Why some people sleep better on the couch than in their bed

Q:  I don’t sleep well in bed.  Seems like I toss and turn for hours.  Yet I can fall asleep with no problem on the living room couch.  Why?

A:  This may be a form of conditioned insomnia. Like the bell that made Pavlov’s dogs salivate, your bedroom can become a powerful cue that keeps you up.

If, for instance, you allow 8 hours for sleep but toss and turn for 5 of those hours, you are spending more time in bed awake and frustrated than actually sleeping. In this way you can become unwittingly conditioned to associate your bed and bedroom more with wakefulness and stress than with sleep.

On the other hand, an entirely different sleeping environment won’t have the same cues and associations as your bedroom. Some insomniacs toss and turn in bed, then move to the living room couch and immediately fall sound asleep. Or go on vacation and have no problem sleeping in motel rooms, in a tent, or just about anywhere besides their own bedroom. This sort of conditioning is actually fairly common among insomniacs.

This is one reason why many sleep experts suggest getting up and out of bed if you are tossing and turning in frustration. Don’t let yourself lie there for hours and hours.  Just go back to bed once you feel drowsy so you can reinforce the association of sleep with your bedroom.

There are ways to effectively deal with conditioned insomnia, both behavioral and cognitive. On the behavioral side, you can try creating as much of a stress-free bedroom environment as possible.  Getting rid of clutter or anything that might cause stress can help, as can avoiding any stressful activities in the bedroom.

But equally if not more important is to enter this negative cycle of insomnia at the mental level, and constructively deal with the thoughts, often subconscious, that you inadvertently associate with your bedroom and insomnia.

All of these methods and much more are covered in detail in a good comprehensive CBT for insomnia program, like the Sleep Training System.  The STS is a completely natural, drug-free method to constructively address the root problems that underlie primary insomnia.  For more information, we invite you to check www.sleeptrainingsystem.com.

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One Comment on “Why some people sleep better on the couch than in their bed”

  1. ettinacat Says:

    Doesn’t explain why I can fall asleep at a reasonable time if I start out on the couch but toss and turn in a bed unless I can wedge myself firmly against the wall.


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