Between a hectic schedule at the end of last year and jetlag through a trip to Europe, I managed to throw my sleeping patterns off. I found that I was lying awake for a long time before falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia) and then often waking up several times in the time and being unable to get back to sleep. So while I was in Ireland I was happy to pick up a book at a secondhand store called Say Goodnight to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs.
It’s a fairly old book which was published in 1998 but the useful advice and research that he gives are as valid as ever. It seems to have been republished in 2009 and that is the cover image shown above. It does not appear to be a new edition.
The book has a six week program for getting sleep patterns back to normal which I didn’t follow closely. This program includes questionnaires which you can use to track your sleep pattern and use of the techniques described in the book. It is probably easier to use a smart phone app to keep track of these patterns and many are available for both Android and iOS.
Part 1 (Getting Started)
This section gives a lot of basic information about sleep and insomnia. The author was involved in a research program at Harvard Medical school over a period of 10 years which claimed 100% improvement in insomnia and 75% return to normal sleeping patterns. This background helps to give this book more credibility than some of the books in the field of NLP and CBT.
The author recognizes that poor sleeping patterns occur within a whole lifestyle and that “Insomnia can only be treated by addressing all the underlying causes.” These causes include attitudes and beliefs, feelings of loss of control over sleep, inadequate exercise to exposure to sunlight, going to bed too early or sleeping too late, negative responses to stress, and lying awake in bed getting frustrated. In my own bouts with insomnia, I’ve noticed all of these factors, and although hypnosis and NLP have been extremely useful to me in reducing the problem, reading this book raised my awareness of other factors that can easily be controlled.
Perhaps the easiest and most powerful behaviour change that I took away from the book was setting and maintaining a regular rising time, even at weekends. Within a few days of doing this, I found that I was falling asleep within a few minutes of lying down, thus getting over the previous sleep-onset insomnia and weeks of frustration.
Part 2 (Changing Sleep Thoughts and Behaviors)
Part 2 introduces cognitive restructuring (what we call reframing in NLP) as a useful technique to change thoughts about sleep. For many people, it is worrying about not being able to sleep that actually keeps them awake. Being already very familiar with ways of controlling my thought patterns such as hypnosis and NLP, little of this was new to me and it was not the mental changes but rather the small physical behaviour changes that were useful for me.
Part 3 (Managing Insomnia by Managing Stress)
Part 3 introduces the Relaxation Response which was developed by Dr. Herbert Benson. Benson also writes the foreword to the book. The Relaxation Response can be contrasted to the body’s fight-or-flight response and the author considers it to be a natural way for the body to relax. Anyone who is familiar with hypnosis or meditation will recognize it easily. There are three simple steps–relax the muscles, bring attention to breathing, and then focus on either the breath or a word such as ‘Relax.’ Again I was familiar with these ideas, but it certainly was a good reminder and the author includes some nice scripts for engaging the relaxation response. Part 3 offers many other ways to reduce stress such as exercise, developing an optimistic attitude, and laughter.
Overall, this is a well-written book with lots of useful information and research. For me, the single most useful information was the reminder to have a regular rising time. People who are less familiar with techniques for controlling inner dialogue and beliefs will also learn some good tips in these areas.