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Sleep Coaching Success Story: How Brennan Learned to Love His Bed Again

By Sleepably

adult sleep coach

Jason is a licensed therapist and certified meditation teacher. He found that his insomnia became worse during the pandemic and when he started a new job. He struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep, which is why he reached out to work with a Sleepably adult sleep coach.

This is Jason’s story about his problems and the solutions that he found while working with a sleep coach.

Let’s hear about the insomnia that you were experiencing 

Before working with you, I felt like I was doing a lot of the right things, like I had eliminated caffeine and had blackout curtains and stuff like that. And for a chunk of my life, my sleep had been pretty good — a couple of years or so. And then with the combination of pandemic and new job — and for I can’t believe I let it go on this long but for a year, year and a half — I was having pretty real sleep issues.

It took me 90 to 120 minutes to fall asleep, and I would either wake up like 90 minutes before I wanted to wake up. And that would be sort of lucky, because the alternative would be waking up at like 2:30 in the morning and not really being able to fall asleep. And some version of one of those three things I just mentioned would happen at least half the nights of any given week. And that’s where I was before we met.

Had you developed worries or negative thoughts about sleep?

Yeah, I did. I mean, there was a lot of anxiety around will tonight be one of the magical nights in which I can actually get a full night’s rest? And that, of course, I don’t know that I realized it was hypervigilance before working with you, but as I was working with you, I realized, oh, that’s inspiring this hypervigilance that’s keeping me awake.

And then a little more subtle because for me I think this was passed on from family, was this idea that if I didn’t sleep well the night before, there was no chance of having a good day or a productive day. And that would, to some degree, become self-fulfilling.

How was insomnia affecting your life during your days?

It’s one of those things that was omnipresent on my mind. I mean, if I was at work and hadn’t slept well before and wasn’t performing as well as I wanted to, there would be a sense of like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t sleep well. I really hope I sleep well tonight.”

So very much alive during the waking hours and then also trying to fall asleep and laying awake was just remarkably frustrating and anxiety-provoking. So it was one of those things that just gets slightly into the mind and never quite left for me.

I mean, my brother had this joke. Insomnia become such a thing for me that he called it getting a “Jason sleep” when he himself only slept for a few hours. So it was very alive for me.

How had you addressed your insomnia before contacting a sleep coach for adults?

Yeah. One thing that was unique about working with you for me was I came to the project with what I thought were good habits, and I think some of them actually were.

I mean, the first chapter of my life that I had insomnia I sort of treated through trial and error, and the things that worked for me then were bright sunlight in the morning and eliminating caffeine. And I’ve never been much of a drinker. But the less I drank, the better my sleep got. So that was good the first chapter.

The second chapter before you and I started working together, I had tried over-the-counter sleeping pills, and I actually kind of liked Ashwagandha and CBD, except that I never felt fully awake in the morning. Placebo or otherwise, I still had this sort of like hangover effect, and I had also read books on CBTi and the parts that I didn’t want to do, I just didn’t do.

So I had to some degree a certain amount of awareness of here is what I should be doing, but no actual lived-into ability to do it.

What positive changes did you start to notice with sleep coaching?

Yeah, so a lot. I started noticing changes, actually, before you and I had an official meeting. We had met, I think, on the phone to discuss working together. I said yeah, let’s do it. And you had sent me an intake that involved food tracking, and when I fell asleep, and when I awoke, and how I felt throughout the day.

And there were two things that felt revelatory to me that I uncovered. One is that my meal timing was kind of crazy. I would either have a huge meal right before bed where I wasn’t doing myself any favors, or I would go to bed very hungry. And in either case, I was not really able to fall asleep. And though I’ve probably been doing some version of that my entire life, hadn’t noticed it until I started filling out your tracker, started working with you.

And the other thing on that, and this was shocking, and you and I spent a lot of time discussing it, was I realized I got about five or six hours of sleep the night prior. The story I had in my head is that this is going to, by default, be a crappy day. I’m going to be in a bad mood. I won’t be able to work well, I’ll have low energy all day long.

But you have this energy tracker. Like, it’s 11 a.m, how do you feel on a scale of one to seven or something like that? And as I was actually filling that out, I was shocked to find that throughout the process, there were days where I didn’t sleep much but felt fine. It was perfectly healthy, focused, happy, energetic, etc.

So all of that was actually kind of before we had our first official meeting.

I’ve talked a lot, as you know, like I’ve referred people to you, both my clients and my friends. And I’ve talked a lot about our work together. And I think the big takeaways for me that really changed things. One, I had this ridiculous habit of if it was 09:30 p.m. or something, just when I wanted to be sleepy, I would just like go to bed and then stay awake, rolling around, pissed off in bed for two hours, three hours until I finally fell asleep.

One of the big changes you made for me, and I talk about this all the time when I talk to people about our work, is you said, “No, no, Jason, go to bed when you’re tired and maybe even a little after you’re tired.” So these days I wait until about 11 p.m. to go to bed and fall asleep fairly quickly. So a simple thing, I think for a lot of people, don’t go to sleep if you’re not tired, but revelatory for me.

The next one and I still do this religiously is wake up at the same time every day. I had read probably on some stupid Reddit post or something like that don’t set an alarm, just let your body wake up naturally. Which sort of made intuitive sense until I looked at it with you. And as it turned out, that was fairly dysregulating. So now I get up at 7 a.m. every day, and you had said and I really hold onto this piece of information dearly, anecdotally, people talk about aiming for eight hours of sleep per night. But you had said it’s actually about seven-and-a-half plus 20 minutes to sort of fall asleep, and seven-and-a-half hours to move through a certain number of sleep cycles. And that window of 11 to 7 is almost perfect for me and one that I still abide.

And then the third thing, and oh my God do I cherish this learning from our work together, I still to this day will periodically wake up at 2:30 or 3 in the morning. And before we worked together, I just had no clue what to do other than be like, “Well, great, I’m awake now.” And you had taught me multiple methods on how to go back to sleep and sort of calm the mind, calm the body.

It was sort of a funny thing for me to be a student of because I am a certified meditation teacher and just never occurred to me to use meditative techniques when I was hyperaroused and awake at 2:30 or 3 o’clock. So that’s something I use all of that I use multiple times a week every week.

But that particular trick of hey, here’s the different ways to fall back asleep. Let’s find the one that’s right for you. Practice it and use it. Oh my God, has that made a difference! So those are the big ones for me.

How did working with a sleep coach benefit you?

It was actually kind of funny. I am wired to be the type of guy that just reads and studies on his own and experiments on his own.

It was so nice to have an expert working with me on this whose knowledge far exceeded mine. Even if I had spent tons and tons of time reading, I wasn’t doing everything that I was reading. I liked you personally, I liked working with you, and it was also a really nice forcing function. I think we were meeting once every week, sometimes once every other week sometimes. And it was really nice to be like, no, there’s 30- 40 minutes on the calendar to focus on this. Seth has told me specifically what I should be doing between this meeting and next. And it’s kind of on me to actually get this done.

And the accountability was great as well as the speed. I mean, even if I could have somehow convinced myself to do it, this shaved years and years of getting the routine dialed in and re-teaching my body what it should be doing.

How have things improved regarding your insomnia?

I think there’s two things that stand out. One, I’m reliably sleeping much better. When I do wake up in the middle of the night or early, I can go back to sleep. And then two, that belief that was really kind of messing me up, messing up my relationship to sleep and waking, of if I didn’t sleep well the night before, you’re going to have a bad day. It doesn’t really exist anymore. Or when I catch that coming online, there’s a second belief right behind it of like, no, that’s not true. And then I just move through the day without really thinking much about it.

I don’t need to tell you this, but there’s so many downstream effects of both sleeping better and not worrying as much about sleep, whether it’s like feeling more vital or sharper mental performance, sharper presence, whatever. And all of those have been just vividly alive, which has been awesome.

Was sleep coaching a sound investment for you?

Yeah, I probably have not said this to you directly, but I’ve said it to a million other people. It was by far the best gift that I’ve given to myself in ages. I mean, it is a no-brainer purchase and one, as I mentioned earlier that I’ve encouraged both clients and friends to give themselves because the effects have endured well past.

I think the last time you and I spoke was like two or three months ago, and the benefits and effects have endured well past when we last spoke and will for a while. Like you gave me notes, I took notes. And the ripple effect of sleeping better and worrying less is so significant that total no-brainer to work with you.

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