Are your thoughts making your insomnia worse?

Insomnia can sometimes turn evenings into the dreaded time. As night approaches, you begin to think to yourself "Great! Now I'm going to spend my time laying awake instead of sleeping like everyone else." You might find yourself avoiding the bedroom or even delaying sleep because you know you're going to have a tough time falling asleep. It isn't uncommon for people with sleep disorders like insomnia to stay up much later than normal- not because they can't fall asleep, but because they believe they won't fall asleep. So they don't even bother going into the bedroom or creating a good nighttime routine. 

Well, these negative sleep thoughts actually worsen your insomnia. It's all because your thoughts affect the way you feel, and your feelings also affect your behavior. This means that if you think negatively about sleep, it'll create negative feelings about sleep- thus, you'll continue to struggle with insomnia. It's a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Sounds easy enough right?

Negative sleep thoughts are pretty much inaccurate thoughts about sleep. But even though these negative sleep thoughts are inaccurate, you believe them so much that they become the truth in your life.  It doesn't mean that you don't have insomnia, it just means that your thoughts about your sleep patterns are most likely wrong, therefore creating negative feelings about sleep. When you replay these negative thoughts about sleep in your mind all day long, they create a negative stress response in your body, which stimulates a wakefulness response and now it keeps you awake.

In a nutshell, your thoughts are keeping you awake!

The negative thoughts you have when you wake up in the morning also do a great job at souring your mood all day. So when you say to yourself, "Great! I only got 4 hours of sleep. I'm going to be tired all day." You're actually triggering a stress response in your body and you're ensuring that you will actually be tired all day.

To change those negative sleep thoughts, it's important to understand sleep and insomnia better. Now, excuse me while I drop some science on you. It's important to understand a little bit of the science so you can correct it. This is the super important part. Here are some actual facts about sleep:

  • Studies show that most adults need 7 hours of sleep per night- not 8. 

  • Longer sleep times are actually correlated with higher levels of obesity. Plus a lack of sleep isn't leading to weight gain. It's what you do when you're awake that leads to weight gain (snacking, sitting on the couch and other sedentary activities).

  • If you're not falling asleep at work or at school during the day, chances are you might not need more sleep than you're already getting.

  • Moderate sleep loss does not really impair daytime performance. So your life won't be ruined if you lose a few hours of sleep here and there.

  • When you start to change the way you think about sleep, this could actually lessen the stress response that is keeping you awake.

  • You only need about 5.5 hours of sleep to maintain good performance. It's called 'core sleep.' This doesn't mean you should aim for 5.5 hours of sleep every night. But if you manage to average 5.5 hours of sleep, your body won't be too angry. If you need a specific number of hours to aim for, the magic number is 7. It just means that on those nights when you didn't get much sleep, you can remind yourself that you're probably getting your 'core sleep.'

  • Most insomniacs underestimate the amount of sleep they think they're getting. This means you are probably getting more sleep than you think and your body is probably getting more rest than you know.

With these facts in hand, it's time to start changing the way you think about sleep. When you wake up in the morning, instead of thinking negatively, remind yourself of these things:

  • "I probably got more sleep than I thought."

  • "My body really only needs 5.5 hours of sleep to maintain good performance."

  • "I can always make up for lost sleep tonight."

  • "Moderate sleep loss won't affect me too much."

And if you need someone to guide you through a research based insomnia treatment that doesn't require medications or machines, CBT for Insomnia might be the right sleep disorder treatment for you. Click here to read my previous blog post- “What exactly is CBT for Insomnia.” In as little as 6 to 8 weeks, insomnia can be a thing of the past for you. Click here to schedule a free consultation call so that we can decide together if CBT for insomnia is right for you. You can also call me at 951-905-3181 to find out how CBT for insomnia can help you sleep again. Think about it. In as little as 6-8 weeks, you could be sleeping like a baby. I provide insomnia treatment in Murrieta as well as online.