Break the cycle of insomnia

Break the cycle of insomnia by changing the way you think about sleep.

Do you think a lot about sleep? Are your thoughts about sleep generally positive or negative? If sleep is on your mind, it’s a fair bet that you’re not sleeping well. Good sleepers tend not to think about much about it, as they have the luxury of taking sleep for granted.

Thinking about sleep is your mind’s natural way of trying to solve a problem. In most other cases, if we think long and hard enough about a problem we can often figure out a solution. Unfortunately, when it comes to sleep, the opposite is true. The more we think about sleep, the worse it becomes.

Understanding how you think about sleep, and changing unhelpful thinking patterns about sleep is an important step towards overcoming insomnia. The process is called “cognitive restructuring” and it is one of the five core components of cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia (CBTi).

You can learn how to change your thinking about sleep, along with many other skills, in the online course to overcome insomnia called A Mindful Way to Healthy Sleep.

The following video is a short excerpt from the course, that describes the influence of your thinking in sleep and how this contributes to the vicious cycle of insomnia.

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You can find more information about insomnia here. And you can learn more about the influence of thinking on sleep in the related articles When the mind won’t stop thinking, just sit back and watch and Are you stuck with insomnia, chronic fatigue or anxiety?

Video Transcript

Dr Giselle Withers: In this session, we will focus on creating a healthy mindset for sleep. We’ll look at what patterns of thinking might contribute to your sleep problems. Then I’ll explain how changing your thinking about sleep can help you to break out of the cycle of insomnia.

So, first let’s review the cycle of insomnia.

Insomnia can be understood as a vicious cycle of unhelpful thoughts about sleep, “I must sleep now or I’ll be really tired tomorrow”, that lead to emotions such as anxiety and frustration, and physical symptoms including symptoms of hyperarousal, such as increased muscle tension, heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature, and unhelpful behaviours, like watching the clock, tossing and turning.  And, all of these reactions leads to further wakefulness.

In the previous module, we talked about different actions you can take to improve your sleep. These are what you call behavioural strategies because it’s changing what you DO, your behaviour.

In this module, we are going to focus on the cognitive side of things. That is, we’ll look at the way you think about sleep and especially the unhelpful thoughts you might have that are counter-productive, and put you in this vicious cycle.

Changing your thinking about sleep is not easy, but there are some useful steps you can follow to challenge unhelpful thoughts and generate a more balanced way of thinking about sleep.