I have suffered from a sleep disorder on-and-off for two years or more. I don’t usually have much trouble getting to sleep, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Mostly this happens only occasionally and isn’t a huge problem, but I’ve been through a couple of phases where this was happening several nights a week, with a big knock-on effect on my work, my social life and my general sense of wellbeing. It was during one of these phases that my GP referred me to iCope.
I had never done group therapy before and was concerned it might not be for me, but my experience throughout was extremely positive. It was reassuring to be in a comfortable environment, in which all the others present – both the therapists and the other participants – understood my problem and were sympathetic. And more importantly, the therapists gave me some practical suggestions that I was able to implement, which had a fairly immediate effect. Specifically, learning about the concept of sleep efficiency and the importance of a regular sleep routine – though this can be tough when you’ve not been sleeping well – were enormously beneficial to me.
My advice to anyone struggling with a similar problem would be to ask for referral to a sleep group, be sure to attend all the sessions and follow the advice carefully, particularly around sleep efficiency and bedtime routine. Since I participated in the sleep group, although the bad nights do still occur, they are much less frequent than before. And even when they do – when I am sitting in my living room in the small hours, reading a book with a cup of herbal tea – I have learnt to see them in a more positive light and generally cope with them better. This was another big takeaway from the sessions.
I wouldn’t say that I have been cured of my sleep disorder, but I don’t believe that a definitive cure exists. What I would say is that the sleep group equipped me with a set of tools with which to deal with my problem. Whenever my insomnia returns, I simply go back to the advice I was given during the sleep group and after a night or two I am usually sleeping normally again. It is no exaggeration to say that it has been life-changing and I am so grateful to [the facilitators]and the team at iCope, as well as to the NHS in general, for providing this service.