REI Sleep Case study – 52 year-old female with sleep problems, anxiety, mood issues, speech disfluency, poor concentration, and social isolation

We work with a lot of adults with sleep issues. Many have a history of sleeping well, only to begin having problems in their 40s and 50s. This case study is a great example, especially given that this client was highly educated and articulate. This offered us insights into the program that we often don’t gain from other clients.

M.M. described herself as “a mildly depressed, moderately anxious person who has problems sleeping”. Her symptoms before starting the REI Custom Program CDs included; difficulty falling and staying asleep, trouble concentrating, speech dysfluency, and generalized anxiety. One of her main concerns was that, because of her inability to sleep and her tendency to fidget at night, she and her husband slept in separate rooms. This had a significant negative impact on their relationship.

She also reported that, because of her low energy levels, depressed mood and anxiety, she wasn’t interested in social interactions. Her lack of social interest further stressed her marriage as well as contributed to a feeling of isolation from her friends and family.

Despite her efforts at practicing good sleep hygiene, which included taking a bath before bed, going to bed at the same time each night in a dark, quiet room, and avoiding alcohol and large meals before bedtime, she still had difficulty getting to and staying asleep. She also reported that she felt she didn’t sleep deeply enough to have dreams and when she used melatonin she reported that she often experienced nightmares when she did finally fall asleep.

Upon starting the REI Custom Program, M.M. described that the CD “was a pleasant experience to listen to” and that for the first few days she experienced a “rush of energy” that was unusual for her and bordered on uncomfortable. This energy rush passed after three days and was replaced by an energy level that was still higher than before starting the REI Custom Program but wasn’t uncomfortable for her. She described that she had more energy “just to be” and found herself able to socialize more.

She reported that she began sleeping after three days of listening to CD#1 of the Program in mid-morning. She described that she would fall asleep within 1/2 hour of going to bed and would sleep deeply for 7.5 to 8 hours. She also related that for the first time in her memory she was having pleasant dreams every night.

She found that the listening volume needed to be very low for her, as evidenced by one day playing the CD while in the shower and turning it up loud enough to hear over the water. She was irritable the rest of that day. This is not uncommon for sensitive people, so it was suggested that it would be best to alter the week three protocol to ensure that the transition from CD#1 to CD#2 would not over-stimulate her and cause her mood or sleep to be disrupted. It was recommended that she alternate days (CD#1 day one of week three, CD#2 day two, CD#1 day three, and so on) instead of playing both CDs alternately each day as it typical for the REI Custom Program.

At the end of three weeks, M.M. described that listening to CD#2 gave her more energy during the day and didn’t disrupt her new deep sleep patterns. The biggest impact for her aside from consistently having restful sleep, was that she was less anxious and her mood was elevated. She was enjoying more social contact and wasn’t tired during the day.

As the REI Custom Program progressed over the ten-week duration of the Program, she continued using CD#2 in mid-morning and continued to have about 8 hours of sleep each night. She described that the CDs “were an important part of my day: A part that I look forward to”.

Aside from improvements in her sleep M.M. felt fewer feelings of depression and anxiety. Her concentration also improved, probably as a result of no longer being sleep-deprived. And probably most importantly, she and her husband we able to sleep in the same bed. This improved their sense of intimacy. She was also more socially connected to her family and friends, which further increased her sense of well being.

This case study was also part of a larger research paper on the use REI for sleep. You can read the paper here.

You can also get another perspective on REI for sleep in Strong Institute Director Jeff Strong’s book Different Drummer.

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