I worry about sleep all day

Q:  I worry about sleep all day, but when I lay down, I can’t.  In bed, all I think about it is not sleeping no matter how hard I try.  Please don’t tell me things like exercise, drink warm milk, sleep in a cool room, because none of that has worked for me.  I need to turn off my mind, but am my wit’s end how to do it.  Does anything really work?

A:  You probably hit the nail on the head with your insight about “I worry about sleep all day …”

You are right, worry feeds it.  That’s where a lot of insomnia gets its energy from.   Take away the worry, and you stand to sleep better.

Presuming you have no untreated medical or psychiatric issues disrupting your sleep, your description suggests you may have psychophysiologic insomnia.  A checkup with your doctor will help you determine this, but as one form of primary insomnia, it is very common.  Millions of people have it.

Psychophysiologic insomnia is characterized by excessive worry about the idea of sleep, and has no other identifiable medical or psychiatric problem associated with it.  That’s why sleeping pills generally can’t fix it.  Sleeping pills are most likely only treating the symptom, not the true roots of the problem.

If this is you, then absolutely yes, you have the ability to make this better.

Most of the things you described as not working are actually important parts of an overall solution.  (What you didn’t mention is a consistent sleep schedule, one of the most important keys to better sleep).  These kinds of things are all part of what’s known collectively as sleep hygiene.  Combined, they help.  But by themselves they may not be enough, and they won’t necessarily help you turn off your mind when your head hits the pillow.

You will likely be greatly helped by turning down the negative thinking about sleep.  This generally involves identifying and replacing distorted negative sleep thoughts with more accurate and realistic thoughts about sleep.  Like these: your physiologic requirement for sleep is more powerful than your insomnia.  You can’t, in fact, not sleep.

The best overall solution to primary insomnia is contained in CBT – cognitive behavioral therapy – specifically designed for insomnia . CBT is the standard of care recommended by the AASM, the professional society of doctors who specialize in sleep medicine.   It is very effective, drug-free, permanent, and has no side effects.

CBT components include sleep hygiene practices combined with powerful methods to reduce and control negative thinking.  CBT also includes effective relaxation techniques to help quiet your mind while in bed.  Doctors, counselors, and other healthcare providers use CBT, and if you are the self-help type, you will find many resources books and online programs.

For most people who have no other untreated medical or psychiatric issues, a good CBT-based sleep training program works.

CBT has helped many people recover normal sleep.  There is every reason to believe it will help you too.

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

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