As a cognitive therapist, helping relieve insomnia requires getting into the thoughts and beliefs that otherwise make sleep impossible. Mind and body are connected; what the mind thinks it ‘translates’ into physical reactions. The body is a captive eavesdropper on the thoughts, worries, regrets, and impulses that criss-cross the mind.
Last week a client made an important decision which would have great influence on her future. Without going into the details if this decision fell in between ‘what-to-order-for-dessert’ (trivial) and ‘who-to-marry’ (super not trivial), this particular decision would fall closer to the who to marry direction. Not surprisingly she complained of sleep difficulties. In this specific case, she was able to fall asleep literally when her head hit the pillow but awakened two hours later and then not be able to fall asleep again.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist or advanced, experienced cognitive therapist to understand why this was: her mind, after a two hour nap, began percolating with activity. The body, ever ready to help out, heard the mind, and threw some coals on the fire. By coals on the fire, I mean acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of physical activity. It also stopped dumping adenosine, the neurotransmitter of sleepiness, into the blood stream. The result was a body ready to go and buy a dress (oops! I’ve said too much already!).
What we did about however was pretty cool. More on that later.