Busting the myth of “I can’t sleep”

Q:  I want to sleep more than anything else, but just can’t.  Seems I lie in bed for hours and hours, and no matter what I do can’t fall asleep.  Any ideas?  I just want to sleep!

A:  First, let’s clarify. Yes you can sleep. The fact is you can’t not sleep, even if you tried.  Maybe you mean you can’t sleep when you want for as long you want, but in reality sleep at some point becomes irresistible for us all.

The experience of those with severe untreated obstructive sleep apnea demonstrates this fact well.  Those with untreated OSA can’t sleep for more than a few minutes at a time before waking themselves up, often gasping for air.  They may compensate by getting dozens if not hundreds of microsleeps throughout the night and often throughout the day — a potentially very dangerous situation for anyone with this condition who drives or operates machinery.  Microsleeps are of course a poor substitute for normal sleep, but it demonstrates how one way or another your mind and body will simply not be denied sleep, no matter what you do or don’t do.

The key is, of course, managing the inevitable sleep process for the best results.

The frustration you are expressing is understandable.  There is nothing quite like the agony of being dead tired in bed, wanting to sleep, but aggravated at our inability to do so when we want.

What we can’t do is try and force sleep. That tactic usually backfires as one becomes more alert, more frustrated, more angry at one’s inability to sleep. A frontal assault just doesn’t work.

There are better ways.

We suggest you’ve got to outflank this insomnia to beat it. Take at indirect approach. Outsmart it.

This is usually done by attacking insomnia at its true roots.  First, see a doctor to ensure you are either treating or have ruled out any underlying medical issues.  But don’t be surprised if you have none.  Most insomnia is not caused by a legitimate medical condition.  In that case, you may need to incorporate nonmedical strategies.

These typically include CBT sleep training methods. Such cognitive behavioral methods usually consist of some combination of stimulus control, sleep hygiene, consistent sleep timing, stress management, relaxation training, and control of anxiety.  Any of these issues, if not properly managed, can and will disrupt sleep.

Sleep is more than anything else a process of letting go.  Of not doing more than doing.  The process is the direct opposite of forcing.  But rest assured there is help, including effective methods that are entirely drug free.

Acknowledging the fact that yes in fact you can sleep may be an important first step in a permanent solution for you.  By controlling your thoughts, behaviors, and your environment you can in effect “stack the deck” in your favor for better sleep when and for how long  you want.


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

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