For those of you that have been keeping up-to-date, you'll know from my last blog that I was awaiting my referral to be processed so I could start the Sleepstation programme. After much anticipation, my referral was processed, I was given full access to the Sleepstation platform and have since started my assessment. Today I'll give you an insight into what the assessment process looks like and a general overview of progress over the last week.
What does the assessment involve?
The assessment period lasts a week and consists of submitting a sleep diary every morning for the duration of that week. In this time the support team (sleep coaches) pick up on information submitted in the diaries and ask questions to try and get to the root of your sleep problems. The sleep diary includes recording the following:
the time you went to bed
the time you got up
the length of all wakeful periods
what caused them (if you even know).
You're also asked whether you had fresh air and exercise the previous day, whether you napped and whether you took sleeping medication (as this can affect the way they analyse the results). You can also include any other information you feel is relevant. This week I whinged a lot about my snotty cold and how irritated I was that I couldn't nap.
The sleep coaches
Now this is where the sleep coaches really come into their own, and why having real people to speak to beats following an unsupervised online programme every time. Everything I've read so far about sleep hygiene and following CBT-i says categorically not to nap. However, sleep is our body's natural way to heal and recover when we're sick, so actually, I could have been a little kinder to myself an indulged in a spot of 40 winks. However, naps should be limited to 20 minutes to avoid disrupting night time rest. The team also assured me not to worry about my sleep whilst I'm on holiday, as my body clock will be out of sync and our sleep is naturally disrupted when we're sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. Another weight off my shoulders, yet all reassurances I couldn't have found on Google.
Now you may have already been thinking, okay, so in your last blog, you said one of the worst things you can do for your sleep is think about it...yet you're thinking about it every morning and recording it in great detail. Correct. I know it seems counter-intuitive and I too was very skeptical at first. However, there is beauty in having a solid record to refer to; it helps you to spot patterns and more importantly, to spot patterns in potentially damaging behaviour. Here are just some of the observations I've made about the last week:
I need a strict bed-time ritual. The nights I didn't wash my face, brush my teeth, get into my pajamas and meditate (in that order), were the nights that were most disturbed in terms of number of times I woke up and the length of wakeful periods.
I'm a grown-up who loves bed-time stories. My partner read to me earlier in the week and the reduction in my anxiety specifically related to sleep was stark. Comedy tip: search 'adult bed-time stories' on your Kindle and read some of the samples, they range from filthy to hilariously bad. For the record, the ones I downloaded were squeaky clean of course...
I am obsessed with weeing at night. The team noticed that on half of the occasions I got out of bed during the night, it was to go for a tinkle. They asked if I have any bladder or bowel issues (a little probing but important for them to rule out physiological causes), which I don't. It then occurred to me that I go for 2 wees before I get into bed every night within 10 minutes of each other because I'm apprehensive that needing a wee in the night WILL disturb my sleep. Then when I wake up, I do the same again, as if it were a second 'bed-time'. Apologies for the overshare but I'm getting to an important point. I wonder whether it's possible that this is one of the very persistent thoughts resting in my subconscious that is a small part of my sleep disturbance long-term...
Surprising tip of the week
Completing my sleep diaries unlocked therapy session 1. This was short, easy to digest and gave me one simple take-away tip that I could use immediately. It's called thought-blocking. It's a little bit like when someone gives you a date to remember over the phone and you repeat it to yourself over and over until you're able to write it down. The repetition blocks out all other thoughts so that you can retain the important information. The challenge is to repeat the word 'the' to myself every 2 seconds until I fall asleep. Given I don't have any problems falling asleep, I'm dubious as to whether it will have much of an impact on my own patterns, but it doesn't hurt to give it a go.
I'm now on a break from the programme until I return from my holiday at the end of December. I'm also going to be taking a tech break, so until the New Year, sleep well.
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