Can’t Sleep? Change How You Think About it
It’s fitting that I’m typing this post at 3:45 am after being awake for the past hour. I have plenty of good company, 60 million Americans have difficulty sleeping.
Thankfully, it’s not a regular issue for me, and when I occasionally find myself wide awake in the middle of the night, it’s a great time to get writing!
Sleepless nights are not something we have to expect to put up with.
Being unable to sleep, occasionally or regularly, is such a common occurrence, we start to think it’s normal. Just like getting headaches or heartburn, it may be common, but it’s not “normal”.
Because it’s so common, we typically fail to recognize the toll of lost sleep.Being tired shows up in ways we don’t always recognize as lack of sleep.
A weakened immune system, poor focus, accidents and injuries, angry outbursts, depression, anxiety….they’re all effects of deficient sleep.
Like most health problems in the US, sleep issues get funneled into the medical system, and no big surprise, the medical system tries to treat them with medicine.
People aren’t having trouble sleeping because they have a deficiency of benzodiazepines. Sure, a drug will knock you out, but that’s a far cry from fixing the problem.
And no big surprise to me, changing how you think about sleep is key to changing your sleep patterns.
For sleep patterns to change, your thoughts and beliefs have to change. The more your thoughts and beliefs change, the better you sleep.
“For example, a person who believes that they cannot cope without 8 hours sleep each night will be more prone to worry about their sleep, and this worry may make their sleep worse — the belief about sleep is a self-fulfilling prophecy.” — Melissa J. Ree of the Marian Centre
It seems counterintuitive, but dropping the belief that you’re not going to function well after a fitful night plays a role in better sleep.
So, while long and short term effects of sleeplessness exist, we can’t fear or worry about them.
The fear and worry, and the belief that you’ll pay the next day create a self fulfilling prophecy.
The beliefs translate into actions that further worsen the problem.
You might change how you manage your day after a night of poor sleep. Chances are, you double up on caffeine, skip your workout, cancel meetings or outings…
These choices just increase the chances that you’ll sleep poorly again the next night. They enhance the problem because you’re feeding and nurturing it.
Instead, believe you’ll cope the next day even with poor sleep. This more trusting mental state puts an end to the anxious state that perpetuates sleeplessness.
Cognitive behaviour and mindfulness techniques are the answer.
Cognitive behavior therapy means learning to change negative and harmful thoughts and beliefs about sleep into more productive thoughts and beliefs.
Mindfulness techniques involve meditation, breathing exercises, and acceptance.
Pay attention to your thoughts about sleep.
Do you believe you’ll be a wreck the next day? Do you believe you’re justified to scrap your plans and goals for the day? Do you expect to have a some sort of physical or mental break down as the price you have to pay?
Clean up those harmful beliefs and change them to thoughts that’ll help instead of hurt you.
Yes, you’re short on sleep, and yes, you’ll cope with it and everything will be ok.
Here are some alternative thoughts for you:
“I’m dynamic in mind and body. I’m adaptable, and my day and night play out with perfection.”
“I cherish my relationship with sleep and it feels good to be still.”
“My body knows how much sleep it needs, and I trust it to work harmoniously”
“Sleep is my friend and I welcome it warmly.”
Yes, you can have restful and healthy sleep!
A pill isn’t going to be a long term solution to healthy sleep.
Value your common sense healthy habits. Get fresh air, exercise, eat well, enjoy some hobbies, take breaks, and most importantly, examine your thoughts.
Change your thought, and you’ll see the permanent change in your life you’re looking for.