March 13, 2020 is World Sleep Day

Let’s talk about chronic insomnia. The causes might surprise you.

If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed and function normally after losing an hour sleep on the weekend, don’t feel bad – you’re not alone. One hour might not sound like a big deal, but believe it or not, studies have actually found an increase in both car accidents and heart attacks the Monday after Daylight Saving Time. Kind of like having jet lag, it can throw off our circadian rhythm – that’s the body’s 24 hour biological clock that helps tell us when to sleep, when to wake, and regulates so many of our hormones and biological processes, from hunger and weight gain to cortisol, melatonin and even the microbiome. Fortunately, most people and their circadian rhythms adjust to the one-hour time change after a day or two without too much difficulty.

But if you are like most people, you also might be experiencing what’s known as “social jet lag” on a regular basis. Enjoying your days off, you probably stay up late on weekends and sleep in a bit later to catch up on sleep. Makes sense in the short term, right? Unfortunately, the reality is that an irregular sleep-wake routine, among other things, can take its toll on the circadian rhythm and – over time – lead to chronic insomnia.

Why is it so hard to recover from chronic insomnia?

Up to 45% of the world’s population struggle with sleep. What most people don’t know is that many of the things we typically do to catch up on sleep (napping? sleeping in? going to bed early?) turn out to be the very things that can cause a short-term bout of insomnia to become a chronic, long-term and serious problem. Sadly, insomnia is one of the few things in life where the harder we try, the more we fail. The worse it gets, the more desperate people become for sleep. It might be crazy-making, but you should know that it’s not all in your head. While anxiety and depression can certainly cause insomnia, it’s also the case that insomnia causes anxiety and depression. Improving sleep can go a long way in improving both. But when we don’t know what to do, our sleep regulation systems tend to become disrupted, creating a vicious cycle, often a serious, long term problem – one that leaves people feeling like their ability to sleep has become broken, with life spiralling out of control.

It’s not your mattress

Bring on the wild goose chases. Studies in both Canada and the U.S. have estimated the average annual cost of chronic insomnia at close to $5,000. Yes, $5,000 per year – per person! That’s largely lost productivity and earnings, but also – in desperation – people frequently resort to sleep aids, such as alcohol (worse yet, U-Dream), or visits to naturopaths and acupuncturists. If that doesn’t work, let’s buy another pillow (or 5) or a new mattress.

Another little known “fun fact”: according to research, sleep hygiene – on it’s own – is largely ineffective. Yes, you read that right. There’s a reason it seems like nothing works – for long.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with many of these strategies, at least those that don’t come with dangerous or unpleasant side effects. Some might be relaxing. Can’t hurt. Some might even help a bit in the short term. But if they’re not addressing the actual causes of chronic insomnia, it’s likely too little, too late.

There are many causes of short-term sleep problems, but only two causes of chronic insomnia: disrupted sleep regulation systems and conditioned arousal.

There is a way out

The American College of Physicians strongly “recommends that all adult patients receive cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as the initial treatment for chronic insomnia disorder.” ~ American College of Physicians (2016)

Fortunately, there is an approach – backed by a significant body of research – found to be safe, effective, and long lasting. That’s why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia – aka CBT-I (not your regular CBT btw) – is considered the “gold standard” in insomnia treatment. CBT-I is not a magic pill. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t one). Rather, it involves learning how our sleep regulation systems work, how they can become disrupted – think social jet lag, for example – and the behavioural and other strategies that can help strengthen the sleep regulation systems, such as the circadian rhythm. When it comes to sleep, knowledge really is power. And the first step in regaining some control over ability to sleep well is learning how to re-train the brain for efficient, deep, quality sleep once again. Many people even find that with better quality sleep, they need less quantity than they thought.

Yes, this is good news: you don’t need to live with chronic insomnia. There is a way out.

CBT-I “has been found to be as effective as prescription medications are for short-term treatment of chronic insomnia. Moreover, there are indications that the beneficial effects of CBT, in contrast to those produced by medications, may last well beyond the termination of active treatment.” ~ National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Statement on Manifestations and Management of Chronic Insomnia in Adults

Feel crappy for a day or two after Daylight Savings Time? To avoid prolonging insomnia, don’t try to catch up on the lost hour of sleep. Ride it out and you’ll get your sleep and circadian rhythm back on track soon enough.

March 13, 2020 is World Sleep Day. Sounds like a great time to start regaining your quality of life by learning how to sleep well again.

Young woman sleeping on bed

For Women with Disabilities

This Offer Expires February 28, 2019

But sliding scale opportunities for women with disabilities still exist. Please contact me for further information.

If you’d like to be notified about possible future offers, please send me a quick secure confidential message here.

Or phone 1-604-771-4444 to ask to have your name added to the list.

Brief Behavioural Treatment for Insomnia

I’m excited to be offering Brief Behavioural Treatment for Insomnia (BBTI) by donation for women with disabilities anywhere in British Columbia, living with chronic insomnia (more than 3 months) and who are members of Pacific DAWN (DisAbled Women’s Network)! Not a member? No problem. You can sign up for free here. On a trial basis, currently accepting 1 or 2 clients with the hope of extending this to others on an ongoing basis. 

What Does By Donation Mean? Regular fees for this service are $144/hour. As a Pacific DAWN member, please pay whatever you can afford. All proceeds will be going to Pacific DAWN. 

For a better idea of what to expect with Brief Behavioural Treatment for Insomnia, click here.

About Me: Some of you may already know me, Lorraine Irlam. Ethics guidelines mean that I can’t work with people I know – at least not well or if our lives have much overlap. (Feel free to contact me if you’re interested but not sure how that might apply to you.)

I’m a Registered Clinical Counsellor providing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia by phone (or email). I’m also a member of Pacific DAWN and am happy to be able to give something back to the community.

About You: You must be

  • a member or supporting member of Pacific DAWN (click here to join for free if you’re not already a member!)
  • a woman living with disability
  • at least 19 years old
  • living in Canada
  • There are also a few other criteria which you can click here to check out.
  • Preference will be given to disabled women on low income, who can be flexible with scheduling appointments, and are so sick and tired of insomnia they are ready and determined to commit to making changes for better sleep!
  • This service will be by phone, but can do by email  instead to accommodate a hearing loss or disability.

My Request to You: I’m so excited about offering this financially accessible insomnia treatment and I’d love your help. So, here’s what you can do in exchange for this reduced rate: in addition to flexibility about scheduling phone sessions, I’m asking for your patience while I fine tune the logistics and would appreciate any feedback about your experience with this treatment along the way. This helps me plan and let future clients know more about what to expect, such as how long each session should take. 

Interested? Give me a call at 604-771-4444 or click here to send me a secure message.

Introducing Brief Behavioural Treatment for Insomnia (BBIT)

Update: This spot has been filled. Click here to send me a message if you’d like to be on a wait list for future specials.

Great news! I have one spot available for “Brief Behavioural Treatment for Insomnia” (BBTI) at the reduced rate of 60% off regular fees. What is BBTI you wonder? Well, it’s similar to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), but without the “cognitive” components and … as you might’ve guessed … it’s briefer. BBTI is designed based on research showing it to be an effective and shorter term alternative to CBT-I, therefore more cost effective, even at the full price. So this 60% off is an additional discount.

How does it work? You’ll learn about the systems that regulate sleep and how stress-induced insomnia can become long-term insomnia. More importantly, you’ll take away the tools you need to unravel the vicious circle.

All sessions will be done by phone. After an intake session, you’ll complete a daily sleep diary and, starting 2 weeks later, you’ll have 4 weekly sessions (one full or extended session and 3 shorter follow up or check-in sessions) which will provide you with the information, support and individualized trouble shooting you’ll need to give you the tools for a better sleep.

I’m so excited about offering this lower cost insomnia treatment and I’d love your help. So, here’s what you can do in exchange for this reduced rate: I’m asking for your patience while I fine tune the logistics and would appreciate any feedback about your experience with this treatment along the way. This helps me plan and let future clients know more about what to expect, such as how long each session should take.

Preference will be given to someone who feels ready and determined to make the changes needed to get better sleep and who can also be flexible about scheduling appointments. I don’t expect this offer will last long, so if you’re sick of insomnia, give me a call at 604-771-4444 or click here to send me a (secure) message letting me know how your life has been impacted by chronic insomnia and how different it might be if only you could get better sleep. Must be at least 19 years old, living in British Columbia [expanding soon to other provinces] and meet a few other qualifying criteria

If you have extended health benefits through work, your plan may cover this therapy from a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Please check with your provider.