Scared of insomnia

Q:  I am going through a severe bout of insomnia.  What sleep I do get feels light and fragmented.  At bedtime I feel wound up and have a hard time letting go even though I am physically and mentally tired.  I’ve been reading about all the horrible consequences of chronic insomnia and am afraid that will happen to me.  I’ve also read the HPA Axis may be responsible for keeping me wired up and I’m afraid my system is malfunctioning.   What can I do?  Is there any hope?”

First, yes there is hope.  And second, yes there is plenty you can do.

What can hurt your natural built-in ability to sleep well is dwelling on intensely negative thoughts and emotions, like fear.  And endlessly replaying in your mind all the bad things you think will happen to you because of insomnia.  That’s a sure recipe for tossing and turning instead of a good night’s sleep.

We suggest there is no real reason to be afraid of insomnia.  There are many imaginary reasons that you no doubt are well aware of.  But the emotion of fear only makes sleeping problems worse.  Instead of fearful thoughts, we suggest using realistic and accurate thoughts about sleep.  By doing so, you may choose to safely release fear and replace those negative emotions with better, more accurate thoughts about sleep.

When you reality check your fearful sleep thoughts against proven facts about sleep, you probably will discover all those fears are very likely off base.  Inaccurate.  Unrealistic.  Overly pessimistic.  These distorted and overly negative thoughts are doing you no good.  They are, in fact, hurting you.

You can choose to replace these negative and inaccurate thoughts about sleep with more reasonable, proven facts about sleep, such as this:  you cannot not sleep.

That’s right.  Your physiologic requirement for sleep is far stronger and more powerful than your insomnia.  That is an inescapable fact.  At some point you can, and will, sleep.  Your body and mind require it.  You can leverage this fact to your advantage, and CBT methods for sleep enable you to leverage it very effectively.

What you are describing sounds like psychophysiologic insomnia, largely caused by excessive worry about the idea of sleep.  This actually is very common.  Some surveys suggest 30 million or more Americans have it.  So if it’s any solace, you are hardly alone in what you are experiencing.

You are correct about the HPA axis, however it’s probable that you have no malfunction.  Instead, your mind-body system is likely responding as it should because it cannot reality check for you.  Think of your HPA axis as only capable of processing the information, or more likely misinformation, you are feeding it.  It’s therefore probable your HPA axis is keeping you wired because you are incorrectly believing in overblown threats that are largely imaginary and not real.

So what you are experiencing is most likely not some inherent defect.  Rather, your insomnia is very likely a do-it-yourself project, as it is for the vast majority of us with sleeping problems.  In other words, it is self-imposed.

And therein lies your way out.  If you can do it to yourself, you can also choose to not do it to yourself.  And that is one of the best ways to help yourself sleep better.

This presumes you in fact do not have a medical condition that is disrupting your sleep.  Even if you do, that in itself is nothing to fear.  The majority of such conditions are treatable.  That’s a good reason to have a medical checkup if you haven’t had one recently.

To help yourself sleep, the best methods to gain factual sleep information and learn the process of replacing negative sleep thoughts are contained in a comprehensive CBT program specifically designed for insomnia.  These methods will enable you to increase your sleep drive, reduce and control negative sleep thoughts, and create optimal sleeping conditions for yourself, among other things.

CBT for sleep helps most people who try it.  Many become normal sleepers again.  You should be confident that by doing these things conscientiously you will start sleeping better.

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

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2 Comments on “Scared of insomnia”

  1. Michael Dee Says:

    I am 32 years old and been deprssed my whole adult life. In the past two months I have had no sleep due to the worrys about my sisters hospitilization. I continue to worry bout her and the rest of my family specially my mother. I feel so weak and helpless and blame myself for my families misfortune. I am terrified of no sleep and dont know what to do


  2. […] tired sometimes isn’t enough.  One of the most frustrating aspects of insomnia is the “tired but wired” syndrome — the awful feeling of absolute exhaustion combined with the inability to […]


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