Is there really any benefit to insomnia?

Some insomniacs undermine good sleep by subconsciously ascribing an imagined benefit to their sleeplessness.  Psychologists call this phenomenon secondary gain.

Amazing as this sounds, secondary gain is a plausible explanation for why some insomniacs wear almost as a badge of honor the various sleep medications they take now or have taken in the past.  It’s almost as if they are proud of having achieved such a serious problem so as to have been prescribed a wide variety of powerful sleeping pills.

Peter Hauri and Shirley Linde describe this phenomenon in their book No More Sleepless Nights.  The late Dr. Hauri was director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, and he would sometimes see this in his clinic.

After all, the reasoning goes, if one is a chronic insomniac one has a legitimate excuse for a lack of performance, for not being able to do his or her best – because of a lack of sleep.  Because it is out of his or her control.

And it’s true that perhaps most of us are more willing to forgive errors in judgment, irritability, and lapses in attention if we know that person hasn’t slept well in weeks.

In this way insomnia can inadvertently become an excuse for getting sympathy, for not doing one’s best.  An unhealthy subconscious dependency can result, which makes insomnia that much more difficult to overcome.

If you are serious about achieving better sleep, watch out for secondary gain.  Be alert to the possibility that you may subconsciously see some benefit, some secondary gain, to having insomnia.

The fact is a sleepless night now and then results in practically no loss in performance for most of us.  That we absolutely must have a solid 8-hours of sleep or performance inevitably suffers is one of several common myths about sleep that many insomniacs hold.

This myth and more are discussed in detail in the Sleep Training System.  One excellent way to deal with the issue of secondary gain is to approach the problem at the thought level, and the STS provides proven methods to accomplish this.  For more on proactively dealing with this issue, see the Self Talk chapter of the STS.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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