We’ve asked Tim: How come we feel so tired but keep struggling to sleep?

“We’ve asked Tim” is part of the series we created to combine Cognitive Therapy and sleep. We’ve teamed up with Tim Grimwade, our brand ambassador and Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapist based in London, to bring us great teachings of how to train our minds.

Tim Grimwade is a Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapist based in Central London who helps people deal with anxiety, sleep issues, phobias, addictions and other seemingly-involuntary actions. With a former career in banking, Tim understands the impact of anxiety and busyness our society faces. In search for life fulfilment he bravely left his established and comfortable job position to embark on a journey to help hundreds of busy Londoners to change bad behaviours and to find happiness. He has a Diploma in Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapy, accredited by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the General Hypnotherapy Register, the Register for Evidence-Based Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy and approved by the British Psychological Society. His methods are long-established, peer-reviewed interventions and are aligned with the conclusions of, among others, the British Psychological Society, the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association.Tim’s approach to hypnotherapy is that we all have a hidden, undiscovered ability to choose so many of the things that we assume are beyond our control.

Today we asked Tim how to deal with some challenges when the night comes:

How come we feel so tired but keep struggling to sleep? What shall we do when we can’t fall sleep and don’t know the cause?

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It can be so tempting to fall into the trap of believing that we can somehow 'summon' sleep, or flick the right switch that starts sleep. In reality, the nearest we have to that is to prepare a suitable set of circumstances for sleep to take place and allow the body to take care of the rest.

This leaves us with a difficult conundrum when even our careful preparation does not lead to sleep. Either the preparations were at fault or incomplete or, perhaps, the sense of wilful urgency to sleep actually worked against sleep. Frustratingly, it is possible to be so anxious to fall asleep that sleep becomes less possible. This is best typified in those nights without sleep when you make frequent glances at the time to see just how late into the night it is getting, and calculating how many hours are left until the alarm will sound. This is a situation of self-perpetuating stress and makes sleep less likely.

So how to overcome this? Let's extend our sleep preparation to include more than just good practices such as limiting screen use later in the evening, avoiding caffeine, regulating bedroom temperatures etc, but also enabling our ideal state of mind and sense of ease with ourself. Acceptance is an important concept for a number of stress and anxiety-related issues and can be applied in this instance too. To harness the value of acceptance, we are not attempting to convince ourselves that we are somehow fine about lying awake instead of sleeping, or that we should be happy if we struggle to sleep every night. It's about simply acknowledging that we have played our part in making sleep possible and whether or not we then sleep well, we will accept. We have now stopped trying to go to sleep and, as such, can no longer 'succeed' or 'fail' in our task. Our job is to relax. Should we then fall deeply into a long and refreshing sleep, then so be it. Your body will provide you with the sleep you need, your job is to ensure you rest when you feel tired.