Many of the clients that I counsel for burnout express that they find it difficult to sleep at night. It is not surprising for them to realize that they have a sleep deficit, however, when they think about the conditions that have led to their burnout.
Whether they have arrived at “burnout” due to their personal history (they have a Compulsion To Prove), or due to the intensity that they apply to their work (they Work like a Maniac), exhaustion cannot go untreated — and treatment absolutely requires figuring out how to get more sleep.
Most of my clients are able to begin to get as much sleep as they need when they give themselves “permission” to meet their sleep requirements. Initially this could mean ten to twelve hours a night. Some of my clients encounter difficulty giving themselves permission, however. When this occurs, I encourage my clients to explore some simple strategies for getting a good night’s sleep. I then challenge them to analyze what habits they might have that are preventing them from getting a good night’s sleep.
In most cases of burnout, getting enough sleep to combat exhaustion requires a longer recovery period than most people would expect. I tell my clients in counselling that it may take upwards of seven weeks to meet their sleep deficits. They need to consider that missing out on important activities in their lives for seven weeks because they need to sleep is a lesser evil than a life-long battle with burnout.
Many clients being treated for burnout express feeling more tired at first, even if they are actually getting more hours of sleep each night, and they are confused by this. I explain that the body will crash initially when it realizes that you have given yourself permission to sleep.
I have had success treating clients having difficulty sleeping due to their exhaustion. Near the end of their treatment, many have expressed that they haven’t had or felt such energy in several years, and are grateful for their increased levels of energy.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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