Viv’s Journey – treating her long term insomnia at Sleepyhead Clinic
Before the course started
This evening I start my first session of insomnia treatment with Stephanie Romiszewski who is a Sleep Physiologist at the Sleepyhead Clinic in Exeter. I am both excited and nervous as I begin this journey into the unknown, a little skeptical, as nothing I have tried in the past has made the slightest bit of difference to aid my sleep, not even sleeping tablets and I have believed, for quite some time now, that I am beyond help.
First, let me tell you a bit about myself. I am 44, happily married, with a beautiful 8 year old son who is my world. I lead a very busy life running the home, being a wife and mother, all on top of a 40hr working week, sleep should come easily!! Nineteen years ago, 24 weeks into my pregnancy, my precious son Connor was stillborn. After giving birth, I laid there in the theatre all alone cradling my perfectly formed son in my arms where I drifted off to sleep for hours, that is the last time I can remember ever having a full nights sleep. As a result of that heartbreaking day, I suffered with depression and anxiety for quite some years before having therapy from a Psychologist which really helped…. but still no sleep. Medication, prescribed and herbal, hot drinks, warm baths, plenty of fresh air and exercise during the day, lavendar, establishing fixed time for going to bed and waking up, trying to relax before bed, a comfortable sleeping environment (not too hot, cold or noisy), avoiding caffeine and nicotine, no late night eating etc etc, you name it, I have tried it, and NONE of it has worked, so you can understand why I might be a little skeptical about this course of treatment, but, with an open mind, I am willing to give ANYTHING a try!!
Insomnia has been debilitating to me over the years, people often ask me how on earth I cope on 2hours sleep a day and the answer is I don’t know really, I can go 48 hours without any sleep at all but never ‘catch up’ on any lost sleep. I find it so difficult to relax and unwind, almost feeling guilty to sit down and rest as there’s always something that needs doing, my mind just never switches off, I guess like most things in life, it has just become a bad habit that needs to be broken, but I can’t do it by myself and am so thankful to Stephanie at the clinic for giving me this wonderful opportunity.
It has been very hard living with insomnia all these years. To the outside world I am probably this happy-go-lucky soul who is always smiling and cheerful no matter what, but indoors is a different story, as we often take out frustrations out on our nearest and dearest. I have been so tired that I’ve just crumpled up on my bed in a ball just sobbing my heart out just out of sheer frustration and the more I will myself to sleep, the wider awake I become. I have been so tired that I’ve started to hallucinate, often hitting out at someone who I think is leaning over me that isn’t really there with my heart beating so hard in my chest I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, at times, this has been very scary. In some ways, the night time is my solace as I crave for peace and quiet and on the plus side, sometimes I am so wide awake I’m like the energizer bunny on speed and can whiz through my housework in a matter of hours, all before going to work aswell as catching up on a whole box set of my favourite tv show!! It is very hard trying to describe the effects of insomnia if you have never suffered with it, imagine that you have had a bad nights sleep for a couple of days and imagine that 7 days a week, 12 months of the year, it’s no fun. So, that is a bit about my background, I look forward to sharing my treatment with you……..
During my Sleepyhead course
As with any new venture you are about to undertake you are full of a mixture of emotions, apprehension, excitement, anxiousness, negativity, positivity, to name but a few. I have to say that although I entered into this programme of sleep therapy treatment I was a little sceptical, purely because I had literally tried everything over the last 18 years to combat my insomnia, so, someone telling me that they can definitely help and increase my sleep left me feeling a bit sceptical, after all, my GP never helped, so why should anyone else?!
My first session with my Sleep Physiologist went very well, Stephanie immediately put me at ease to the point where I could have just been talking to a friend that I’d known for years. Stephanie didn’t talk like a lot of the professionals do, in the sense that everything she said, made perfect sense, she didn’t talk in riddles or use big words that you don’t usually understand, she made me feel totally at ease and comfortable within minutes of talking to her and she explained everything in laymans terms and didn’t hesitate to go over something if I didn’t quite understand it. For the first time in years, I actually believed that someone could actually help me to sleep, it was quite an exhilarating feeling!
I had already tried some of the initial, simple strategies that Stephanie asked that I do first but what I had failed to do was see them through – one of my bad traits is that I give up too easily, if something didn’t work in a couple of days then I stopped doing it! The rest of the treatment wasn’t difficult at all to follow, with a mixture of more mindful strategies that helped me change the way I feel about my sleep, which I realise now may have been exacerbating my condition and some very physicial behavioural strategies which literally built up how sleepy I felt at night and made sure I slept right through the night- every night! You have to be committed to the programme though, or it won’t work, but I have to say that up until now I have had some great results, some nights my sleep has even doubled, this is amazing for me as for years I have ‘managed’ on 2 hours sleep in a 24 hour period, I can only hope that as the weeks go by and the treatment progresses, so will my sleep!
After the sleepyhead course
I’ve just finished my treatment with Stephanie from the Sleepyhead Clinic and I have to say I was so sceptical at first as I’d suffered with insomnia for 19 years, only managing on 2 hours sleep a day!! Within 4 weeks my sleep has doubled and some nights I’ve got 5hours, this is amazing and the treatment was so easy to follow and Stephanie is so lovely and just puts you at ease and is so helpful. I am SO glad I took up this treatment, I never thought I’d ever sleep properly again, I still have a little way to go and Stephanie has given me all the tools I need to do this whilst still being able to have a life with my family and enjoy myself. I am definitely on the right track now…thank you so much Stephanie and for anyone thinking about it….DO IT!!
Thank you to Viv for sharing your insomnia story with us! If you would like to find out more about Sleepyhead Clinic check out www.sleepyheadclinic.co.uk for information on insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTI) and the courses Sleepyhead provides, plus free resources for how to get a better night’s sleep. Follow us @sleepyclinic for free hints and tips on sleep.