Having completed my second on-line Sleepio CBT session, and my first week of sleep diary, it’s clear that this process is primarily designed to retrain your thinking about sleep. It’s also clear that this process can only work if you’re willing to give it a go and have a positive and humble attitude.
Reading some of the reviews of the (not very good) Sleepio iOS app, it’s very obvious that a lot of people have felt fobbed off with this course, and that anger has stopped them from getting anything out of it. As I’d already given up hope with regard to the NHS, it would be hard to disappoint me further. For example, to see a doctor on 23 October about my ongoing sleep problem, I made an appointment at the beginning of September. In other words, at a point where I felt desperate enough about insomnia to see a doctor, I was told to wait 5-6 weeks.
So it’s no surprise to be handed a card and told to log on to a web site. But! I have an open mind and I was already primed to think about CBT, so I have given the programme my full cooperation. Note that the laptop/browser Sleepio experience is what I’ve been doing; I have the app but just for reference. There have been a couple of flaky moments with the online version (a freeze at a certain point in session 2, forcing me to use the Chrome browser instead of Safari to get over that particular hump), but it doesn’t crash like the iOS app does.
Session two discussed my sleeping environment, and made some obvious points about noise/distractions, light levels, temperature: nothing I wasn’t already aware of. I would never have a television in my bedroom anyway, and I know I sleep better when it’s dark. The double whammy of British Summer Time and lighter mornings can have a devastating effect. All that said, I do think I probably need to invest in a new/better mattress, and I’m going to ban clothes drying from the bedroom. I might also write to the school about the bloody milkman.
Another aspect of session 2 was to begin to challenge my negative thinking about sleep. Again, I can see how this particular moment might upset some people who might already feel fobbed off. We already know that facts are fairly useless in terms of challenging all kinds of attitudes. For example, the great nation of SUV drivers who are killing life on Earth with their unnecessary and antisocial cars don’t really respond to statistics about their emissions. Still: the Fitbit does tell a story, and I had already realised that it was sleep quality that I needed to work on, not sleep quantity.
Some common sense steps were suggested. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bed. Avoid alcohol 4 hours before. Cocktail hour is fine, but drinking into the evening not so much. Which we knew, right? Add to this a kind of relaxation tape, coaching you with an hypnotically slow voice to clench and unclench your muscles, and you might get a better night.
I’ve been on holiday anyway, and would normally sleep better, but for the hacking cough that is persisting well into its second week. But I approached bed last night in a more positive frame of mind, and the result was a much better night and a Sleepio score of 7.5/10. I still woke up an inordinate number of times, and the red dots around 4 o’clock still tell a story about the persistence of a bad habit. But that lovely trench of deep sleep around 5 a.m. gives me hope, it really does.
It’s still too early to say if this is working. The night before was 2.5, after all, and the one before that was 5.0. There is no trend line here, and I have yet to deal with sleeping in the home bed with the need to get up and go to work. But I’m giving Sleepio a cautious up-thumb at the end of the first week.