Insomnia – Is it all in your head?
Worrying about not getting enough sleep could be the very thing that is causing your insomnia. Although sometimes there could be factors preventing us sleeping such as our diet and health, in a large number of cases it could just be all in the mind. Many of us are actually sleeping much better than we think. What many people actually have is ‘paradoxical insomnia’ where they think they are sleeping much less than they actually are. This can especially be common in people that are a bit anxious or sleep lightly. They may not be getting as good a sleep as the average person but studies show that although they tend to wake up a lot they are still getting sleep in between looking at their clocks. Because the sleep is very light they get the feeling that they are not sleeping at all so accepting that they are actually getting some broken sleep is the first step to tackling insomnia.
Insomnia is often about fear. Fear of just lying awake, fear that they can’t sleep or fear that they will not be able to function at work properly if they do not sleep. This fear then becomes a cycle and then going to bed becomes a negative task and then the fear of sleeps sets in.
So insomnia can simply be as much of a problem as the individual decides to make it. The problem is in your head. So if you can think your way into a problem then surely you can think your way out of it. But how can you do this?
First of all don’t put pressure on yourself to sleep. Don’t think of yourself as going to sleep but think of it as going for a rest. Resting is very restorative. As soon as you put pressure on yourself to sleep it’s not going to happen. So, make rest your goal! Research shows that for some cognitive tasks the benefits of rest were indistinguishable from sleep.
Much of the time people have decided for themselves wether they are good or bad sleepers. Remember you get what you focus on so if you focus on being a bad sleeper then you are probably going to get a bad nights sleep. Maybe if you decide that you are a good sleeper then if you do get a bad night then it won’t be so much of a big deal. Good sleepers have a belief that they are going to be fine whatever happens in the night. People that get highly stressed about their sleep have more depression, tiredness and cognitive impairment than people with a more positive belief system about their sleeping habits.
Increase your confidence about falling asleep by determining what time you need to get up then set your alarm and count backwards five and a half hours and don’t let yourself go to bed before that time (so in this case it would be one am). Make sure that you get up with that alarm and that you do not allow yourself any little naps throughout the day. Once you have done this for a few days your body will try and satisfy it’s need for sleep by making those five and a half hours as efficient as possible. Your sleep will then become much more continuous and much deeper. Once you have developed the confidence that you will fall asleep you can start bringing your bedtime forwards until it feels right for you. People may try and tell you that you need eight or nine hours sleep but research shows that six or seven is enough for a lot of people.
Move away from defining yourself as an insomniac by taking your focus away from sleep. See if you can go a whole month without talking about it! If you are asked by anyone about it then just say you slept fine.
Sometimes if we haven’t slept well the night before we tend to go to bed early in order to make up for it. This is a common mistake. It’s far better to go to bed later rather than earlier so that you make your sleep more efficient and don’t lay there in bed putting yourself under pressure to sleep.
You can start your bedtime routine as early as in the morning. Pick a wake up time and STICK TO IT! The brain loves consistency so if the brain has routine then it knows what is coming. Exercise is also a great idea. Early in the morning and outside in the fresh air is even better.
Sometimes it can be a case of an overactive mind. If I find my mind racing when I go to bed I find it very useful to use Emotional Freedom Technique to shut down my thinking. Hypnotherapy can also be very useful either by finding the root cause of the problem or using suggestions to help you sleep and get back into a routine.