Resetting your dysregulated sleep program
I can still recall Siobhan telling me how her sleep had completely fallen apart:
“I’ve lost any control I had over my sleep…
I was never a great sleeper, but now things are just unbearable.
Even when I am completely exhausted, I’ll wake up in the night. Sometimes just an hour after falling asleep, but mostly in the middle of the night.
And then I’m fully awake, fully switched on.
I’ve lost the ability to turn off my brain and fall asleep at night.”
Everyone takes sleep for granted… it’s something we do without having to think about it, a bit like breathing.
Until something happens which turns everything on its head. And at that point, we start worrying about why we can’t sleep normally.
It could be because we have another health condition such as pain or menopause waking us up at night.
…or because we’re going through a difficult time at home or at work and we wake up worrying about life.
For Siobhan, it was none of these… it just happened, she couldn’t remember how or why.
But gradually things had gotten worse.
Until it was terrible.
Loosing control of sleep
The truth is, she hadn’t lost control of her sleep. Because we don’t “control” our sleep very much at all.
What was really happening is that, like millions, she was experiencing ongoing, long-term insomnia…
…And that meant there were several elements at play, together stopping her from getting normal sleep.
One element, in particular, was very powerful in ruining her sleep: her brain’s sleep program had become completely dysregulated.
With a healthy “sleep program,” your brain slowly switches off into sleep when you go to bed, and keeps you asleep until your alarm clock wakes you up in the morning…
Then, your brain switches on, and it’s all systems go for the day!
The brain’s “Sleep Program”
This happens through a complex process involving several signals and hormones. (I’ve simplified this as a program that basically switches on or off for ease.)
A bit like your heating timer at home… It’s programmed to switch your heating on at a certain time and off at certain other times.
But as you start waking up in the middle of the night, things can go off the rails. As your nightly wakes are repeated, the brain starts believing this is the new program you’re asking from it.
So it keeps you awake and wired.
Then, as you lie in bed awake, worrying whether it’s going to be another one of those nights again, you start involuntarily switching your brain on further!
As you worry, you activate stress hormones, which in turn accelerate your heartbeat and your temperature… signalling to your brain that you need to be awake and switched on!
So the brain obeys… Even though it’s not what you want!.
But that’s what it’s picked up!
And so, the brain repeats it… and night after night you have a terrible sleep.
Gradually, your brain becomes better at this pattern. A pattern you don’t want… but the brain believes the exact contrary.
Your brain’s sleep program is dysregulated… It is not the program you want.
A bit like your home heating timer becoming dysregulated and switching your heating on when you don’t want it on, or worse…,not switching the heating on when you really need it!
If your home heating timer was dysfunctional like this… You’d change it right?
Resetting your sleep program
Well, with a brain’s sleep program becoming dysregulated, you need to reprogram it. You need to reteach it when it has to sleep and when it has to be awake.
And this is what I started doing with Siobhan…Even though at first, she was refusing to accept that her sleep problem was a pattern her brain was repeating.
When she came back to see me the following week, she had had the realisation she needed to move forward with sleep retraining.
She recognised that those nightly wakes and staying awake (even though it was not at exactly the same time every single night) this was her brain repeating “the program.”
At that point, I knew she was ready to do everything that was needed to reprogram her sleep and that she would be progressing very quickly.
Looking at your own sleep struggles: can you see how your wakes stem from a dysregulated program?
Sometimes something wakes you up… it happens to all of us.
But a healthy sleep program would get you back to sleep.
A dysregulated sleep program sees it as a switch-on button that’s just been pressed, and it keeps you awake.
Being wired and having a racing brain comes from this brain switching on… and executing the program.
It’s the same with pain, or with menopause!
People who have those without the dysregulated program that comes with insomnia, just get themselves back to sleep.
Realizing your brain’s sleep program is dysregulated takes time.
Beliefs are hard to change.
But the moment you realize, you’ll have taken a massive step!
Today we help hundreds of people reset their sleep program every single month… and spotting the broken pattern is one of those magic milestones on their way to healthy sleep.
It’s not always obvious, but with a bit of time, you’ll recognise your dysregulated sleep program at play!