Hello and Welcome
My name is Marie and I am the founder of Good Sleep Anywhere.
I absolutely love sleeping! But this was not always the case. During a very stressful period in my life I suffered from insomnia.
I understand what people are feeling if a good night’s sleep is a struggle for them. With Good Sleep Anywhere I want to help you to improve the quality of your sleep and to live a more relaxed and happier life - no matter where your are!
When I hear and read about other people’s wrestle with insomnia, it still surprises me how easy it actually can go from sleeping well to suddenly lying in bed wide awake and confused. My own painful experience with sleeplessness is a perfect example of that. Therefore, let me talk a little bit about myself and explain the purpose of this website.
My struggle with sleep
For many years I was always a good sleeper. At bedtime, I would simply put my head on the pillow and fall asleep soon after turning off the light. I might have taken a sip of water or went quickly to the bathroom, but then I would effortlessly go back to sleep without much thinking about it.
Things suddenly changed when I started working as a sales representative for a small publishing house. The publisher’s economic situation was tough and being the only sales rep responsible for generating sales I persuaded myself that the future of the business and of my colleagues was entirely on my shoulders. I know, in retrospect, that was wholly overdrawn, but I was a perfectionist and very ambitious at the time and put a lot of pressure on myself.
The sales activity itself was already very challenging, plus the (stupid) idea to be responsible for the economic success triggered enormous stress and led to my sleep problems. Insomnia can start in so many different ways, but in my case, it did not develop gradually over time, but it came overnight – one sleepless night in which I was unable to switch off. From then on for about two years I struggled to get more than three to four hours of sleep a night.
When no sleep turns into a nighttime-battle
I would lie wide awake in bed, my mind racing fast and my body becoming increasingly restless while at the same time my muscles tensed and I felt a sense of pressure in my brain. It was crazy: the more I tried to calm myself, the more aroused I became. Tossing and turning around I sometimes got so mad at myself that I would start hitting my mattress or pillow with my fist or even bang my head against it. It felt like being at war with my own body.
While I was worrying obsessively about the job and my performance, an increasing feeling of anxiety and sadness about my general future would start to creep in. This made things of course worse and kicked off the vicious worry cycle about sleep: the more you can’t sleep, the more you worry about it and the worse it gets. I still remember when the sudden thought popped into my head: What if I can never sleep properly again?
My sleep problems had, of course, a significant impact on my daily life. Sometimes I was so tired at work that I could barely keep my eyes open. My poor concentration made it difficult for me to read and understand the words on my computer screen, not to mention to have a meaningful conversation with a client or my colleagues.
However, the worst thing was the negative impact on my private life: My moods would change constantly, and I was easily irritated. Even the most trivial problem would trigger either an outburst of rage or leave me frustrated and confused. That, of course, put a strain on my relationships with family and friends. During that time I wasn’t able to date anybody or to have a decent relationship because I just didn’t want to be around people anymore.
Discovering the cure for your insomnia can be a long journey
For more than two years, I tried different methods to improve my sleep: exhausting myself with extended exercise or long walks, changing the room I slept in, banning all electronics like TV or laptops from my bedroom, starting a low-carb diet, experimenting with going to bed either earlier or later. I also tried various stimulus control methods at night like reading a book or leaving my bed to do a bit of stretching or just to sit quietly in the dark for a while. Some of these behavioral approaches may indeed be a great way to reduce your daily stress, but for me, nothing of this really helped me with my sleep problems.
Please don’t get me wrong. Everyone has different ways to improve his or her sleep, and some of the mentioned methods might well work for you, especially if you don’t suffer from chronic insomnia and only have a bad night’s sleep from time to time. There is undoubtedly no one-fits-all solution when it comes to curing sleeplessness.
Trying to fix your insomnia can sometimes make things worse
However, in my case, it took a while until I realized that I was somehow trying to enforce sleep by looking desperately for ways how to become tired and finally find some rest. Four hours in bed without sleeping doesn’t only feel like an eternity, it also gives your brain plenty of time to do what it is used to do when you are facing a problem: to seek for a solution, in this case, an answer for how to get rid of insomnia.
It is precisely this struggle of trying to fix your sleeplessness what stresses you and keeps your awake. It took me more than two years to finally learn this from a friend who had long been a mindfulness meditation practitioner. He said to me: “You have simply forgotten how to sleep. If you cannot sleep, don’t stress too much about it because that stress is what keeps you awake. Instead, accept your inability to sleep and also the worrying thoughts associated with it. Then you can start to relax, choose to let go the worrying thoughts and sleep will come back naturally.”
I know, you might think that this just sounds too easy and too good to be true. That’s at least how I felt when I was given my friend’s advice. But then I thought why not giving it a try, there is nothing to lose.
What is mindfulness training?
A little disclaimer upfront: I am not a mindfulness training expert myself and cannot give you a detailed overview of what mindfulness is. All the following information is based on my experience with practicing mindfulness to improve my sleep plus some research that I carried out.
In brief, mindfulness means to be aware of your current thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging them. As we all possess the ability to be aware of what we are currently doing and where we are right now, it is nothing new we need to learn. However, as most of us focus either on past or on future events, we may require to train ourselves to pay attention to what’s going on in and around us in the present moment.
The primary goal of mindfulness training is not trying to control your thoughts, feelings or ultimately your sleep, but first and foremost to only notice and accept your current state of mind. By doing so, you stop treating your insomnia as an enemy which your brain is forced to attack and from which you want to escape. Instead, you gain the confidence to tell your brain: “I’m safe right now, there is nothing to be afraid of.” This shift lowers your stress levels and puts you in a more relaxed state, the most essential step to be able to fall asleep naturally.
How can mindfulness exercise help you to sleep better?
The mindfulness training techniques aim to cultivate your awareness of both, your own present thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as well as the external things and actions that are going on around you right now. This may include observing objects in your natural environment, paying attention to things and activities you usually take for granted (like opening a door), or listening to a conversation or to music in a non-judgmental way.
Since what keeps us awake at night are often our unhelpful thoughts and painful emotions, that are exactly the areas where you can focus on when starting with mindful exercises to improve your sleep. The mindfulness training techniques which were most helpful for me while lying awake in bed were actually quite simple:
- Focusing on my breath (without changing it!) and just noticing the physical sensations that occur while I am breathing such as the movement of my chest and belly.
- Noticing and welcoming my thoughts, even the annoying and scary ones.
The reason why these two are so powerful is that they are interrelated. Let me explain this in a bit more detail: When I started with my mindfulness exercises, I would first try to focus on my breath and notice what happens in my body while I was breathing. But especially at the beginning only a few seconds into this exercise I would feel how my usual unhelpful thoughts pop in like this one: “If I don’t fall asleep within the next half an hour, I will not get enough sleep to be able to cope tomorrow.” I don’t know how you feel, but my natural response to those kinds of (judgemental) thoughts has always been trying to get rid of them as soon as possible.
The key is to notice and accept your unwanted thoughts
Now taking the mindfulness approach you are supposed to do the opposite and to accept and even welcome these kinds of thoughts like a visitor by saying something like: “Hello XY-thought, good to see you. How are you today?” I know it sounds all a bit crazy and at the beginning that’s exactly what I thought. I felt irritated to “welcome” my (annoying) thoughts. That’s when my trainer proposed to me
- to give the thought a name and
- to clearly state my painful emotion associated with it in my welcoming message.
So I named this particular thought “Mr. Coping” and whenever Mr. Coping would show up, I’d say: “Hello Mr. Coping, nice to see you again. I know you would like me to become nervous but why don’t you sit down and we have a cup of coffee instead?”
This simple trick was a real game changer for me! Suddenly, the thought that previously had a profound effect on my emotions, had now lost its power and was shrunk to a simple, almost ridiculous idea that you do not need to fear or run away from!
This was the moment when I started to understand how powerful mindfulness exercise can be for stress relief and, as a result, for gradually improving my sleep. About four weeks after starting with the practice my sleep pattern had already drastically improved, and I was able to sleep for more than six hours most of the nights.
Mindfulness for stress-relief and better sleep
I know that I was very fortunate with my reasonably quick recovery. However, I have heard from different people who have used mindful exercises to help them sleep better. Many had the same experience, some managed to get back to sleep even earlier, while with others it took longer. But many confirmed that once they learned some basic mindful exercises, they felt an instant relief during their nighttime struggles. Until today I am practicing mindfulness training and it has become a powerful tool for stress relief in my daily life.
I think it all boils down to one big issue: stress and our response to it. At first, it seems that there is only this vicious cycle of stress causing bad sleep and bad sleep causing stress. While there are a lot of challenges in our life which we cannot control, we are almost always able to choose the way we deal with stressful life events. Mindfulness exercise helps you to understand that there is a choice on how to respond to stressors such as unwanted thoughts and painful emotions at night. That was such an empowering experience for me, and it may also give you the necessary confidence and energy to find a way out of the vicious worry cycle towards a good night’s sleep.
The mindfulness exercises worked for me, and I definitely encourage you to try it out if you want to improve your sleep and live a less stressful, but more relaxed life.
However, the way we sleep is very individual and what works for one person might not work for another. Everybody has to find his own way to tackle sleeplessness. There are also many sleep disorders which require a profound understanding of the person’s physical, psychological, social and medical condition. Whenever you have a problem with your sleep, it is vital that you speak about it with a medical professional who is specialized in the field of sleep medicine. Don’t just try to figure out things on your own as it is absolutely necessary to find out the root cause of your sleep problem.
Insomnia has taught me some precious lessons
Through my journey getting back on track with my sleep, I regained my joy of life, and it totally changed how I deal with life today. I am very grateful for that so that I can say now: Although I wish nobody to suffer from insomnia or anything similar, in retrospect I think my struggle with sleeplessness taught me some precious lessons.
These are the most important ones:
- Our life is now, not yesterday, not tomorrow but in the very present moment. And in order to enjoy our lives, we also need to make every moment count. So in case you are facing a problem like not being able to sleep or any other kind of challenge, don’t hesitate when you can act now.
- The negative worrying thoughts, the many “what if’s” which are floating through our minds (at night) can become our reality, but only if we let them. Remember, you have the power to choose, so go ahead and do it!
- If I could handle my insomnia, you can manage it too! We have more strength than we may give ourselves credit for.
With Good Sleep Anywhere I want to help you on your journey to get back on track with your sleep and to regain the joy of life.
Good Sleep Anywhere: Make good sleep a priority in your life
While I was working on my sleep problems, I decided to make good sleep an absolute priority in my life. There are many different methods to enhance the overall quality of your life, but I am convinced that the most effective way is to reduce stress by cultivating our basic human need for sleep.
Good sleep isn’t only an issue for people suffering from sleep disorders nor is it just another self-optimization strategy to better cope in a highly competitive society. The quality of our sleep impacts all areas in our life – the way we live, love, exercise, work, travel and many more. It is absolutely essential for everybody who wants to increase his or her energy levels and live a more mindful and relaxed life.
The importance of good quality sleep goes even beyond our personal health and wellbeing. The relationship between sleepiness and car accidents as well as work-related injuries is well documented. Giving rest a high priority is therefore also a vital aspect for making our society safer.
My mission with Good Sleep Anywhere is to help you to make sleep a priority in your life to overcome stress and its related sleep problems and to be able to live a more relaxed and happier life.
Therefore, this site is not meant to be just another personal blog where you find my view of various topics on sleep. This site’s goal is to serve as a resource where you can find helpful information on how to improve the quality of your sleep in different areas of your life such as health, home, exercise, and travel.
I also would like to invite you to share your ideas and experiences on anything sleep-related. You can always leave a comment or contact me.
Sleeping soundly feels excellent, and all of us are capable of having a good night’s sleep – no matter where we are!