Terry is an embryologist who began experiencing insomnia years ago.
Terry would stop sleeping or sleep very little for long periods of time, which affected him at work and made him very tired in his personal life.
Ready to overcome his insomnia, Terry reached out to Sleepably to work with adult sleep coach Seth Davis.
Terry, will you please describe your past struggles with insomnia?
Yeah, well, I had a couple of fairly significant periods of time where I had a lot of difficulty sleeping.
So I had a couple of periods of a couple of months long, one about a year ago, and then one prior to signing on and seeing you. Essentially, they were triggered by sort of anxiety-producing events in my life.
And the anxiety led to insomnia and insomnia led to anxiety, and it was kind of this vicious circle that just led me down to a place where I was often not sleeping at all for nights, several nights in a row, and would go on for a couple of months.
It was very debilitating. So much so that I had to take medical leave from work.
What had you tried for your insomnia before working with an adult sleep coach?
I did see my primary care doctor. I went to see a psychiatrist a couple of times, and their approach really is medication. And those medications actually were negative, had negative side effects for me.
The first time I went through this, they put me on Ambien. Ambien caused severe anxiety after being on it for about five or six nights. And obviously that was counterproductive. So much so that I was feeling pretty crazy.
This was the first time I went through this. And I actually tried to admit myself into a psychiatric hospital one morning because I didn’t feel safe anymore. That’s how bad my anxiety was.
And then they tried to put me on an anti-depressant again, trying to treat anxiety, and that causes insomnia. And so those things just all have negative side effects.
So, yeah, but that’s the kind of professional help I sought and it didn’t work.
How was insomnia affecting you in your daily life?
Well, I mean, there were periods of time where I was fine, but, there were also periods of time where I wasn’t fine.
Again, very debilitating, unable to or it didn’t feel like I could really be present and focused on my work. I was calling in sick. The first time I went through this, I actually went on family medical leave.
So, yeah, it was definitely impacting my life.
How soon after we started working together, did you start to see some positive changes?
I’d say within a couple of weeks. The initial part of it was just kind of collecting data that first week, and so we weren’t really working on anything other than you kind of collecting data.
But as soon as we started working together, I definitely could see some changes. After we’d established a schedule, a sleep schedule, it probably took another week or so for that to kind of sit in.
I remember emailing you and having some trouble and you sort of led me through it and said the right things that, you know, basically that my brain was resisting and that I just needed to stay the course. And I did. And that’s what finally took care of it.
Which aspects of working with an adult sleep coach were especially helpful for you?
I can describe the process in my words. Initially, I think you sort of presented the concepts to me and had me sit with them for a couple of days before we had another meeting.
And that was good because that was, that just spoke to me about, you know, befriending my wakefulness is the first thing I really remember you talking about and not being so afraid of being awake. That it wouldn’t hurt me to be awake. And then the opposite of that, which is around the sleep. Just not trying so hard to sleep.
So those are a couple of things, the concepts you laid down at the beginning.
And then I think nailing down a sleep schedule was really good for me, too, because I was just trying so hard to sleep that I’d be in bed for 11 hours a night and, just trying to sleep, and then, trying to nap during the day and all of that. So just nailing down a sleep schedule I think was really important.
Then the kind of the cognitive behavioral therapy piece of it where you really counter your anxious thoughts with some normalizing thoughts. I think that was really helpful.
Some of the breathing techniques you taught me, I think were really good. And I still use them, actually, and they really work for me.
And so, yes, I think it’s a combination of everything that’s really helpful to me.
Plus I really appreciate how available you were to me. I mean, I only had to give you a couple of panicked kind of emails, when I felt like I needed some help. And you just knew exactly what to say to me to get to the other side of it, which I really appreciated in those moments.
Let’s talk about personal breakthroughs you experienced while working with your sleep coach.
You know, I think the critical thing was that when I started working with you, you were very clear with me.
You said the goal is for you to sleep without using any sleep aids. And, I was on board with that right away because you were also very clear in saying if you use something for sleep either it’s going to stop working or you’re going to have to use more and more of it. And that was very clear to me, and so I was very motivated to do that.
So I think that was kind of a breakthrough for me.
And, you know, you remember the day of the email where you were like, OK, and this coming week we probably should think about not using any sleep aids anymore. I had a sort of panicked moment, but I had to just decide in my mind that I was going to do that. And I did it that very same night.
I didn’t wait for the week or whatever because I knew I was going to be anxious about it until I did it. So I just decided I was going to do it in that moment. And, you know, I actually slept that night.
And so, yeah, I think that was the biggest breakthrough moment, was that first night. And then every night after that, it gets easier, and you get more confidence about doing that.
So I’m sleeping pretty amazingly well now. I’m about seven weeks out, I think now, and it’s pretty amazing. So I do wake up a couple of times a night, but I go right back to sleep.
Anxiety had played a big part in your insomnia. Will you tell me about how that has changed for you?
I have no anxiety anymore. That’s also pretty amazing. And for me, I think it was rooted in those sleep aids. I think that I just always thought that I needed some help to sleep and I wouldn’t be able to do it without that.
Once I stopped doing that and made that decision not to do it anymore, that’s what alleviated the anxiety for me.
So, yeah, I don’t I don’t have any anxiety around sleep anymore. Actually I don’t have anxiety at all, which is pretty astounding to me.
Again, when I went into this, I was expecting it to take months and that wasn’t the case at all, which really, really surprised me.
What gives you confidence that your progress will be sustainable over the long term?
Well, I’ve had some moments that in the past, I think I would have had anxiety around sleep.
I’ve had some moments where, I would have been triggered in the past and I haven’t been. And so that’s what gives me that confidence. That I’ve been triggered a few times and it hasn’t impacted my sleep.
Do you think that sleep coaching is a good investment?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think I’ve told you this a couple of times, had I known what I know now, I probably would have paid you 10 times what I paid.
Because for me, I don’t think I would have survived. You know, you cannot survive getting no sleep, not falling asleep at all. There would be sometimes like 10 nights where I might have some sleep for three of the 10 nights. And so it was really impacting my health.
To me, this is an investment in your health and your future, and you can’t really put a price on that.