Live Discussion with Dr Vicki Creanor - 3rd March 2021

Dr Creanor will be hosting a live online discussion here on Wednesday 3rd March 2021, from 8.15pm to 9.45pm British Time or 3.15pm to 4.45pm US Eastern Time.

They will discuss as many topics as possible in the hour and a half and, as always, you are welcome to ask any questions at all about sleep or the Sleepio program. If there are a lot of questions, they may not be able to answer all in the time available, but will try to answer as many as they can.

Please do note that, as per our guidelines, Dr Creanor will not be able to give personal medical advice including those about medication. Their replies to questions will be made in such a way as to help as many people as possible who might have similar issues.

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Posted 26 Feb 2021 at 6:17 PM
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  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    I completely forgot to add that I am very grateful to Dr Creanor for the reassuring words she wrote about the 90 minute sleep cycle. Thank you!

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hi Dr. Creanor,

    I have been doing sleep restriction for a few months now and was getting better until last month because of getting sick with COVID. After my recovery, my sleep went backwards and I started not sleep well again. My issue is waking up around 5-6 hours of sleeping and not being able to fall asleep.

    However this past week, for some reason, I haven't been able to fall asleep. My sleep window is 12-6 and I can't fall asleep until 3-330am. This is even after I've taken many herbal sedatives like valerian root and marijuana oil drops. I feel my body so sedated and heavy and I can tell I'm almost falling asleep, but my mind just won't completely shut off. It's like I'm hyperaware of everything that is happening and the fact that my mind can't completely shut off. I practice all the tools I've learned in Sleepio like repeating the word “the”, or deep breathing, visualization, etc. Nothing seems to work for me…

    I've been sleeping 3-4 hours every night and thought that the restricted sleep would help me fall asleep right away, but it hasn't..

    I'm having a really hard time…

    Best,
    Jocelyn

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hi there,
    I am on week four of the program and am pleased to find that I am able to fall asleep faster and easier on most nights now generally managing to get to sleep within 30 mins but I still cant extend my sleep in the morning. I do get up when I wake up which us usually between 5.30 and 6am. I have just adjusted my sleep window so that i go to bed earlier. So my sleep window is 11.15 till 6am. I would just love to be able to sleep till 7am. As a day in lockdown which starts at 5.30 is a long day. Do you think this is a good idea and do you have any suggestions as to how I can train myself to sleep a little longer.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    Good evening/afternoon and welcome to this week's live session. I'm Dr Vicki Creanor, a clinical psychologist with an interest in sleep problems. I'll be here for the next 90 mins to discuss your sleep-related queries…let's begin!

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    I find that sometimes when I get into bed, I can start feeling my heart pounding, even if I've not felt anxious before going to bed. This means that the things I'd usually do to try to relax, like mindfulness and breathing don't help as they increase my focus on my heart. It keeps me awake and also causes lots of anxious thought on what it means about my heart. Is there anything else you can suggest to help?

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Expert

    Hi Sylvi,
    Great question. So Sleepio is recommended for people aged 16 and up, simply because children and young people have different sleep needs to adults. There is a significant correlation between ASD and poor sleep, so many people on the spectrum will experience this. Sleepio techniques can be adapted for younger people and those on the spectrum, but it's best to have someone working with that person who knows them well to adapt them in the way that works for them as an individual. Hope that answers your question?

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Expert

    Hi thanks for getting in touch. It sounds as if what is happening here is that, over a period of time of poor sleep, your brain has started to connect your bed with a place of threat/anxiety, so going to bed acts as a trigger for anxiety and elevated heart rate. This is really common in poor sleepers and is why we aim to improve the bed-sleep connection with techniques such as the quarter hour rule and sleep restriction. First of all, telling yourself that your heart is responding to protect you can be helpful – it believes there is a threat present and so it is working well! However, it's not helpful at bedtime…so, what about trying some imagery/visualisation work to focus on something other than your body? Is this something you've tried before?

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    Hi Joan,
    It sounds as if there has been a bit of setback here, but this is common whenever we recover from problems – including those with sleep. See it as a blip rather than being back at square one. Some people who experience this find it helpful to go back through each session of Sleepio and check in with what you're already doing or what could be put in place once more. Take your time, you don't need to do everything at once, just assess what's changed and what techniques could be reinstalled. It may be that the bed-sleep connection is weaker at the moment, but just remember that if this has been learned, it can be unlearned again…

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Thank you, I think reframing it as a “it's trying to be helpful” is a good idea. I think I've tried some, I just haven't practiced many so it's hard to come up with them at night when all I can feel is my heart going!

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    Hi Philippa,
    Sorry to hear you're struggling. The sleep restriction part of the programme is very challenging – probably the most challenging part of the whole thing. But it's also one of the most effective techniques in moving sleep forward in the right direction. It does tend to be short term, so you won't be doing it for the long term. If you want to persist with it, some people find that ways of feeling more refreshed during the day can help keep them going – getting exercise, getting plenty of fresh air and having a caffeine boost in the morning may help.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    You raise a good point here though – when doing imagery, it's best to practise when you're feeling calm so that when you need it, it's easier to go into. It's like learning a dance or a piece of music – once you practise it often enough, you know what to do instinctually.

    I like to ask people to imagine a place they've been or would like to go that makes them feel calm.

    Once they have this, I ask them to focus on what they can see (colours, patterns, objects), hear (near and far away), smell, taste and touch in the image and spend a good minute on each sense.

    Then, I ask them if their body feels good when doing this – if it does, I ask them to focus in on where in their body feels good. Then I ask them to pair up this good feeling in the body with all the things they noticed in the image from the previous step.

    Lastly, I ask them to come up with a word or phrase that describes this image. Then I ask them to think about this word and pair it with all the sense info and the good feeling in their body.

    Holding all this info together at least once a day will start to hardwire the info together as a connection in the brain, so that, further down the line, you can just say the cue word that goes with the image and your brain brings it all up for you, including the felt sense of calm in your body.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    It might also be worth thinking about your racing heart and your noticing of it as a tug of war. The more you pull and focus on it, the worse it gets. Sometimes dropping the rope is the most helpful thing we can do…it may still be happening, but we stop engaging with it…leading to the heart rate dropping as a result of less attention/fuel…

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Expert

    Hi and thanks for getting in touch. Sleep restriction (SR) is really challenging. And in the very short term, it can lead to less sleep. Which can have an impact on mood. It's always up to an individual as to whether they continue with SR or not. It has to be what's right for you. I would also reiterate that if you feel it's unsafe for you to be working shifts when exhausted, then consider your safety first and do what makes you feel safer/less tired.

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Expert

    Thanks for your question. It sounds as if you have perhaps pinpointed the issue yourself? It might help to go back through the programme again and see which parts you could tweak again to help improve routine and consistency?

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Expert

    Thank you for sharing, NHMil – I'm glad to hear it was of some reassurance to you.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    Hi Jocelyn,
    I'm sorry to hear you've been struggling with sleep and Covid. I guess we are starting to better understand the issue of long Covid through anecdotal evidence and I wonder if this has had an impact, like any physical illness often has on sleep.
    There are a few things that might help here from the info you've provided. First of all, you mention you've tried visualisation – I've posted the outline of what I go through with my clients when developing imagery with them and wonder of this type may help – and practise of it during the day? I also wonder if scheduling in some 'worry time' during the day (morning or early afternoon – not close to bedtime) might help to think about what goes through your racing mind at bedtime at an earlier point in the day?

    Other points to consider are that sleep restriction isn't something we see instant improvement with – it does tend to take some time as our poor sleep habits need to be unlearned. I would also say that recovery from a virus often does take a while for the body to get back on track. Perhaps speaking to your GP/family doctor about how best to cope with post-viral sleep problems might be worthwhile as it is often suggested to let the body recover through daytime naps for example (which is very different to advice in normal circumstances).

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    Hi Jacq,
    It sounds as if you're doing all the right things here. Sometimes it just takes time for our sleep window to become longer. It's great you've already seen improvements in being able to fall asleep quicker. I'd give it a few more weeks and see if the improvements continue with the sleep time. Poor sleep habits built up over time need to be unlearned and this happens at a gradual rate in the mind and body – keep doing what you're doing and I hope that you see some change in other areas of your sleep soon :)

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    10 mins left of today's discussion if anyone has any further burning Qs…

  • Sleepio Member

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    Expert

    That's all for today's session – thanks for the great Qs and I'll see you all soon. Take care!

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Thank you Dr Creanor – sorry, wasn't able to get on earlier.

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