Most insomnia methods that don’t simply prescribe hypnotic sleeping pills focus on managing behaviors that affect sleep such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, limiting caffeine, and getting regular exercise. Most also suggest some form of relaxation technique to manage current stress. While these are all important steps toward overcoming insomnia, I believe the real key is to neutralize the stressors that caused the insomnia in the first place… even if the stressful events happened years or decades ago and seemingly have no relation to a person’s current life. Unresolved stressful and traumatic events get stored in the brain stem and in the tissues and can continue to wreak havoc on the nervous system until they are neutralized. A good example of this is my client of the month, “Jennie.”
Jennie used to be an excellent sleeper. When she was in college her roommate used to stay up late and have lots of people in their room and Jennie would simply go to bed early and sleep right through it, even though her bed was in the same room as all the activity! For the past ten years, however, Jennie had not slept well.
I began by asking Jennie what was going on in her life ten years ago when she suddenly stopped sleeping. She was working as a first year teacher in an inner city school where the principal was “scary and sketchy.” He regularly screamed at the kids and teachers and the environment was stressful and she felt a lot of anxiety. The one bright spot in her life was dating a young man who she really enjoyed and admired. Jennie said the first night she can remember not sleeping was when this man ended the relationship. When she thought about him ending the relationship, she had feelings of self-doubt and not being good enough. She also felt a constricted, fluttery feeling in her gut and chest and felt like she could not get a full breath.
We stepped back into this night ten years ago when her boyfriend broke up with her and she was unable to sleep for the first time. We tapped on her feelings of self-doubt and not being good enough as well as the physical sensations in her gut and chest and all of them lowered in intensity.
I asked her if anything else came up while we were tapping and she said she remembered a conversation she had had with her dad during this time period. She said there was a night where she felt in a panic and called her dad after midnight for comfort and support. When she thought about the moment right before she reached for the phone, she felt panic, like she was going crazy, like there was nowhere else to turn. She again had a constricted, fluttery feeling in her gut and chest.
We tapped on her feelings of panic and the constricted, fluttery feeling in her gut and chest and all of these lowered in intensity.
When her father picked up the phone, he was nice at first, but when she told him how worried and afraid she was and how she hadn’t been able to sleep for days, he said something like, “You’re worrying too much. Stop worrying and get some sleep.” When she thought about this, she felt angry and frustrated. Of course she would stop worrying and get sleep if she knew how – the point was she didn’t know how to stop worrying and get sleep!!
We tapped on her anger and she no longer felt angry.
When she thought about hanging up the phone, she felt weak and completely alone. We tapped on these feelings and they dissipated.
She also had this strong feeling that something was wrong with her. Why couldn’t she sleep? Everyone else she knew could sleep. We tapped on this feeling and it dissipated.
At the end of the session Jennie said she felt very good and peaceful, also a little tired.
We began our next session with wonderful news! Jennie had slept great every night except for one night, despite being under significant stress at home. She said even when she was awake the feelings at night were different – she was awake, but no longer felt tight and constricted in her gut and chest. She no longer felt panicked, just awake! Except for this one night, she slept deeply. She said she felt a HUGE shift last week, and even though she was still stressed and fragile feeling, she felt significantly better.
In this second session we worked with the stress that had arisen during the week and Jennie again left feeling peaceful and calm.
Weeks later, Jennie still felt calm. In her words:
I am still amazed at my results. I’m sleeping GREAT! I haven’t been anxious since our last session, which is record breaking. I just can’t believe how much calmer I feel. The constant knots in my stomach have dissipated and I really feel like a new person. I have really been trying to work on some of this anxiety for years and I feel like you jump-started the healing process by tenfold. I can’t thank you enough and I am just so grateful to have found you.
Two months later Jennie is still doing very well. When she is under significant stress, anxiety can occasionally flare up again, but she now has tools and resources to handle these bumps in the road and can either schedule another appointment or use her own tapping to get herself back on track.