Part two of my story picks up where part one left off. Join me as I share the transformative process of leaving insomnia, and how it led me to where I am now working as a sleep coach.
I talk about:
This story is dedicated to anyone out there struggling with insomnia. Keep an open heart because you CAN fully recover and have good sleep again 🧡
Subscribe to The Mind. Body. Sleep.™ Podcast:
👉 Start the Free Insomnia Course Here
Full Transcription Below:
About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP:
For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights.
Please rate and review if your favorite podcast app has that ability. Thank you!!
DISCLAIMER: The podcasts available on this website have been produced for informational, educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this podcast do not constitute medical or professional advice. No person listening to and/or viewing any podcast from this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of the content of a podcast without first seeking appropriate professional advice and/or counseling, nor shall the information be used as a substitute for professional advice and/or counseling. The Mind. Body. Sleep. Podcast expressly disclaims any and all liability relating to any actions taken or not taken based on any or all contents of this site as there are no assurances as to any particular outcome.
Hello and welcome back to part two of my dance with insomnia. Today I’ll dive deeper into about what the process of leaving insomnia looked like for me and how it lead me to where I am now working as a sleep coach.
In part one of this series, I talked about that A-HA moment I had during a tapping session where I realized that I had been running this insomnia program in my mind.
What I mean when I say that I was running a bunch of programs is that I understood during my session that day, that my brain had constructed a bunch of thoughts and beliefs about sleep that weren’t even true. My ability to sleep was never broken and I hadn’t lost something that other people had.
In a sense I realized that insomnia wasn’t something I had , it wasn’t something that was happening to me, It was something that I was doing with in — it was a survival strategy my brain created based on a fear of not sleeping.
This became a self -perpetuating loop where I was doing everything possible to fix my sleep which only reinforced my brains perception that being awake at night was dangerous.
So, it was quite a vicious cycle, my friends. But throughout all those years, no one could properly explain this to me, so I just kept doing more things to sleep without ever really addressing the root cause which was a fear and anxiety about not sleeping.
Now, I do not blame myself for this in any way because my brain was just doing what brains do which is protect us. And I must say that my brain was doing quite an impressive job of this alerting me to the threat of not sleeping for over 40 years.
So insomnia was never about my sleep. It was about the thoughts and beliefs I had about sleep. Those thoughts and beliefs were creating the never-ending cycles of hyperarousal and sleeplessness that were ruling my life.
Once I understood this, something immediately changed — I no longer felt like I was stuck with this unsolvable problem that no one could figure out.
Because honestly, I think almost everyone’s greatest fear when you’re going through insomnia is that there’s no way out, that it’s going to be your forever situation and you’re just stuck with it and that’s a really heavy thing to carry.
But I no longer saw it that way… I saw it as a misguided program in my mind that I could change.
Okay, so let me go back into the recesses of my memory and see if I can remember how the recovery process unfolded. It wasn’t like I was just magically sleeping better, not at all. But my perspective had definitely shifted.
Because my response to sleep, or not sleeping changed pretty quickly.
So the very first thing I noticed was that I was less reactive to bad nights. They were still happening, that conditioned response was still firing, but I was somehow more okay with it. I was able to shrug it off and feel a lot less hopeless about the situation.
You might remember in episode one where I talked about the moment of surrender I had prior to recovering from chronic illness. Well, now I was able to bring that through to the insomnia experience as well. Because remember prior to that, I really did deeply believe that I was dealing with some sort of serious deficiency in my own ability to sleep — but now I realized that the only thing I was ever fighting was a memorized fear in my mind.
So it was just a complete paradigm shift in terms of what I was dealing with.
And you know, I think just letting go of the constant struggle and resistance I had to the experience of insomnia freed up a tremendous amount of energy.
Also early on, I moved the compass needle in my own mind from “how am I going to maneuver the rest of my life around this sleep problem” to “how do I want to live my life.” So, it was a transition out of “problem-solving mode” into the “living life” mode, which was exactly what I had done to recover from chronic illness, it just didn’t occur to me to apply to insomnia. So basically, I started pulling the attention away from insomnia.
As a result of that, I started losing interest in monitoring or paying so much attention to what was going on my sleep. Again, I I think I felt much more empowered to do this because I was confident I could get beyond a conditioned pattern in my mind. I had been studying habituated responses in relation to things like chronic pain and phobias for years, and in my opinion, the fear of not sleeping is very much the same : It’s an exaggerated stress response stemming from a misperception of threat.
Everything was making so much more sense to me.
About two months after that tapping session with my friend I was scheduled to go through a three-week out of town training that required me to get up at 5:00 AM every morning. And this felt… daunting. Mornings had always been tough for me, so the thought of doing that six days a week for three weeks in a row felt a little terrifying.
But I decided to go for it, and I wasn’t particularly attached to any specific outcome. In fact, I thought: you know, this could go either way. I knew that what I could do was take the leap and go from there. So I got through it, and I took sleep meds throughout most of that training, but I still survived. I don't think that I have ever in my life gotten up at 5:00 AM consistently for three weeks in a row, so to me, this felt like a major accomplishment. And to be honest, my sleep wasn’t great, in fact it was pretty bad, but I still did it. And that provided a lot of momentum and confidence in both my own ability to sleep and in my recovery process.
From there I started noticing gradual improvements in my sleep. And that's when I started blogging and was considering the idea of becoming a sleep coach. There were only a few adult sleep coaches that I was aware of at the time. I think, unconsciously, I was already starting to piece together a framework in my mind for what an insomnia recovery process could look like, but it all started with sharing my journey through blogging.
Looking back, I really thought that my sleep was getting so much better because it was so much better in compared to what I had dealt with for most of my life. But compared to how I sleep now, it really wasn't that great. But from the perspective I held at the time, I was quite encouraged because I thought it was great.
So I'm going along and I'm blogging and I'm no longer researching sleep from the vantage point of someone with insomnia but from the curiosity of someone interested in what creates these conditioned patterns in the mind.
As I’m going along, I’m continuing to experience changes in my relationship with sleep. Meaning, I’m not thinking about it, I’m not worrying about it. I’m not forecasting how to manage my sleep around certain events. I just found myself losing interest in it in general.
But I was still taking sleeping meds periodically and I did that for about a year into my recovery. I think a lot of times this surprises people. But even that whole experience changed. Because the narratives I was telling myself about medication were totally different. I was no longer taking them because I HAD to, I was taking them because I wanted to. If hyperarousal was really high, I would take meds more as a means of self-care than an act of desperation.
And they worked quite well once I gave myself permission to do that. I wasn’t worried anymore that I was never going to get off of them, I knew somehow that I would, and I didn’t feel the need to force that, So it became more like a joint decision or negotiation with my nervous system and I just honored that. Gone were the days of beating myself up and feeling like a failure for taking meds.
Okay, so moving on…
It became easier and easier for me to talk to other people about insomnia without feeling so much personal attachment to it, so I started doing some text-based coaching. Coaching through writing created a little bit of distance with the experience — much more than 1:1 coaching did at that time so text-based coaching allowed me to start offering support to other people, while also continuing with my own recovery.
At this stage, I started to see more consistency in my sleep schedule which was quite a breakthrough because in the past, any attempt to implement any kind of sleep window felt like an immense amount of pressure to my brain. But now, here I was just organically starting to wake up at roughly the same time every morning and it wasn’t 10am like it had been for most of my life — I was getting earlier and earlier and that felt really lovely to me.
There were a couple of other changes I noticed in the process. One was the ease with which I started making plans — It was like the default setting went from an automatic “no” to everything to a more confident “yes.” I wasn’t filtering ALL of my decisions through the lens of: “how will this affect my sleep” or “what if I don’t sleep.”
One of the most defining moments in my recovery process happened when I sat down to write a blog one day and I couldn’t tap into the emotions of what I was writing about. I had to try and remember what the experience felt like, it took actual effort. This was a significant shift, and I realized a new story was emerging about sleep, I was definitely becoming someone who HAD insomnia in the past tense, it was just getting further and further away as part of my identity.
I was also starting to do more one on one work with clients at this point, helping them through their stages of recovery and I was able to hold space for that much easier — there’s just wasn’t that emotional commitment or attachment to the fear like there had been before. .
Another big milestone occurred earlier this year when I spent a week at this adorable little farmhouse in Chattanooga Valley GA. I drove there from MN with a dog in tow, which required staying in various hotels and waking up to farm animals and it was absolutely glorious, and it wasn’t until I got home from that trip that I realized that I didn’t think about sleep once — it never crossed my mind. This was nothing shy of miraculous to me because it had never happened. Insomnia started so early in life for me that there had never been a time where I was able to fully enjoy a trip for what it was because I was always so worried about sleep. So again, that was such a defining moment.
Now, you might be thinking, well, all of that sounds pretty good, and pretty easy and didn’t you have any struggle with all this?
And the answer is definitely YES, I still dealt with sleepless nights, and I still had hyperarousal showing up pretty randomly and I still wanted to see faster progress. But I also had enough evidence that I was going in the right direction to just kept going. The hopelessness that used to come with sleepless nights was now more frustration, and that frustration turned into annoyance, and that annoyance eventually turned into a blip on the radar so I was just making my way and trusting the process.
And to be honest, it was never as bad as it WAS, ever again. Because in my mind, there was nothing worse than having your brain on high alert all night long and having no idea why and trying desperately to figure out what is going on and feeling so completely alone because no one has answers for you. And that had pretty much been my experience up until that big realization. So, not sleeping was still happening, but I didn’t have all of THAT going on anymore and frankly that was the much more difficult part of the journey for me anyway.
So, in terms of a timeline, this took place over the course of a couple of years. I wish that I could say that it was weeks, or even months because I know that when you’re in it, you want to be out of it as fast as humanly possible. But it was actually years. And I say this because I want to be fully transparent about what my process looked like — and just because it took me this long, doesn’t mean it will take you that long because I’ve certainly seen it happen much faster. This is just MY story. But the Quality of my life got better very quickly and that was the most important thing to me.
At around the 2.5-year mark, I felt completely recovered. That’s when I started building my program and felt totally free to do whatever I wanted in my life.
So, insomnia for me is a thing of the past and I can work with people all day now without any of that old fear come up.
I still have disrupted sleep from time to time like every human does, but it doesn’t create any anxiety or a sense of dread that I’m going to spiral into a cycle of not sleeping. Overall, I just feel very neutral about the sleep. I even joke with friends sometimes that maybe I need a heath coach because I basically do everything you’re not supposed to do for sleep, but I sleep better than I ever have, so I think I’ll just keep things as they are.
I hope my story inspires anyone out there struggling with insomnia to keep an open heart because you CAN fully recover and have good sleep again.
I’m Beth Kendall and you’ve been listening to the Mind. Body. Sleep podcast. Thanks for being here, I’ll see you next time.
- Why there's no mystery to insomnia
- The most important thing to know about sleep
- Why sleep hygiene doesn't work
-How to create a "sleeper's identity"
- The ONE (and only) thing you need to sleep
-Why most sleep programs miss the mark
- The biggest myths about sleep
- How to end insomnia for good
Enter your name and best email to start right NOW.