Woman in and out of insomnia

How Traditional Therapy For Insomnia Made Things Worse For Me

September 12, 2022

As a result of a combination of medical conditions, I experience a lot of daily anxiety. So throughout my lifetime, I have also experienced a significant number of sleepless nights, and occasional bouts of insomnia.


Therapy isn’t a one size fits all solution

Since the age of three, I have been receiving various kinds of therapy. This has been to help me to manage multiple issues, including my difficulties with sleeping. Yet methods of giving patient therapy were quite different in the nineties and 2000s. Despite a large number of those methods still being helpful, there were still many generalised “textbook style” words of advice that didn’t work well for every single individual. Therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all, as each person is different.

I was no exception to this. There were many helpful strategies that I was given as a child which I still follow to this day. However, other words of advice I was given did the opposite of what was hoped by me and my therapists.


Things that Traditional Therapy didn’t help with

Man using phone wit hands over his face SpecialKids.Company. Adrian Swancar Unnsplash

To begin with, I cannot ever sleep when it’s completely silent. During the silence, my mind doesn’t relax, and in fact, it becomes even more active by disrupting thoughts and flashbacks. So if I don’t have soft music playing while I’m in bed, I get absolutely no sleep by the time morning comes along. This is because I need background noise in the room, to keep my mind distracted from my thoughts becoming excessively rapid and uncontrollable.

Something else which helps me (and that is not recommended by traditional therapy) is to have some screen time before going to sleep. Watching a relaxing show or movie whilst I’m laid down in bed enables my mind to quickly become tranquil and for my eyes to begin closing out of tiredness. Also, if it’s three or four o’clock in the morning and all of my thoughts are obsessively trying to force myself to sleep, it’s very important for me to temporarily distract my mind from panicking. Playing an engaging video game for 20-30 minutes gives me a much more positive activity to focus on before feeling tired, instead of my obsessive fears of not being able to ever sleep again.

The more I put my efforts into forcing myself to sleep, the more wakeful, restless and alert I feel. However, if I come to a (temporary) decision of abandoning those efforts and instead I do some of the activities which entertain me during the day, it has such a surprising and satisfying effect on me. Playing my favourite Nintendo Switch games does wonders with distracting me from my internal chaos. From that I quickly become tired, and that’s when I can shortly return to bed and able to fall into a deep sleep within 90 minutes.


Reflection on my therapy and how it has evolved

Nowadays in my adulthood, I can see how the therapy I’m given has evolved and improved over time. Sleeplessness and insomnia are still issues within this world, especially with our lives being so much busier and far more anxiety provoking. Thus it’s very important to know, research and attempt every kind of remedy that has proven itself to be helpful for any case of insomnia/sleeplessness. Yet it’s also essential for both therapists and patients to go further, and strive to discover which remedies work best for each individual person.

My most recent therapists (who also treat my other mental health issues) like to give me what they term “a tasting platter of remedies” so that I can discover the most helpful ones through a process of trial, error and success. From that both I and those giving me treatment for my disorders have learned a great deal.

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