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How Technology Helped Me Finally Sleep Through the Night

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I had heard people talk about going to therapy. I had heard discussions waiting in line to pick up my prescriptions at the pharmacy, when I was getting a pedicure at the nail salon and even when I was having my oil changed at the car dealership. It seemed that everyone was going to therapy for one thing or another, but not me.

I was one of the those optimists who was holding out, hoping that my primary care physician could somehow take my sleepless nights and transform them into hours of peaceful slumber. However, nothing seemed to be working. As diligent as my PCP was at ensuring that my allergies stayed at bay, several “trial and error” medications still couldn’t provide more than four or five hours of sleep. I did everything. I followed the directions. I stopped eating late in the evenings. I stopped watching TV or even glancing at my smartphone hours before bedtime, just waiting to prepare my mind for shutting down for the night.

Nothing seemed to work. I was literally at my wit’s end before I decided to finally do it. I called a therapist, and I scheduled my first appointment.

Walking into the office, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, although I was thinking something similar to visiting a regular doctor about health-related issues. We had our initial consultation, in which she asked me quite a few questions regarding my sleeping patterns, seeming genuinely concerned with my overall lack of sleep, yet all the while typing away on her tablet. For the first time since my battle with insomnia began, I felt a little bit of hope. I definitely got the impression that we were getting somewhere.

However, this was all somewhat expected. I expected to discuss my lack of sleep, and I desperately hoped that the therapist would supply some suggestions, and maybe even change my current night-time prescription prescribed by my physician, which was a basically a muscle relaxer that “might” make me feel a little drowsy.

Yet, I did not expect what happened next.

My therapist instructed me to download an application called Mentegram right to my smartphone, and she let me know that I should expect reminders to come though on my device, prompting me to fill out period information on my emotions, events of the day and, most importantly, my sleep, or lack thereof.

I didn’t have to wait long to receive what I perceived to be almost instant therapy gratification. My first bit of “homework” was in the form of a sliding scale asking me about events of the day and to decide by a smiley-face icon where the range of my emotions happened to be at that precise moment. It was very simple and to the point, but it felt good, because I was actually reporting my feelings directly to my therapist as I waited in line to check out at the grocery store. Really… how cool was that?

I received additional prompts from Mentegram to take even more surveys and questionnaires, with one specifically designed to measure my quality of sleep each morning when I woke up. There were also information sheets that I was sent occasionally to explain some of the aspects of my treatment. This was way more than I expected from what I had anticipated to be a simple, straightforward visit to a therapist, that’s for certain.

When I returned for my next office visit, I felt prepared, like I had studied intensively for an exam. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I might have been just walking in with no idea what might be happening in my treatment. My therapist had already received the input from the app, and she had already reviewed it, determining where to go from there before I even walked in the door. I hate to waste time, and I felt like I had just saved a truck-load. We went over what I would be working toward, and she showed me a few more pieces of “work from home therapy” that I would be participating in before my next appointment. This was organization at its epitome, which is also something that I revel in.

So, a few months have passed since my initial introduction to therapy, and I have realized several things.

1. I should have done this a long time ago.
2. I will embrace new technology every chance that I get.
3. I am perfectly capable of getting a full night’s rest.

Now, I didn’t come to all three right away. The sleeping took a little bit of time, and I still have nights when deep sleep continues to elude me. However, those evenings are the exception, and no longer what I accept as normal behavior.

But the first two are no-brainers. Waiting to accept help when you desperately need it is never a good idea. It doesn’t make you strong or brave to “hold out.” It just creates a situation where we eventually come to the realization that we could have been feeling better months ago, and we suffered for absolutely no reason.

Secondly, I realized technology could improve my life. Was it more difficult to drive before GPS came into existence? How did you like going to the video store before Netflix? These are just a few examples of how things have changed for the better because we decided to try something new.

If you are currently undergoing therapy, this technology may be something that your therapist already offers. If not, chances are that they may be implementing it soon. In either case, you will stay better engaged with your treatment between office visits, and you’ll be using ground-breaking technology to help you through some of life’s most difficult moments. Does it get any better than that?

Disclaimer: I am proud to say that I now actually work for Mentegram, a healthcare company who is bridging the gap between therapists and their patients with the same type of software that I described above. Now I can hear success stories about how technology has helped other patients with a host of mental health conditions, which is the absolute best part of my day!

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Thinkstock photo via boggy22

Originally published: May 21, 2017
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