You know how Google Search will fill in a word for you based on the most popular searches on the platform?
Try typing: “Why Can't I…..”
(!!!) is what comes up!
Yes, millions of people across the globe have trouble sleeping and often resort to taking “magic” sleeping pills to alleviate their restless nights.
My sleeping “problems” started when my kids were little. I was always a great sleeper in my earlier years, so when I started to be up for most of the night as a young 30-something-year-old, it was actually a bit of fun (who knew that you could watch TV, organize the house, and get stuff down while everyone else was fast asleep?).
Fun –until I got cranky, increasingly frustrated (when I wanted to sleep I couldn't!), and ended up with a prescription for sleeping pills. However, my favorite “go-to” was the over the counter Unisom which worked whenever I needed for it to put a fast end to any day.
Flash forward many years later, and I'm having lunch with a dear friend Pirie.
“You know, if there wasn't some kind of trauma involved, you'd be able to just stop taking the pills and you'd be completely fine, sleeping like a champ,” Pirie said over our fabulous raw vegan table of delights.
TRAUMA?… I thought. Isn't that associated with being in war zones and horrible accidents and so-on? I didn't think that described me or my situation. (Sure, I've had extremely stressful moments in my jobs and difficult circumstances across many areas of my life.. but.. trauma!?)
I was soon to learn that my friend Pirie was right. And I was about to embark upon a several-week journey to a center that helped Pirie overcome her sleepless nights (read about Pirie's healing experience in this article which includes links to studies showing how detrimental the use of sleeping pills is on our brains and central nervous system).
I took Pirie's advice and enrolled in the same program that she did with the attitude of “surrender”. I showed up for a two-week period and followed the schedule with full engagement, even when it included things like extensive talk therapy and group therapy, which I would NOT describe as my fav thing to do.
Then I made a major breakthrough. Not with talk therapy but with a somatic (body-based) therapy called Brainspotting.
What I can tell you here is that my “trauma” episode had to do with me not being able to breathe, and it happened before I even had words (I was that young). My deep trauma was causing all kinds of hyperarousal/hypervigilance in my system because of the “fight or flight response” that was kicking into gear at the wrong time…often in the middle of the night.
I encourage you to find out more about Brainspotting here. I am now trained (and in the process of getting the highest level of certification) in Brainpotting and am seeing clients in the Sun Valley, Idaho area (learn more here).
Brainspotting is an incredibly effective treatment for clearing trauma out of the body. I mean, deep-down-you'll-probably-never-remember-it trauma that could be keeping your central nervous system on overdrive (causing all kinds of problems but in my case, with sleep). Once that was cleared, I started sleeping again.
What Do I Mean by Trauma?
Specifically, what is trauma? Trauma is defined in a million different ways but to put it simply, trauma is any time an experience overwhelms our ability to cope. Anytime your threshold is lower and the experience goes above it -to where you start to experience distressing symptoms- that is trauma.
In other words, trauma is incredibly subjective.
In fact, when I took classes on trauma at the center, the instructors often talked about trauma as “big T” or “little t”. However, nobody gets to decide what is trauma except for you and you alone.
Two people could be in the same car accident. One person could walk away and say, “I'm going to sleep like a baby tonight. I'm really glad I survived that one.” Where somebody else could walk away, have distressing nightmares, flashbacks, sweat every time they get behind the wheel of the car, etc.
The process of filing away an event as a past event seems to be broken with trauma. The memory stays stuck in this emotional experiential place instead of moving into the factual place. As soon as something triggers the traumatic experience in any way, a sound, a noise, a smell, a word, all of a sudden, boom, our body is reacting as if it is present day. Our brain did not get the memo that the event is the past, not the present.
What my time in “surrender” taught me is that trauma is highly treatable. Now I'm slightly obsessed (but in a relaxed way, of course!) with modalities that treat trauma. Here are some I'll be blogging about here at Make Everything Fun/Make Wellness Fun:
Somatic Experiencing, created by Peter Levine
The Sedona Method
The Work (Byron Katie)
Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT)
Alternate nostril breathing- this podcast interview has lots more info
Internal Family Systems
Intuitive healing (Cathleen Miller and Lisa Najjar)
Accelerated alignment healing (Therese Rowley)
Basic methods for eliciting the relaxation response (meditation, yoga, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, cranial sacral massage, etc)
I also read a gazillion (a very technical term) books and also took an online course about sleep. I became obsessed (in a healthy way!) about sleep and got certified in Clinical Sleep Health and Education.
I want to help others overcome what I struggled with. Please let me know if you, too, have experienced challenges with your sleep.
As I add more content on this deep research topic, I will be adding more active links, blog posts, and tips. I hope to stay in touch so that you can Make Wellness Fun!