Changing Your Beliefs and Attitudes Sleep
It is important to examine your beliefs and attitudes about sleep and insomnia. The way people think about a particular problem can either alleviate or aggravate that problem. For example, when you worry about how poorly you slept the night before, it is likely to make you more apprehensive about the upcoming night. Excessive concerns about the consequences of poor sleep can also feed into your problem, and an overly preoccupied mind or emotional upset are not very conducive to sleep.
To regain greater self-control over sleep, you must first set aside previously held beliefs and replace them with more adaptive ones. Self-imposed pressure to achieve certain sleep standards, excessive concerns about the consequences of poor sleep, and false assumptions about sleep all attribute to insomnia. Consider the following. . .
- Don't blame the loss of sleep on such things as "my sleep problem is entirely due to pain or to some biochemical imbalance" or "I'm just getting older and it's normal to have sleep problems."
Although age, pain or physical ailments may contribute to sleep difficulties, psychological factors can either make them better or worse. It is more important to adopt a more constructive attitude and assume some control over these factors.
- Don't blame insomnia for mood swings, lower energy, and poor daytime performance.
There are numerous factors, including natural fluctuation in energy levels as well as stress in other areas of your life, which may cause those problems. Be careful not to blame it all on sleeplessness.
- Don't worry about the daytime consequences of an occasional poor night's sleep.
This will only aggravate your problem. When you worry about those presumed consequences, it only makes you more anxious and decreases your tolerance for sleep loss. It also feeds into the vicious cycle of insomnia, emotional distress, and more disturbed sleep.
- Don't have unrealistic expectations such as "I must sleep eight hours every night" or "I must fall asleep in minutes."
Sleep requirements vary widely among individuals. Sleeping only a short time may not be abnormal. There is no "normal" for the amount of sleep a person needs. The average sleep duration for adults is seven to eight hours, but some people function well on as little as four to five hours of sleep. Sleep as much as you need to feel rested in the morning and remain alert during the day, but no more.
Do not put pressure on yourself to achieve a certain level of sleep; this will only increase your anxiety and perpetuate your insomnia. The speed with which one falls asleep also varies. Your spouse may go to sleep as soon as his/her head hits the pillow. Yet, it may take you 30 minutes to fall asleep; don't worry about it. It is better not to compare your sleep patterns with others.
- Don't panic after a sleepless night, it only makes matters worse.
Stay calm and accept the fact that you didn't sleep well. Sleep loss is more likely to be distressing if you perceive it as stressful rather than a challenge. There is no need to feel like you have to make up the sleep you have lost. One good night of sleep usually is enough to put you back in shape.
- After a sleepless night, try to minimize problem-solving tasks the following day.
After a sleepless night, some things may seem more complicated or more difficult to handle than they really are. Stay on cruise control that day, if you can, and avoid detailed tasks.