Updated: Apr 26, 2022
The road to healing from trauma includes filling up your own cup, taking time to look after yourself, and putting into action self-care strategies… such as sleep.
The STARS of self-care If you Google self-care you can find lists like 20 self-care strategies and the A-Z list of self-care tips. These types of lists provide great ideas, and they can also create overwhelm. There is too much choice. It’s like going to a restaurant with a huge menu. Which self-care strategies do you pick?
Blogging STARS is one of Broken to Brilliant’s programs to support survivors to rebuild their lives after abuse. The course focuses on evidence-based self-care, including sleep, tapping, activity, regulation and support. It has taken the hassle out of knowing which self-care strategies to select. A guest speaker educates domestic violence survivors about each self-care principle and why it is so important to put it into action, and then participants write a blog post about the results.
Sleep and trauma Emeritus Professor Dorothy Bruck from the Sleep Health Foundation talked to us about sleep patterns, and how trauma can impact our sleep and why. She talked about how those unhelpful thoughts can be turned around. You know the ones… ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I can’t cope without enough sleep’. We learned a lot of strategies to help improve our sleep and were given the next 6 weeks to make changes in our lives and write about our experiences.
First, you have to go to bed
For me, going to sleep is not a problem. I can sleep at night, I can nap during the day, I can sleep on a plane and a train. I have been known to miss my station because I have fallen asleep. If anything, I go to sleep too fast (latency measures our speed of falling asleep). Getting into the bed to go to sleep is my problem. I need to train myself to go to bed earlier. Not going to bed creates the problem of not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. I have spent several years since the traumatic events working at increasing my sleeping hours. During the peak of the trauma, I would sleep 4-5 hours. I have since increased the hours I sleep to 6-7 hours.
Permission to go back to bed
What has helped me most from Professor Bruck’s sleep session was discovering that waking up during the night is normal.
Waking up is normal – during the night there are cycles of light and deep sleep across the night.
I would wake and then think about everything I needed to do, and my brain would start racing, so I would get up and tackle the never-ending to-do list.
Learning that waking up is normal, and you can go back to sleep and not worry about having a broken sleep, gave me the permission to go back to bed.
You know what? I went back to sleep.
I know this sounds ridiculous. I have tried to do it before. Sometimes it worked, most often it didn’t.
This time, after Professor Bruck’s words, perhaps it was an aha moment, or I just needed to hear it one more time, or finally it sank in – it is okay to wake up and go back to sleep.
There are benefits of Blogging for domestic violence survivors - read more
Blogging STARS program
This Blog is a part of the Broken to Brilliant Blogging STARS self-care program, which supports domestic violence survivors to practise the self-care strategies of Sleep, Tapping, Activity, Regulation and Support, (STARS). As they practise the strategies, they blog about it. You can read their survivor STARS Blogs: