Posted tagged ‘fear’

Can I die from lack of sleep?

July 6, 2018

Q:  I haven’t slept now for 8 straight days.  I don’t know why and no meds work.  What will help me?

A:  Start with the idea that you’ve actually gone 8 straight days without sleep.

Did you not even lay down one time with your eyes closed during those 8 days?  How do you know you didn’t sleep?  Did you keep a log, or use a sleep tracking device?

Sleep state misperception is rampant among insomniacs.  Studies in sleep labs consistently show insomniacs underestimate how much actual sleep they get by at least an hour or more per night.  This happens when we are in fact asleep but don’t realize it because we are, well, sleeping.  All we remember is the aggravation of tossing and turning in bed, frustrated at our inability to sleep.

If you honestly examine your belief that you’ve gone 8 straight days without sleep you’ll likely find that it is false and inaccurate. An overblown exaggeration.

What you probably mean is you haven’t slept as well as you’d like over the past 8 days.  And if so, welcome to the club.  You’re no different than literally millions of others who struggle with sleep.

This is key for you to understand:  your false belief about the reality of sleep, the excessive negativity you are buying into, is probably fueling your insomnia to at least some degree.  And you are hardly alone in this.  Many if not most insomniacs do the exact same thing, and it becomes a vicious self-perpetuating cycle that can be difficult to break.

Fortunately, there is a way out.  There is a proven way to derail inaccurate and negative sleep thoughts, and replace them with something better, more accurate, and more supportive of good sleep.  It’s called cognitive restructuring.  Using this method you can literally think your way to better sleep.

Cognitive restructuring is one of the core tools in CBT sleep training.  What a good CBT sleep training program will do is give you a positive, supportive structure for implementing cognitive restructuring, as well as provide many other proven methods to help yourself sleep — and all without drugs.

As always, you should check with your doctor to either treat or rule out any underlying medical issues disrupting your sleep.  But be confident you can fix this, permanently.

When Insomnia is a Do-It-Yourself Project

May 28, 2012

Q:  “I worry constantly about not being able to sleep.  Do you think my insomnia will get better if I stop worrying about sleep?  Could it be that this issue is in part maintained because I am so worried about it?

Definitely.  For so many of us, insomnia is a do-it-yourself project.

This is presuming you do not have a medical issue that’s keeping you up, such as sleep apnea, allergies, pain, and so forth.  There are effective treatments for these medical issues to help you sleep.  So if that’s the case you should see your doctor for an assessment and diagnosis.

And if you ever feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, seek professional help.  Just google “mental health clinic” and the name of your community and you will find many resources.

But otherwise if you have near constant negative thoughts about sleep, yes it’s very likely insomnia is something you’re doing to yourself!  Bad sleep habits also play a role, but for so many of us insomnia’s raw fuel is the persistent negative thinking, stress, and worry we do to ourselves.

The way out of this is very simple.  The first step is very simple.

You simply decide.

You simply choose to want to make it better.  It’s very important to understand you in fact control this choice.  You can make this decision at any time.  It’s up to you.

When you decide you want to make it better more than you want to make it worse you will be on the road to better sleep .  Because that’s what worry does to insomnia… prolongs it, gives it negative mental energy, keeps you up.

All of us have worry, all of us have some level of stress, all of us have some anxiety.  Those are all normal, ever-present parts of life.  But we can choose where to put that worry.  Perhaps you can find something else besides sleep to worry about.  Maybe you can find another topic or subject that is healthier, and put your energy into that.  For instance job and career building.  Many resources out there, online and in the library.  Creating and nurturing a healthy social support network.  Having positive relationships with friends and family.  Putting your time and energy into areas like that help you, they don’t hurt you.  And you’ll be so busy with work, family, and friends, you won’t have time to worry about sleep.  Then, don’t be surprised if you sleep much better!

Once you decide you really want to help yourself and put an end to this once and for all, there are many resources available that are very effective to help you sleep better.  One of the very best is cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for sleep (CBT-I).  Using the methods in CBT-I, most insomniacs learn to sleep better, learn to reduce and redirect the negative thinking, learn healthy sleep habits.  Many become normal sleepers again.

But CBT-I will not work unless and until you really want to change.  That’s step one.

To ask a sleep question, or for more information on how the CBT-I-based Sleep Training System can help you restore quality sleep, please feel free to contact us.

Control negative thoughts for better sleep

March 8, 2012

If you are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, a significant part of the problem likely stems from negative thoughts and beliefs about sleep.  There can be a myriad of other causes that can keep you up of course — ranging from caffeine to allergies — but in general negative sleep thoughts and attitudes, which often are unrealistic and inaccurate, are the potent raw fuel that feeds insomnia.  Reduce or cut off the energy that feeds these negative thoughts, and sleep improves.

Here’s a few common examples of the kinds of negative sleep thoughts that are likely distorted and overly pessimistic, and which often fuel insomnia:

If I don’t fall asleep right now, my performance will suffer tomorrow.

I’ll have another bad day today because I had another bad night last night.

It’s hard for me to let go and fall asleep.

Oh no, I’m up again!  This is out of control!

Any of these sound familiar?  If you are having trouble sleeping, you are hardly alone.  Millions of people think just like this, but you should realize this kind of thinking is counterproductive.  It only works to increase worry and anxiety, which undermine good sleep.

The keys to overcoming negative thinking are to first identify the negative thoughts and understand why these thoughts have little to no basis or truth to them.  This understanding then allows you to safely disregard them.  You then replace the negative thoughts with something better, more positive, something that you control and that is supportive of good sleep.  This entire process, known in psychology as cognitive restructuring, can be repeated throughout the day and night, whenever negative thoughts crop up.  It only takes a few seconds to do once you learn the technique.

Eventually, without mental energy fueling them, the negative thoughts wither up and die.  They go away for good.  What’s left are more positive and accurate beliefs about sleep, thoughts that you control, and which support good sleeping.

For better sleep, it’s important to understand you in fact control your thoughts.  You can choose, if you so desire, to think about sleep in more accurate and realistic terms. This will help you sleep better.

There are many effective ways to learn cognitive restructuring techniques, which form one cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for insomnia.  CBT works.  It has been clinically proven to help most people sleep better, and many who’ve tried it eventually become normal sleepers again.

If you are not satisfied with your sleep, we invite you to take a look at the Sleep Training System, an online, downloadable CBT-based sleep improvement program.  The user-friendly STS takes you step-by-step through highly effective cognitive restructuring techniques plus offers many more CBT-based tools for better sleep.  The STS is a permanent and natural insomnia solution that has no side effects and requires no drugs of any kind.

Please feel free to contact us with your sleep questions, or if you’d like more information about the STS.

How important is faith?

January 23, 2012

Can you learn to sleep better even if you don’t believe you will?

Interestingly, faith isn’t necessarily a requirement for many CBT-based sleep training methods to work.  In other words, you don’t have to be convinced these tools will work to experience a significant benefit.  Faith helps of course, but it isn’t absolutely mandatory.

As one example, by reducing the number of hours in bed to more closely match how much you actually sleep, or even a bit less (sleep timing), you tend to increase your homeostatic sleep drive. An increased sleep drive normally results in better sleep.  It’s a fairly straightforward cause and effect that to some extent works whether or not you believe it will.  Faith is not unimportant, but secondary.  That’s one reason this particular method is so effective.

More profoundly, the cognitive restructuring methods used in CBT sleep improvement also work without necessarily needing faith.  Faith helps immensely of course.  But even if you don’t believe they’ll work these methods still enable you to constructively address the negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety that significantly contribute to insomnia.

Here’s why. One of the keys for cognitive restructuring’s effectiveness is the ability to vividly imagine alternative outcomes. These outcomes are the ones you deliberately choose to imagine, and specifically to help yourself improve. You don’t have to actually believe the image you create is true. By just vividly imaging it, you will experience a benefit.

This brief description of the process is of course greatly simplified, but the underlying concept is valid. To be sure, much care must be taken in forming an effective image and to accurately identify the recurring negative thought patterns that underlie the problem. But surprisingly, even without faith in the image the restructuring method, properly used, still works.

Make no mistake, faith is important.  As is hope and a positive attitude. Life is much easier with these things then without them. But even for nonbelievers, if you are willing to get in there and do the work you can effectively help yourself sleep better.

Understanding Night Sweats and Insomnia

January 20, 2012

Night sweats are more common than you might think.  A significant number of people (41% in one study) report them on a regular basis.  Some consistently are awakened in the middle of the night soaked with sweat, and may do so for years, even decades.  Beyond the obvious reason of a too-hot sleeping environment, there can be many medical causes for night sweats, and some nonmedical sources as well.

We’ll focus on the common nonmedical basis for night sweats, and what you can do about it to help yourself sleep better.

First, if you are concerned about night sweats a checkup with your healthcare provider is in order, as the condition can be caused by a number of treatable medical conditions.  For instance, older women experience hormonal changes associated with menopause which can cause hot flashes and subsequent night sweats.  This is treatable.  Men also are subject to hot flashes as they age, although less frequently.  Certain prescription drugs, hyperthyroidism, some types of disease, influenza, hypoglycemia, and other medical conditions may also contribute.  An assessment from a healthcare professional can help diagnose if any of these issues can be identified and treated.

Beyond medical causes, two other common sources of night sweats are excessive levels of stress and anxiety experienced during waking hours.  These also are treatable, although getting to the root source for stress and anxiety is not strictly a medical issue.  Instead, managing stress and controlling anxiety require understanding one’s own perception and reaction to stressful situations, and a method to manage the negative thought patterns that underlie anxiety.

Excessive levels of stress and anxiety experienced during the day often create a hyperaroused state that contributes to night sweats.  Cortisol, the stress hormone, may play a role.  Created in the body in response to perceived stress and anxiety, cortisol acts to increase heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure.

For some people stress is chronic, experienced nearly nonstop throughout the day and often well into the night.  This has the effect of elevating blood cortisol levels, which can remain in the body hours later.  In this way stressful events experienced hours earlier can potentially contribute to the hyperaroused state associated with sweats in the middle of the night.

Night sweats often occur between cycles of sleep.  That’s when sleep is typically lightest and we experience the least self-control.  Normal sleepers briefly awaken the five or six times between cycles of sleep experienced each night, and then fall back asleep within seconds. Typically these very short periods of awakening are so short they are forgotten by morning.

But if you are in a hyperaroused state because of excessive levels of chronic stress and/or anxiety experienced during waking hours, instead of falling back asleep quickly between cycles you may go the other way – toward an increased level of worried wakefulness.  You may suddenly feel your heart pounding, like a shot of adrenaline is coursing through your body.  Overheating and sweating then quickly follow.  If and when that happens, it understandably takes longer than a few minutes to fall back asleep.

When night sweats occur, there are a number of things you can do to help yourself cool off and fall back asleep.  But it’s important to recognize that sweating and insomnia are only symptoms of something going on deeper.  To get to the true root of the problem requires good methods to both manage stress and control anxiety.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to do this.  A good CBT-based sleep training program will include potent methods to reduce levels of both stress and anxiety experienced during waking hours.  You also learn relaxation tools and techniques to deploy during the night. These tools enable you to more easily let go, quiet your mind, and thereby move naturally back toward Stage 1, a drowsy state more conducive to sleep.

For more ways to help yourself sleep better, or to ask a sleep question, please feel free to visit us at www.sleeptrainingsystem.com .

Put nightmares in proper perspective for better sleep

January 11, 2012

A surprising number of people are often disturbed by nightmares, disturbed to the point where it affects their ability to consistently get a good night’s sleep.  Here’s a few ideas to help put nightmares in proper perspective for better sleep.

First, rest assured if you are having a nightmare that you are in fact actually sleeping, and for those with trouble sleeping that’s a good thing right there.

Dreaming is a continuous process through sleep cycles, but typically the most vivid dreams occur during REM sleep. This suggests a nightmare is normally experienced during REM sleep, which means you can be assured of several more benefits beyond the fact that you are actually sleeping.

REM sleep normally occurs at the end of much deeper sleep phases.  So if you have a nightmare, you are in fact benefiting from the most restorative and physically refreshing stages of deep sleep that usually precede REM sleep.

Even if the nightmare is disturbing, in balance the physical benefits you receive from experiencing deep sleep are likely far more important to your overall well being.

Second, although the exact function of sleep and dreams is still not completely understood, many sleep experts believe dreaming and especially REM dreams help consolidate memory, process events, and help re-set one’s mood for a new day.   So even if you have a nightmare you can be assured that you are in fact processing events in your life as you should be through your dreams.

Some psychologists suggest that recurring nightmares are a symptom of trauma, stress, and anxiety experienced during waking hours.   If you are experiencing unusual stress or anxiety that affects your daytime functioning, counseling can help.  In this way professional counseling might also help reduce the frequency and intensity of bad dreams.

Finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, nightmares are in fact only dreams. They are not real. Reminding yourself of this might help you let them go, be less disturbed by them, and just accept them for what they really are — including the aforementioned significant benefits.

Putting nightmares in a realistic and accurate perspective might help you say what many of us say when we experience them: “Whew, I’m glad that’s only a dream!”

Nightmares are only dreams.  They can’t hurt you.

For more sleep tips and information on ways to sleep better naturally, or if you have a sleep-related question, feel free to contact us.

“I’m afraid to fall asleep” … and what to do about it

December 5, 2011

Question:  “I am sometimes afraid to fall asleep.  Before allowing myself to go to sleep, I sometimes go to great lengths to make sure I wake up again.  I do things like drink lots of water or set my alarm to awaken me every 2 or 3 hours.  It’s very uncomfortable, but I don’t know how to get over this.  What can I do?”

You may be experiencing something that many of us feel but don’t talk much about.  By falling asleep, we lose conscious control. While we are asleep, we are in a way “gone”, superficially like we are gone when we die.  By making this subconscious connection, whether rational or not, sleep may be misperceived as a state similar to death.  And since it’s normal to have at least some fear of death, we may also fear sleep and the loss of control it implies.

This is, needless to say, a counterproductive belief. And yes, to an extent, irrational, though understandable. And therein lies one possible answer.

If you fear sleep, first try making your sleeping environment as secure as reasonably possible, so you have nothing to be afraid of while asleep.  Just before nodding off, make it a point to think “no one is going to hurt me when I let go.”  Better yet, believe just the opposite: “I am safe and protected from harm while under the covers.”

Second, try learning as much as you possibly can about sleep.  Objective information will help.  You will discover that sleep really is much more than just an unconscious state of deep rest.

Various chemicals ebb and flow throughout our minds and bodies while we sleep.  We are most capable of fighting disease and replenishing energy lost during the previous day.  During sleep, children grow.  We process memories and enhance our ability to learn and store new information.  Importantly, sleep resets our emotional mood for a fresh new day.

Sleep is, in a word, good.

If you understand and accept this on a rational level, it may be easier to grasp the irrational fear of sleep and then choose to just let it go.  It is a choice.  That’s all.  Letting go of irrational thoughts is actually a very simple thing to do, but easier said than done. Because irrational thoughts can be ingrained and automatic, it usually takes some practice and persistence and determination to counter them.  But rest assured it can be done.  This is something you control.

Taking back control on many levels is one of the main goals you will achieve with the Sleep Training System.  This comprehensive drug-free approach is based on methods used in many of the world’s top sleep clinics, and incorporates cognitive-behavioral techniques.  You learn how to identify and release negative and often irrational thoughts, and how to replace them with something better, something you control, something supportive of good sleep and good health.

For more information about how the STS can help, or if you have questions about sleep, feel free to contact us.