle tension is an issue (Are you stressed? Do you get muscle cramps? Has insomnia been an issue for a while?), then take a magnesium supplement before bed or do a foot bath with bath salts.
- Investigate any underlying health problems that might be interfering with your sleep (gut issues, neurotransmitter deficiencies etc)