Ep 7. The Lighter Side of Insomnia w/ Michelle Weil

Sep 13, 2023


Have you done some crazy things to sleep?

Feel like you’re the ONLY one to go to such lengths?

Spent tons of money trying everything?

Well, you’re NOT alone!

Join us as close friend and fellow sleep coach, Michelle Weil, and I share some of the wildest things we’ve ever done for sleep and why we can laugh about them now.

In this episode, we dive into:

  • What Seinfeld had to do with Michelle and insomnia.
  • The most expensive thing Beth did for sleep.
  • The bizarre environments we could sleep in and the luxury places we couldn’t.
  • Why we love Huberman but question some of his sleep advice.
  • How we see people fall into the trap of insomnia and how to avoid it.
  • Some of the sleep rules we followed religiously in our quest for sleep. 

Tune in as we share the highs and lows of our sleep journeys and stick around until the very end to discover the unexpected silver linings that emerged from insomnia.

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Full Show Transcript 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.

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 assurance as to any particular outcome.


Interview with Michelle Weil

Beth : Hello, and welcome to this special episode of the podcast because I am having my very first guest today. And it's not just any guest, this person is a close personal friend. She is a fellow sleep coach and just all-around incredible person. Welcome, Michelle Weil.

Michelle: Thank you so much for having me today. I'm really excited to be here.

Beth: Oh, I'm so glad you're here. All right. So I know that the listeners would love to know a little bit more about you, you went through your own struggle with insomnia. And I know, there's no such thing as a short, insomnia story. But tell us what that was like and what you're all about, and maybe let everyone know how we came up with today's topic.

Michelle: Sure. So I had insomnia for five years before I was able to find the right help and recover. But I think I was like so many people out there struggling with this, I really thought I had a physical problem, something deeply wrong with me. And I spent years chasing my symptoms around in circles endlessly. You know, everything from hormones to gut health, brain health, I feel like I really did do it all. And it didn't occur to me at the time that insomnia could in any way be driven by what was going on in my mind and my brain, and how this was so connected to the symptoms that I could be feeling in my body. I knew I was really anxious, really panicked a lot of the time. But I didn't understand the role of my beliefs and my own reactivity in driving the whole insomnia cycle. So it took a little while for me to kind of figure things out. But once I understood this a lot better, that really started my own journey to recover from, from years of of struggling with my sleep intensely. So that's that's a little bit about what this look like. And I think we were we were talking a little bit about some potential topics for today. And as we both know, you know, going through insomnia is it's really hard. It's often such a difficult, difficult thing to experience for anyone. And we were thinking of, you know, some of the some of the lighter sides actually, not necessarily in the moment, but looking back, and we're talking about some of the the things that we did during our insomnia that now makes us laugh. And we thought, Oh, what if we, what if we talked about some of that, and sort of brought up some of the lighter sides or some of the things that maybe they aren't that funny in the moment, maybe they are actually in some cases, but that there can be this this other side where you can look back and even even laugh at certain things. That's, that's possible. So I think that's how we landed on today.

Beth: Yeah, absolutely. Well said, and I love this idea so much. And in fact, you know, I've mentioned this to a couple of my clients that I'm doing this podcast on some of the, you know, craziest things we did when we were in it, and, you know, they've offered me some of the things that they've done. And I mean, I've heard some that I've never heard of before. So I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this really well.

Beth: Okay, so I'm gonna let you go first. Michelle. We're gonna follow this up today with some of the silver linings of insomnia, which have been many as well. So all right, lay it on us. What do you got?

Michelle: No pressure. Yeah, absolutely. And I would be so curious to hear other people's experiences, you know, your listeners, so I hope they write you and let you know, because I am sure we all have so many of these these types of stories. Oh, and my, the first one that really came to mind. And I don't know if anybody listening is a Seinfeld fan or used to watch Seinfeld. But there's all these episodes were one of the characters George used to, used to sleep under his desk at work. He used to even get up in the first thing in the morning and say something like, you know, his nap at work was the only thing that could get him out of bed in the morning. And anyway, so he was known to be sleeping under his desk at work and I had this this period of time where I had this stretch where I was, you know, sleeping very little

Michelle: I was really, really tired. I was, you know, working full time, I was actually functioning very well. But I was really tired on this particular day. And I had this office space that had, you know, glass windows for the most part. And, you know, glass, so it was clear, and I had one of those big kind of wrap around desks with a closed bottom. And lunchtime had rolled around, and I was so exhausted. And really, all I wanted to do was rest for an hour, close my eyes maybe meditate. And the idea of sitting on the floor with like, a hard surface against my back felt grounding. I sometimes do this at home, and I thought it would be also private, right? Because I probably would be able to see that I was resting in this way. So I thought, I'm just gonna sit, I'm just going to sit on the ground underneath my desk, and I'm going to relax and just close my eyes for for just a little bit. That was my plan. We're going to close my eyes. I'm going to meditate on my lunch break. And then I woke up about seven hours later.

Michelle: Possibly eight, everyone's gone. Yeah, it was all under the desk. Just me. I had passed out. I mean, I don't even remember feeling sleepy, I clearly just completely fallen asleep. And it was pitch dark. And it wasn't even just like, the people in my office went home, the whole building. Everyone was gone. And I woke up, I was so startled. Waking up to this, I felt so embarrassed, I kind of slunk out of the building. My husband thought I was working late, and he was confused. And really, I slept under my desk for pretty much, you know, a whole day.

Michelle: And I remember, oh, nights and nights read a whole night's rest. And I went in the next day, kind of worried, like, did anybody anybody know? Right? And so I went in with this very cautious, observant energy to, to feel things out. And nobody did. And nobody could see me, I think they just must have thought I had meetings or I went home early, nobody would have possibly known and so I felt very cautious and embarrassed for a couple days after that. But I was basically I was George and that was my first thought. As I was quickly gathering my things and getting getting home. I thought oh my gosh, I've turned into George. I'm George.

Beth: And so did you continue to sleep under the desk for quite some time? Or did that become your new sleeping place?

Michelle: Well, despite how restful it was on unlike George I chose to not repeat. Yeah, behaviors. So whereas I think I think George if I remembering correctly actually engineered a full sleeping space, like a bed and everything under his desk, so I certainly didn't take it that far. But yeah, that was one of the the kind of silly moments I had. Yeah, at some point during my my insomnia days. Oh, I can still relate. I can so relate. Yeah, um, and okay, so do you want should I go next, or do I? Absolutely.

Beth: Okay, well, I was thinking about this. And I almost like I actually have bullet points here. And I was like, Oh, I'm gonna have to break this into like, two sections. So the first section, where are the first?

Beth: I don't know that were things that I did that I broke it down into the most expensive thing I did, and the most time intensive thing I did, and the most expensive thing that I did was this P E M, F mat. And P EMF stands for pulsed pulsed electromagnetic fields, I think. And it's, you know, it's all about the grounding. So when you were like, really grounding, I was like, Yes, I literally I forked out so much money. I can't remember exactly how much it was. I think it was like $4,500 or $4,900. And I just remember thinking I could buy a used car for how much I'm paying for this mat. And but like the the woman selling it was just like so convinced this was going to help me with my sleep. And I just was like, oh yeah, this does if I just lay on this mat. This is going to be the thing you know,

Beth: I had such high hopes for it. And it was just like such an it's such a precarious time with my finances. So you can imagine the hope that was riding on that. Oh, yeah, so I get the mat, and it's, you know, I laid on that thing for hours, I mean, hours and hours and hours. And I don't even know if I felt anything with that mat. But I am, like, totally, and all of these types of things. And I do believe in grounding, you know, on the earth and all of that, but I would lay on that mat for hours. And, you know, it didn't help with my sleep, because, of course, it wasn't doing anything to address the fear and anxiety behind not sleeping. Uh, but that was for sure, the most expensive thing that I did, and then the most time and sense of for sure, was probably going down the DNA rabbit hole of 23. And me when that came out, I was like, one of the first people to, you know, send my, my sample in. And I was certain that I was very certain that I had some sort of genetic deficiency in my ability to sleep, and I was gonna fight it, you know, so I did that and spent hours probably days or weeks worth, probably weeks, or months, I don't know, a lot of time searching for how my DNA could be impacting this, this struggle with my with my sleep. So those were kind of the two things that I did. And then my next category is a little bit different. But I'll let you chime in Michelle. 

Michelle: But I love those two. And if I could have gotten my hands on a grounding mat, I absolutely would have been right there with you, no matter what the price. And as you were saying that I thought Yes, but Beth, would the used car have made you feel grounded?

Beth: No. I don't know if iit would have been practical would have gotten me to and fro. But ya know, I mean, you know, I just like, yeah, I you just really did think that laying on that mat for hours and hours just would really help. And I could see where I were where my thinking was at the time. But now that of course, we know so much more about insomnia.

Michelle: Absolutely. And it makes me think of my my time with weighted blankets very similarly. And I like how you brought up the the 23. And me because I did the same thing. I went down the genetic testing rabbit hole, and also spent a lot of time and money doing that. So you and I have that in common and sort of being convinced that all of this must be driven by some sort of genetic, you know, factor or something to be unearthed. And that that can be a very, you know, a very difficult rabbit hole to find yourself in, because there's so much complexity. So I have a lot of empathy for that because I went I went there too. Yeah, there too. Yeah, yeah. Totally.

Michelle: Yeah, I know. And I know that I was thinking back, and I also have the same bullet points. But let's go lower. So you do of course, yeah, of course. And I know that one that I had shared with you. When I I look back now and it makes me laugh is I was well, let me provide a bit of context, at the time, I was really afraid of my heart rate, because I had such a high heart rate pretty frequently. And of course, when we are struggling with insomnia, it's really normal to deal with higher levels of hyper arousal both at night and in the daytime. And high higher heart rate can be part of that. And but I didn't understand any of this, right, I didn't understand what was driving my high heart rate and keeping it elevated. And so I therefore became really afraid of the fact that I had a high resting heart rate. And when I would stand or walk around or do anything, it would get much higher.

Michelle: And so at times, I would decide that if I could just be perfectly still all day long, if I could not move an inch for as long as possible during the day that this that then I would sleep that night, somehow. And so I don't know how I correlated the two but it was this idea that if I could just be very still and somehow get my heart rate down. That would lead to sleep. And so I did have several days at times where that was my intention and I would try to be as still as possible and not move. And now looking back. Oh my gosh, like You know, yes, in the moment it was being driven by fear. So it wasn't funny in the moment, but it makes me laugh a little bit now, especially because it made me so afraid to move whereas now, I can't imagine having the fear of, of movement. When in reality there was probably so much adrenaline potty that moving would have really Yeah, the adrenaline exactly correct. Correct. Know what go for the walk, go for the walk. Don't be.

Beth: I wonder if you were laying still the same time I was laying still. on my, on my mat? Probably. Probably. I was. That was my miss. We didn't know each other. Yeah, we didn't know each other at the time.

Michelle: Oh, my God play that was my mistake clearly was not incorporating the mat. Yeah. Routine, if you would have done this. Oh, my God. 

Beth: Oh, my goodness, I totally hear you because I was doing the exact same thing on the mat. Yep. But you know, I think like, for me, where things really got nutty, in my mind was that the thing the beliefs I started creating, in my mind, and, you know, I was like, George, in that I literally started to believe that I could only sleep in these very unusual places. And I got it in my mind that I could only sleep in airport-related places. And this would be like, on the floor in the gate area behind the podium. This would be like, employee airport lounges. And, you know, I just, I thought, This is so strange, because it obviously wasn't a quiet environment, it couldn't been more light, like I'm sleeping under these fluorescent lights. But this is where I would actually sleep the hardest. And, you know, it's so perplexing when you're going through it. But I didn't, what I didn't understand was that it wasn't those places or conditions, it was the absence of pressure to sleep, that actually allowed me to sleep all of these places, but I was linking it to well, you know, my brain seems to only be able to sleep in these like airport related, you know, environments, and then I would get to these beautiful hotels that we would stay at on these layovers, you know, and I couldn't sleep at all in this gorgeous bed with great pillows, not a chance, because the pressure was on, you know, the pressure was on to sleep there. So, of course, I couldn't sleep. So it's like, the just the beliefs that my mind created. And this also transferred into, oh, man, Michelle, I don't think I've ever told you this. 

Beth: But I used to travel a lot with my friend Kellie, when I was going through Lyme disease treatment, I would travel every month to go see my doctor. And we would only book hotels in rooms that had a big enough bathroom, for me to be able to roll a roller bed in there or have like a, like a blow up mattress in the bathroom. Like we call ahead, make sure that they're like we they could accommodate me sleeping in the bathroom. And you know, Kellie could not have been nicer, she was just like, Okay, no problem, whatever. And so I like in, in these bathrooms, sleeping, and it was, you know, it was pitch black in these bathrooms and quiet and I just felt like I had, okay, I need to have this sort of environment like this sort of, you know, space to myself. I didn't care where it was. Sometimes it was a closet, you know, didn't even matter. But one time, I couldn't sleep in one of these bathrooms because it was like a blow up mattress. It was like a fancy blow up mattress. And I you know, I'd be like telling Kelly, I can't sleep we're gonna have to switch over and she's like, she's one of those annoyingly good sleepers that just falls asleep on demand. You know, just like, I don't I don't get it. It's just like, alright, I'll sleep in there. She goes in there and I go into the bedroom and I wake up the next morning I go in the bathroom and Kellie.

Beth: The mattress had deflated to the point where she was completely on the ground with like an inch of air left in the mattress and her head was in the shower stall and she was still asleep. She's like sleeping right through that. And you know, I was just like it was always good that she was such a good sleeper because I was just such not and it somehow worked out. But, you know, it was it was very interesting the beliefs that I created around my sleep.

Michelle: Oh, absolutely. And what a good friend as well to roll with all of that and just be like, absolutely sure this makes sense. Just no, no biggie, you know, asleep in the shower saw that's no problem. Oh, that's a friend, right?

Beth: Sure, sure, for sure.

Michelle: I get that I think it's it's impossible not to develop so many different beliefs I had the opposite belief, or I believed I could only sleep with the utmost perfect tranquillity the absolute most perfect circumstances, which ironically, even though I created those for myself, often, I still did not sleep. But I still believed that despite sleeping under the desk, you think that would have been a bit of a clue. You know, that one moment where I'm trying not to sleep where it's uncomfortable for, for sleep, and it's happening, but no, my my bedroom was the most tranquil perfect sleep environment you could possibly imagine. And, and also scientifically, both because I took great care to make sure that it was completely dark, there were no, no signs of light from clocks, not even a smallest kind of light. And I remember hearing somewhere once. That if you could, at night in your bed, raise your hand above your face, you know about a foot a foot away from your face, if you could see it, it wasn't dark enough. And I thought that makes sense. So I painstakingly did whatever I needed to do to create this cold dark cave, you know, with all the lavender oil in the world, which i By the way, I hate the smell of lavender oil, but I used to basically bathe in lavender oil. Thinking that would be that would be it this, this is the thing.

Michelle: And even though it actually stressed me out and made me feel nauseous, I would just be like we we need more of that because that's what's going to create the perfect environment. So my beliefs were in the opposite direction. I needed to make things as perfect as humanly possible in order to sleep, and it still didn't happen. But I still had that belief because the moment something was off, or if heaven forbid, a little shining of light entered my room. I would be like that's it. Game over. You know, a beam of sunshine on my leg came over. That's it. That's up for the rest of the next week. Probably that's

Beth: yeah. Oh, yes, I so hear you. I was just talking with someone about this right before our call here and how all of the info out there like you know, Huberman and which I love Huberman I love. I mean, there's so much I love about him, but just how much fragility they're creating around our, our sleep systems, you know, that we're just like, creating this. Like, we're so fragile. And we've got to do like all of this, you know, and really, we're so resilient. And when you think about, you know, 500 years ago, or whenever, like, people were not doing any of this stuff, like they just like, well just sleep on the ground here, I guess, you know, and here we are, like, I think I read that exact same piece of advice about seeing your hand, if you can see your hand, then it's not dark enough. And just and then get getting really freaked out if there was any kind of light coming in.

Michelle: So totally without, yeah, and I remember first first reading that and testing it and being able to see the outline of my hand and go Oh, my God, no wonder this is happening to me. Yes, exactly. In thinking that was it like that was? That's it? If I can just fix this? Yes, yes, yes. Oh, man. And, and for me as well. I mean, the irony is that having a completely pitch dark environment, felt unsettling, like to have to be in complete complete darkness at that level, but I ignored that. I thought, Well, no, this is the way this is science. And this is what I have to do. Yeah, this is what I have to do. Yeah. And I think you're right, it does. While a lot of that stuff can sound really interesting and like you I'm a fan of Huberman, too. But I do agree that it really, really makes people feel like they can't trust themselves. Their bodies are there that there is no innate ability to be okay. It's really that I have to control everything that's going on in my environment, and I have to control my body so much as much as possible, and then maybe I'll have a chance and so it just is so much more stress and pressure. And again, the loss of that trust where there's no more trust, it's just replaced with fear and control and pressure to get it to get it right. Because then you can see the beam of light. Right? Yeah, that's it. It's over. 

Beth: Oh, yeah. So well said I, you just said that so beautifully. And I know that we see this. So similarly. And how you know what happens? I think, while all of those that information out there is very well intentioned, is it just it, it starts putting conscious effort into an unconsciously effortless process, you know, what I mean? Like, it just like changes this very natural thing and simple thing of sleep into something really complicated, something that happens, that naturally happens towards something we need to do. And you know, I think like, a lot of like the biohacking community and very health conscious individuals, which I know both of us were in the nutritional therapy space prior to becoming sleep coaches. And I mean, it's just so easy to fall into that, you know, because when you do want to take care of your health, and you know, your physical life and all of these things, and that's all the information out there, it's easy to see why people grab onto it.

Beth: Oh, absolutely. And it can even be a really helpful approach for other things. Yeah. And I think that's what's so confusing is, you know, somebody could have had a really positive experience with that approach and another area of life, and then they just want to reapply it in this area, and it's suddenly backfires. And that feels confusing and scary. And I completely understand that, because that was very much my approach for for years on it and no stone left unturned. Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm going to find everything out there that could possibly be causing this. Absolutely. Including my own DNA and physiology. And what am I not metabolizing? correctly? Because clearly, that's thing? Yeah. Yes, definitely. So I think it's good that we can see laugh about it now.

Beth: Yeah, yeah. And definitely, you know, there have been silver linings in this experience of insomnia.

Beth: And I know, for anyone out there going, you know, really in it right. Now, it's hard to believe that that could be true, but it really is. And I think, Michelle, you would probably agree that we know so many people now that that can feel that, you know, so it's just just to give you some hope. And Michelle, like what were some of the Silver Linings that you've had from the experience?

Michelle: Well, there are actually so many. And every time I think about this, I do uncover a couple of new ones as I go along. But I think, for me, the whole experience of insomnia and going through insomnia recovery was a broader invitation for me to look at not just sleep and how I was showing up and relating to sleep, but how I was actually relating and approaching so many parts of my life. And it really allowed me to see that I was very fear based in so many areas. And I really hadn't seen that before. And so kind of just having that broaden perspective. And I really did feel like recovering from insomnia was this broader invitation to do, I guess this is deeper internal work that we that we often end up doing with ourselves when we're going through something like this. So that was that was one thing that came to mind was just this idea that recovering from insomnia all often has a global impact on the rest of the rest of your life. Because fundamentally, you're turning inwards, and you're doing internal work, you know, with yourself, and it almost has to have a broader impact. So I think that's one that comes to mind. How about you?

Beth: Oh, yeah, that was I just enjoy the way you said that so much.Oh, there's so there's so there's so many there's so many Silver Linings but I think that you know, But the big one that's sort of at the forefront right now is that it brought me to this career and, you know, helping others through something in a way that I really wish that I would have had when I was going through it. And I think it's so exciting to be a part of a community doing this work. Because I really do feel that we are on the leading edge of how to think about insomnia, and how to help people with it.

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