In Praise Of Sleep
Q. You specialise in solution focused therapy. What does this mean?
Solution focused therapy works in a way where we look at solutions going forward. Therapy has traditionally had this image where you need to go over your problems. That isn’t what solution focused does. It looks at where you are now, who you are now, and where you want to go. What is it you want from your preferred future?
Q. Why do you focus on stress and anxiety treatment?
If you can get to the bottom of stress and anxiety, it will cover so much other stuff too. OCDs, obsessional behaviours, being hypervigilant, high blood pressure, panic attacks. It all comes under this umbrella of stress and anxiety. So I say to my clients, if I can get rid of your stress and anxiety all of your other behaviours that you’ve come to me with will be affected. Say emotional eating, whether it’s too much or too little, or if it’s the case that you can’t sleep… deal with the stress and anxiety and everything else starts to get better. It’s like a side effect. I feel that that’s the root cause of everything. That’s what I’ve seen in my clients. Get rid of that root and you’re going to feel in control.
Q. You seem to also focus a lot on the benefits of sleep. Can you expand a little bit about why you place such importance on good sleep?
Sleep is the best medicine. There’s a real science behind it. So much processing goes on when we’re asleep that if you can improve the quality, you will start to feel better. Now I’ll put a little disclaimer there: you don’t want to sleep too much. That’s a sign of depression, as well. It’s about getting good quality of the right amount of sleep. Also, I emphasise it because it’s the easiest thing you can do. It’s free therapy, I call it. I believe that our current mental health epidemic is very closely related to the fact that we are losing sleep.
Q. Why do you think, in general, people aren’t getting enough good quality sleep?
We are now living in a society which is all geared towards staying up late. Netflix, social media, work late, get up early, everything’s online, lots of stimulation. Sleep has got this reputation of being lazy. So we’re in a society that’s encouraged to stay up late, and then we go to the doctor for sleeping tablets. That’s a vicious circle right there. I think it’s the way society has changed, definitely.
Q. Is there any advice you would give to someone on a waiting list?
I know it’s hard, and the NHS is under a lot of pressure right now. [It’s about a year waiting list right now in some parts of the UK]. So what are you going to do in that year? I would say try to take some ownership about what can realistically be done. Being honest with yourself is really the best thing you can do. Don’t look at being on that waiting list as, when you get there they’re going to fix you. Parts of it are down to you and you can get started on those now.
Go to a library and start reading. It’s not getting you to spend money. There’s loads of stuff you can look at online but be careful. Ted Talks are the ones I recommend because they’re verified. Start informing yourself. Monitor your sleep patterns.You can start looking at food and hydration. All the things you already know – try out some of them. Exercise, walks, yoga classes, meditation classes – there are so many other things to try too. I know some of those will have a fee, and I know it might mean you have to put something on the backburner. It might be time now to say I’m going to place priority on this. The biggest investment you can make is in yourself and if there’s something that’s maybe going to make you feel better you have to get a little bit uncomfortable before you get comfortable again.
Gin's Top Tips For Better Sleep
Watch the Caffeine
Start cutting down on all types of caffeine, especially after midday.
Set an Alarm for Bedtime
Introduce a regular bedtime routine!
At least 30 minutes before your bedtime alarm, switch off all your digital media.
Don’t Take Your Phone to Bed
Whenever I say this people say ‘but Gin, my phone is my alarm!’
How much to sleep?
Don’t focus on how many hours. Focus on quality first and the quantity will follow.