Capture negative sleep thoughts to control them

Q:  I am going through a severe bout of insomnia.  I have no underlying medical problems and believe this is entirely an anxiety issue.  Despite knowing that, I seem powerless to stop it.  I just cannot stop the obsessive, fearful worrying about sleep.  For me it seems like even the smallest worry thoughts are enough to keep me awake.  Any advice?

A:  The racing mind and negative sleep thoughts you are describing are a major problem for many insomniacs.  But rest assured there are effective ways to deal with this.

To specifically deal with the anxious worry about sleep, it’s very helpful to write down these negative thoughts.

Doing that has many benefits.  First, it seems much easier to recognize how distorted and overly pessimistic these thoughts are when they’re reduced to cold black and white on a page.  Writing them down helps us be more objective in understanding them rationally.

Along the same lines, it’s especially important to evaluate these thoughts for realistic accuracy.  You might use the “worst case/most probable scenario” analysis to judge whether or not these thoughts are overblown or something important to address.  This analysis is just one of many helpful tools you can use to evaluate recurring negative thoughts; there are many good ways to to do this.

If and when you find a negative sleep thought has actual merit or basis, then you can devise an action plan to address it.  And with that plan in mind then more easily let the negative thought go and allow yourself to fall asleep.

Maybe more importantly, when these negative sleep thoughts recur it will be much easier to release them with the countering rational thought that “oh yes, I’ve already covered that and eliminated it as a realistic concern.”

To insomniacs, distorted and negative thoughts about sleep are a lot like cockroaches — they hate to be exposed to the light of day.  Seems they would much rather try to scurry off and hide in poorly lit corners where they’re more difficult to control.  Writing them down enables you to shine a bright light and really examine them.  By capturing and controlling these seemingly amorphous negative thoughts, you effectively counter them.

The method we’re describing here to control negative thoughts is known as cognitive restructuring, one of the core methods in CBT-I — cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for insomnia.  CBT is actually a combination of proven methods that are usually very effective for most people in helping to restore better sleep permanently, without drugs, and with no side effects.

So be assured good methods are available that you can use to control and counter these negative thoughts.  And of course if you ever feel overwhelmed, there’s no shame in reaching out for professional help.

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

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One Comment on “Capture negative sleep thoughts to control them”

  1. […] CBT suggests is re-thinking your ideas about sleep, to correct them to something more accurate, realistic, and positive.  Something that more truly […]

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