I am not going to review everything I have covered in the last 7 blog posts, but I do want to elaborate on something I mentioned previously in my post on conditioned insomnia. I wrote a little bit about the importance of not trying to fall asleep.
Trying to fall asleep is the one thing that will likely keep you awake if you want to fall asleep. Sleep is the one thing we do that is not rewarded by effort. Trying to fall asleep is not rewarded with sleep, but rather it often causes more fear of insomnia, physical alertness, and sleeplessness.
So, how do you not try to fall asleep?
Well, as discussed previously, you do something else, or you start to think differently about sleep.
Some metaphors I came across in the book Sleep Right in Five Nights: A clear and effective guide for conquering insomnia by James Perl, Ph.D. suggest trying to think as if sleep is taking you over or overcoming you. Like you are a passive object just floating along. One specific imagery he suggests is picturing yourself as a surfer and positioning yourself in the wave and just letting the wave overtake or sweep you away. Or think of waiting for a friend to visit that always comes unexpectedly. Don’t think of sleep as something you can pursue or capture, but rather something that just arrives when it wants to. Be patient and calm.
It is fine to practice relaxation exercises while in bed just as long as the goal of the relaxation exercise is relaxation and not sleep. You can relax, breathe, and meditate all you want, with those being the only purposes, and chances are it may help you be overtaken by sleep.
My personal go to when I find myself awake at night is first scanning my body to see where I am holding tension. Most often it is right in the middle of my forehead just above my eyebrows, or my lower back. Which ever spot it is I focus on that spot and on releasing the tension. Again, I do not try to fall asleep but I just focus on releasing the tension. Before I know it I have drifted off and put my insomnia to rest.
Just a quick tip that I wanted to emphasize. Until next time… Dr. B
Perl, J. (1993). Sleep Right in Five Nights: A clear and effective guide for conquering insomnia. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Danforth, M. (2018). Treating Insomnia: Evidence-based strategies to help your clients sleep. Presentation, New Jersey.