Constantly obsessing about sleep

Q:  I obsess over whether or not I will sleep.  I toss and turn for hours worrying about how insomnia is hurting my mind and body.  For me this is not so much a sleep issue as it is a worry issue.  I hate feeling like this and feel like nobody understands what what torture this is for me.  How can I stop worrying so much and sleep better?

A:  What you are describing sounds like a form of psychophysiologic insomia, one of the most common types.  While survey data is limited, the Institute of Medicine estimates there are likely tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone who have some form of what you are going through.  So if it’s any solace, you are hardly alone.

This may not necessarily be what you have — or all that you have — that’s responsible for disrupting your sleep, so it’s important to see your doctor to either treat or rule out any underlying medical or psychiatric conditions.  But don’t be surprised if your doctor can find none.  No true underlying medical conditions is another of the hallmarks of psychophysiologic insomnia.

If that’s the case with you, then you are probably right about this being is more of a worry issue.

To treat this, look at solutions to address the nonmedical root sources of your insomnia.  These root sources typically are more than just worry, however.  That’s only one part of it.  The other part is bad sleep habits, actions, and behaviors which many people do inadvertently.  Like take 3 hour naps during the day and expect to sleep well that night.

The problem with taking sleeping pills for psychophysiologic insomnia is drugs do not get at the true root sources, only the symptom.  With this condition, you’ve got to get beyond the symptom to get at the true underlying issues, which are likely some combination of excessive worry about the idea of sleep, and bad sleep habits.

Fortunately, there are proven solutions to treat psychophysiologic insomnia.

Cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for insomnia (CBT) is the gold standard to treat psychophysiologic insomnia.  It is a permanent solution that is completely drug free.

CBT includes two parts, as you would expect, the cognitive and the behavioral.

Cognitions refer to the thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and attitudes you hold about the idea of sleep.  The cognitive component enables you to manage and reduce the worry, so it is less likely to fuel your insomnia.

CBT’s behavioral components address all the actions you take — or in some cases actions you don’t take — that either support or undermine good sleeping.

These two components work synergistically together, and are a potent nondrug method to permanently improve sleep.

So have hope.  Check out CBT for sleep, either through your doctor or other healthcare professional, or use one of many good online resources if you are the self-help type.

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

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