Ep 24. Is Trust the Antidote to Insomnia?

Mar 05, 2024

This one is all about TRUST, my friends.

Because when it comes to insomnia, trust seems to be the missing ingredient.

I mean...

Could  you even HAVE insomnia if you trusted your own ability to sleep?

I don’t think so.

Join me as I talk about the intersection between faith and fear, and how these two orientations occupy two sides of the same coin.

We explore:

  1. The pivotal role of trust in the context of insomnia.

  2. How I help people reconnect to their trust.

  3. My personal definition of insomnia recovery.

Join me for my most important episode to date — I hope it guides you back towards trust. 

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Full Transcription Below:

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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. 

© 2023 - 2024 Beth Kendall

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The Role of Trust in Insomnia

Hello everyone and welcome to the episode. It is a glorious day here in Minnesota I think it’s in the fifties and I’m recording this at the tail end of February, so I am not complaining.


In fact, I am headed to the river dog park right after I record this episode which is pretty up there in terms of my favorite things to do.


But I am excited about today’s topic because it centers on the concept of TRUST. And I think this is a really meaningful word when we’re talking about insomnia.


The first thing I’m going to talk about today is the role of trust and how I see it play out in the experience of insomnia.


Next, I’m going to talk about how I help people reconnect to their trust.


Lastly, I’m going to share what the definition of insomnia recovery is to me, and how trust factors into that.


Defining Trust While Going Through Insomnia


So, let’s first look at the definition of trust according to the Webster dictionary: Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.


Okay, well those sounds pretty good. But this is really such an expansive topic because trust is a central part of all human relationships including our relationship with sleep.


Insomnia in my opinion, isn’t JUST a fear of not sleeping, it’s a loss of faith, or trust in the body’s own ability to sleep. In fact, this may be the bigger part of the picture for a lot of people because I don’t think you could have insomnia if you trusted this aspect of your biology.


So, trust and fear are two sides of the same coin when we’re talking about insomnia.


We lose faith in our own ability to sleep and develop a fear of not sleeping.


Trust in the Greater Concept of Life


Trust is among the most fundamental factors of our human existence because it encompasses almost every aspect of our being. The level of trust we have in ourselves, in other people, and in the world determines every action we take.


If I were to dig a little further into the role of trust in the context of insomnia, the way I usually see this play out for people is typically they experience some sort of sleep disruption due to whatever reason in life. And at this point in time, there is a questioning of sleep, or a difference in the way we pay attention to it. Maybe there is the thought that: “something is wrong with my sleep.” Or “Shouldn’t I be sleeping better by now?”


And what we don’t often realize is that we are being subconsciously bombarded everywhere to put a tremendous amount of emphasis on sleep. And this emphasis is driven by a very lucrative sleep industry. So most of that messaging around sleep is heavily weighted in fear and this can prime the brain for the development of some sleep anxiety, which we’re seeing everywhere.


So, this is the point in time where a little seed of doubt gets planted in the mind about our own ability to sleep. And from that moment, our relationship to sleep starts to change. We start going down the rabbit holes of fixing sleep, we start doing things we never used to do for sleep, we start researching sleep, and all the while, our trust gets lost, right? We slowly get knocked out of our knowingness around sleep.


And then before you know it, there’s this conditioned alarm bell going off in your brain at night keeping you from being able to fall asleep. And by that time, it can feel pretty hard to trust your own ability to sleep when your experience tells you otherwise, which is why it truly does feel like you have a broken brain when you’re going through insomnia.  


Now, experiencing this loss of trust isn’t much different than a loss of trust in any other area of life. Having gone through chronic illness, I know what it’s like to live in a body that you feel has betrayed you. And who among us hasn’t experienced the betrayal of another human and the lasting effects of that betrayal. It isn’t easy to trust something that has betrayed you and this is normal. It’s your survival system kicking in to protect from the painful emotions of another betrayal.


If I were to define trust, as it pertains to the ability to sleep, I would describe it as a deep unconscious knowing. A knowing so innate that you wouldn’t think to even question it OR cultivate it.


If you ask someone without insomnia how they trust their sleep, they wouldn’t understand the question. Because that knowingness is unconscious, it’s as natural as breathing or pumping blood. We don’t really need trust to do those things because we just know they happen all on their own.


But with insomnia, we get knocked out of this knowingness. Something happens along the way that changes how we interact with sleep.


Which leads me to the next thing I wanted to talk about today which is how I help people reconnect to that trust, or knowingness.


Reconnecting With Trust


A lot of what I’m saying right now probably makes sense to you, but you don’t really feel it, right? Maybe you held that knowingness in the past, but trust doesn’t feel possible right now because it’s not your current lived experience. And that’s okay, it’s exactly what I would expect you to feel if you’re listening to this podcast. I don’t think you can really force this reconnection; we can only create space for it to happen.


I view reconnecting to that knowingness almost as a remembrance. And what I do in my program is create an environment for that to happen. And there are several ways that I do that. But the first thing I do is give people the proper education they need to understand what their brains are doing and why — how they even ended up with insomnia in the first place. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Because once you have this understanding, you’ll realize very quickly that there’s nothing wrong with your ability to sleep, you’ve just got this overzealous alarm bell going off in your brain.


But even bigger than the alarm bell, which is something we focus on as well, is the relationship we have with sleep that is creating the alarm bell in the first place.


Another thing I do is help people shift out of the orientation of fixing sleep, and into the orientation of trusting sleep. These two orientations have vastly different focuses. One is all about what you don’t want, and the other is all about what you do.


So, what does that even mean?


Well, let me give you an example of how this understanding came to be from my own experience with chronic illness.


The Orientation of Trust and Fear


For most of my recovery journey with chronic Lyme I was focused almost entirely on fixing my health. My life and my focus were on fixing the perceived problem which was Lyme. And to some degree, you have to do this to understand what you’re dealing with. So trust me, I read every study ever done on Lyme and everything that comes with it because Lyme is really the rabbit hole of all rabbit holes in my opinion. So, this kept me busy for literally years.


But the entirety of my relationship with illness was focused on fixing the problem and I stayed in this orientation for a very long time. If you want to hear more about my story you can go back to Episodes 3 and 4 which are called Dancing with Insomnia.


So, eventually, I reached the point where I had a significant realization that my approach to chronic illness wasn’t really working. The needle wasn’t moving in terms of better health, and I somehow knew there had to be a better way or at least a different way.


At that point, a series of serendipitous events occurred that changed the GPS of my recovery. I shifted from solely focusing on fixing my health to actively creating my health. And this took me out of the energy of problem and into the energy of solution. So my INTENTION went through a major transformation.


Fixing health and creating health are two entirely different orientations.


One felt heavy to me and the other felt hopeful.


Intention is ultimately the main driver of our outcomes because you can have two people doing the exact same thing but realize completely different outcomes based on their intention.


It’s the same for insomnia. Fixing sleep, which doesn’t work anyway because sleep is a passive process, is a different orientation than creating trust. One is going to leave you spinning your wheels, and the other is going to open the door back into that knowingness.


And I really want to do a podcast on JUST this one concept someday because it’s such an eye-opening a-ha once you realize how often we do this for a lot of things in life. It’s so easy to make this switch with the conscious intention of creating what you do want while unconsciously focusing on what you don’t, simply because it’s the orientation that we become so accustomed to.


And this is where I see a lot of people get stuck with insomnia because they’re in the orientation of fixing. Watching videos and scrolling Instagram can be helpful, but they’re only a part of equation. You also need to apply what you’re learning into everyday life. And without some guidance in that process, our minds can get very creative in terms of finding ways to control sleep and stay in the orientation of the problem.


So, shifting the focus from fixing sleep to creating trust and living life is some of the work we do in the mentorship, and this comes from implementing the pillars of self-kindness, mindfulness, and acceptance into our daily lives.


These all bring trust into what is otherwise a fearful state, which helps rewire the brain towards safety around sleep.


Perceptual Shifts


Another way that reconnection starts to emerge is through a series of perspective shifts over time. It’s very normal for anyone going through insomnia to have to hear things over and over because we become so identified with insomnia that it’s hard to consider another perspective. But I’ve laid out my approach so that there are bite sized teachings along the way, and that makes it easier to start shifting those unconscious beliefs about sleep.


So, the last thing I’d like to talk about today is the role of trust in terms of insomnia recovery.


Opening the Door of Knowingness


Now a lot of people think that sleep is the solution to insomnia. But this isn’t really true. Because I’ve worked with a lot of people who are sleeping well, but still have a fear of not sleeping. They’re still not living life the way they really want to live it because they’re protecting sleep.


So, then the logic might become, well, recovery is really about the absence of fear. But this also isn’t true because I had fear showing up long after I was sleeping well.


Insomnia recovery the way I see it isn’t about sleep. And it isn’t about the absence of fear. It’s about the presence of trust.


And you can hold these two things simultaneously. I was on a trip recently and I was sleeping in different beds every night and I felt those old fears kick in. And I thought, oh, this is really interesting because they haven’t shown up for quite a while. But what trumped those fears was trust. I have developed a deep trust in my body’s own ability to sleep and those fears just don’t affect me anymore.


My belief in my own biology has become greater than my belief in my fear.


Insomnia, for me, on a much more spiritual scale, became the vessel for a deeper state of trust with the world, myself, and my own body.  And that was definitely one of the silver linings of insomnia.


I’d like to leave you today with a quote I stumbled on by Jeff Foster literally right before I recorded this episode because it’s so relevant to this topic:

True healing

is not the fixing of the broken,

but the rediscovery

of the Unbroken.


Thanks for joining me today. I’m Beth Kendall and this is the mind. body. sleep. podcast. I’ll see you next time…

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