Talk Therapy Can Prevent or Treat Insomnia

Our founder was recently interviewed by Tyler Gallagher CEO and Founder of Regal Assets. Below is a re-post of the article.

Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?

In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.

As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Haley Brothers.

Haley Brothers is the founder of Weekend Made Sleepwear and a mother of two young children. During her first pregnancy she suffered from insomnia triggered by sensory defensiveness — a fight-or-flight response to the seams in her pajamas. This experience inspired her to create a high-quality, seamless sleepwear line for women and children with sensitive skin and sensory processing disorders.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?

Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview Tyler! I spent most of my career working in marketing, so it was certainly not a linear path that got me to where I am today. After suffering from insomnia during pregnancy I did a lot of research on sleep and how to improve it. I’m very excited about pivoting my career in a direction that allows me to help people in a very meaningful, tangible way.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?

During my first pregnancy I suffered from insomnia. I had a condition that is referred to as sensory defensiveness. It is a fight-or-flight response to something that most people would consider neutral or positive. Sensory defensiveness is typically categorized based on which sense is affected. In my case it was tactile. If I felt rough seams on my legs I began to itch and would tear my pants off in disgust. I often coped by wearing my pajamas inside-out. Enduring this extreme skin irritation that led to insomnia and fatigue gave me a huge amount of empathy for people who suffer from these triggers every day. I also spent many years marketing sleepwear at Nordstrom and worked closely with the buyers. This gave me a lot of insight into how I could take my newfound empathy and turn it into a product that could benefit others.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

Suffering through bouts of insomnia during pregnancy meant I had to tap into resources, such as books and doctors, to reach a solution that worked for my own individual experience. Once I started my business, I knew I needed to create something unique and different from what was already available, and I knew it needed to work for a spectrum of people, not just me. To achieve this, I researched the science of sleep, how medical disorders influence the sleep experience, which fabrics are best for the skin, and ultimately created a product that could benefit many types of sensitive sleepers.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker is a great primer on the topic of sleep. Matthew Walker does a great job explaining his many years of complex sleep research in a very simple way. He has inspired my approach to many daily habits, such as when I drink coffee, to how I explain to my children why they need sleep.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work? Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx said “don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” I find this quote endlessly inspiring because it can apply to anything in life. For me personally, it helped maintain momentum at a time when I didn’t think I’d ever get my business off the ground. I made some unique decisions about how to construct my sleepwear line to achieve the outcome I wanted. I was turned away by factories that said it could not be done, or that it was too difficult to sew this seam with that fabric. Sara’s wisdom gave me hope that the difference in my product was important. I know I cannot compromise the unique qualities of my sleepwear line and do what everybody else is doing. I ground myself in times of stress by relying on the knowledge that being different is the key to achieving my business’ long-term goal of helping people enjoy a higher quality of life by enabling great sleep.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?

Young people need a lot more sleep than older people. In fact, newborns can sleep up to 17 hours a day! With our 5-year-old daughter we try to ensure she sleeps 11–12 hours per day. Children may sleep longer during periods of growth, and less at other times. It’s important to be patient with them, as it will impact their well-being. The recommended amount of sleep tapers over time for children as they age and settles around 7–9 hours of sleep for adults. The elderly still need 7–9 hours of sleep, but may experience shifts in when they sleep as they age.

Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10PM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?

The specific hour of the day that you go to sleep isn’t highly relevant. Daylight, in general, does have a large influence on your circadian rhythm though. Due to this, it is ideal if you can sleep while it is dark outside. Studies have been performed on night shift workers showing that they have poorer sleep quality due to disruptions in their circadian rhythm caused by sleeping during the daytime. It’s also important that you focus not just on the hours you spend in bed, but on the quality of the sleep that you are getting. If you wake frequently, for example, you may still experience symptoms of sleep deprivation. Caffeine consumed late in the day will reduce the quality of your sleep, requiring additional hours of sleep in the late morning to feel rested.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?

The greatest benefit of sleeping well is that it lowers the risk of disease later in life, examples include heart disease and diabetes. It can also prevent minor illnesses, so you won’t get sick as often. Short term, it can have a huge impact on your ability to learn, form meaningful relationships and feel happy.

Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?

Getting a good night’s sleep should absolutely be a top priority in life. Sleep affects our mood, our ability to learn and retain information, and has a huge impact on our cardiovascular health. After a poor night’s sleep, you’re more likely to get into a car accident or even have a heart attack. Sleep deprivation has even been used by abusers for coercion because it causes you to make poor decisions.

The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?

You make a great point that healthy habits can be very hard to form, even when we have a lot of knowledge. Three huge blockers preventing people from integrating their knowledge into their daily lives are:

  1. Habits are difficult to form. Reward yourself for achieving short and long-term goals related to your sleep. Set 7-, 30-, 60- and 90-day goals so that you continually motivate yourself to maintain great habits.
  2. People are hesitant to share tough experiences. Communicate your goals to close friends and family so they can help you stay accountable and support your journey.
  3. Denial could be at play. Your sleep problem may not seem like a big deal now, but it could lead to serious health implications in the future. Consider speaking with a health professional who can help you sort through your mental and physical blockers.

Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?

In my opinion, good sleep seems much more difficult today than it was in the past. There are so many electronic distractions in our lives that can prevent the body’s ability to achieve a healthy circadian rhythm. However, there are also many more tools at our disposal that can help us to get good sleep. Nowadays it all comes down to consciously making positive choices that lead to good sleep habits.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.

Here are the 5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized:

  1. What you eat and drink affects your sleep. Two substances we regularly consume can have a large impact on your sleep, caffeine, and sugar. Let’s say you like to have a scoop of ice cream after dinner. If you are eating vanilla ice cream, it takes around three hours for your body to fully digest it. So, if you try to go to bed within three hours of finishing your ice cream, you will probably have trouble falling asleep. Now let’s say that you decide you want to eat chocolate ice cream. This will not only affect your ability to fall asleep within three hours (from the sugar content), but it will also affect your quality of sleep throughout the night. The culprit in this scenario is the caffeine in the chocolate. Caffeine affects your ability to get deep sleep. Deep sleep is an extremely important factor in whether you wake up refreshed and energized. It is best to avoid caffeine for six or more hours before bedtime to achieve deep sleep. As a best practice I avoid caffeine after noon.
  2. Your cell phone disrupts your circadian rhythm. We all love our phones. We just need to make a conscious decision to stop using our phones a couple hours before bedtime because the blue light that is emitted from cell phones disrupts your circadian rhythm, making it hard to fall asleep. If this is truly impossible for you there are some workarounds that you could try. Wear blue light glasses while using your phone, turn your phone on dark mode, and at a minimum, put the phone down 30 minutes before bedtime.
  3. Antihistamine sleep aids make you feel foggy. Many people rely on the occasional over-the-counter antihistamine sleep aid. While antihistamines do a great job of aiding sleepiness, they do not help you to feel refreshed and energized the next day. It’s best to avoid sleep aids and focus on natural ways to get sleepy. Some of my favorite natural sleep aids include reading, meditation and breathing exercises. The 4–7–8 technique is useful to relax the mind. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and release for 8 seconds.
  4. Exercise increases how much deep sleep you get. I mentioned in #1 how deep sleep helps you wake up refreshed and energized. Exercise is a wonderful way to increase how much deep sleep you get. If you’re unable to engage in vigorous exercise, make sure you can at least fit in some walking or yoga. Bonus, walking or running outside in the morning can help improve your circadian rhythm because the light tells your body it’s daytime.
  5. Talk therapy can prevent or treat insomnia. Let’s say you’ve tried everything I mentioned above, and you still aren’t seeing results. At this point I’d recommend tapping into a professional so you can get the sleep you need. Before going through a bunch of rigorous sleep tests I’d suggest looking up a cognitive behavioral therapist. It’s been proven that people who engage in talk therapy fall asleep 20 minutes faster. If you feel like there are a lot of stressors in your life, or there is just something bugging you that you need to get off your chest then this is a great route to pursue.

What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?

If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t easily fall back asleep it is best to get out of bed until you regain your sleepiness. The problem with staying in bed, tossing, and turning, is that your body will start to associate the bed as a place where you cannot sleep. This can create or reinforce any sleep problems you’re experiencing. I find it helpful to meditate during this time to clear the mind. If you aren’t comfortable meditating on your own, there are many helpful apps like Headspace or Calm that simplify the exercise.

What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?

Short naps are a fantastic way to relax and improve your mood after a poor night of sleep. Longer naps can interrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to sleep problems. It’s best to use long naps sparingly, such as when you travel a long distance, are not feeling well, or missed an entire night’s sleep.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to meet Sylvana Durrett, one of the founders of Maisonette, a boutique for children’s clothing and décor. Maisonette was created because Sylvana and her business partner, Luisana Mendoza, saw a lack of options for discerning parents. I’d love to learn from her experience founding a business grounded in high-quality products for children. Sylvana also worked at Vogue for many years under Anna Wintour. How cool is that?

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find helpful sleep and relaxation tips on my blog.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity!

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