Stop stress before bed to sleep better

Q:  “My problem is stressing out before bedtime.  I prevent myself from sleeping by freaking out before I go to bed.  I take prescription sleeping pills and if I’m not asleep within 10 minutes I start to panic.  If I wake up in the night I start to panic.  Any suggestions?”

Sounds like you may have a conditioned form of insomnia, possibly psychophysiological insomnia, one of the most common types.

You get ready for bed and start to freak out.  Your description suggests your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs about sleep — probably distorted and overly pessimistic — are contributing to a hyperstimulated state that prevents sleep.  Making this connection between your thoughts and insomnia is actually a big part of the solution.

Hyperstimulation from excessive levels of stress and anxiety can also contribute to panic attacks in the middle of the night.   Some of us experience unrelenting stress and anxiety practically nonstop throughout the day, and often worry about sleep well into the night.  The hormone cortisol, produced naturally in the body in response to stress and anxiety, often underlies a hyperstimulated state that makes sleep very difficult.

The solution to better sleep is of course to treat the root cause — which is not insomnia. The inability to sleep is only the symptom.

That’s why many experts think sleeping pills may do more harm than good.  They are only treating the symptom while leaving the real basis unaddressed to cause ongoing problems.

Without more information, I’m not sure what medical condition your prescription is treating.  This would be a good question to ask your doctor.  If you are taking pills only to force sleep, this suggests you are only treating the symptom.

On the other hand, if you are experiencing overwhelming levels of stress and/or anxiety, you should be getting professional help and prescription drugs may be part of that solution.

What you describe may be psychophysiological insomnia, a very common form of primary insomnia.  It typically stems from some combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep, and has no other identifiable medical basis.  Literally millions of people have this condition in some form.

The standard of care used by sleep professionals to treat psychophysiological insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically designed for insomnia.  CBT is a collection of drug-free methods that enables you to identify and release counterproductive sleep thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. You also learn how to reduce stress and anxiety, while simultaneously incorporating healthy sleep habits.

CBT has been repeatedly proven to be very effective.  It has helped restore normal sleeping to many who’ve tried it.

Some examples of CBT methods that might be helpful for you include establishing a regular sleep-supportive schedule that you keep consistently.  Daily exercise.  A relaxing routine at least an hour before bed that avoids anything stressful.  A possible change in your bedroom environment, perhaps a decluttering, so that you begin to automatically associate your bedroom with the idea of refreshing sleep.

And possibly most important, learning how to identify and recognize the negative and probably distorted thoughts you have about sleep, so that you can disregard and replace them with something better, more accurate, and supportive of good sleep.  CBT  provides all of this and much more.  When worked simultaneously, these methods begin to tip the balance scale in the direction of good sleep.  And you do so permanently, without the need for drugs of any kind.

You can learn CBT for insomnia from many sources, including sleep doctors and professional counselors.  If you are the self-help type, you will find many free and inexpensive CBT for sleep resources online, including the Sleep Training System.  If you haven’t yet checked into CBT for sleep, it might be well worth your while.

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

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One Comment on “Stop stress before bed to sleep better”


  1. […] chronic stress and excessive anxiety are two major culprits of insomnia, along with bad sleep habits.  CBT for […]


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