People often think that the only significant part of treating insomnia is the physical, active part. The stuff about fixed wake up times, getting lots of natural light, drinking lots of water, limiting TV at night, and so on.
It turns out that this is only half of it. The other half is the voice inside your head that says “all of these activities are leading me to a better place”. The trouble starts when you subconsciously slip on a few of these habits and your sleep starts to slide. Then it becomes a viscous circle of negative reinforcement.
I’m stuck in that very rut now – and I know that I’m in it. Before the Holidays, my sleep was gradually getting better and better – so much so that three of the best sleeps in two years happened in the last couple of months (I use a Zeo Sleep Monitor which can pretty effectively and objectively evaluate your sleep). But in the last ten days it’s taken a nosedive. So probably my worst five nights have been in the last two weeks.
Sleep isn’t something that we set out “to do”, like going to the mall or driving a car. It’s the natural process of mental and physical relaxation that happens to us when we let it. Unfortunately, our thoughts can get in the way.
How to Defeat Sleep With Negative Talk
If you’re like me, you’ve done all the activities you can to set yourself up for good sleep. But even after all of this, you still have a lousy night – or several lousy nights. This is really challenging, and it’s hard not to think “poor me”.
But this is the hard part. This is the time when you’ve got to change all of those thoughts about sleep that you’re having from negative to positive:
- Change “I sure hope I get some sleep tonight” into “I will sleep well tonight”.
- Change “Despite all that I’m doing, I still can’t sleep” into “I’m doing all the right things today to get good sleep tonight”.
- Change “I did everything right, and I still get no sleep” into “If I keep doing the right things over the long term, my sleep will come around and improve”.
- Change “I’m going to sleep in a bit today because I need the rest” into “I’m getting up at the regular time today because long term this is the only thing that will help”.
- Change “I’m so tired – I’m going to bed early tonight to try and catch up” into “I’m tired, but that’s a good thing. If I stay up until my regular bedtime, I’ll sleep really well”.
Posted by Doug at BuildBetterSleep.com