If you suffer from insomnia or otherwise find it hard to get to sleep, then you will find that this can have unpleasant and unwanted knock-on effects in every area of your life. Sleep is critical for our mood, our immune system, our memory and much more and if you struggle to drift off, then you won’t be running on all cylinders the next day. In the long term, you can end up being more likely to become ill!
There are lots of things you can do to improve your ability to get to sleep. Improving the environment you’re sleeping in will help for example, as will making sure that you’re relaxed before bed and avoiding things like caffeine or action-packed computer games right before you drift off.
But your ability to sleep is also to do with your mental state and if you can’t get in the right mind frame for sleep, then no amount of ‘sleep hygiene’ is going to help. Fortunately, we have CBT to help us change the way we think (cognitive behavioural therapy).
So the question then, is how you can use CBT to get to sleep more easily? And the answer to that question is simpler than you think…
How to Get to Sleep… Stop Trying!
The irony is that worrying about getting to sleep is just about the worst thing you can possibly do for a sound night. The problem is that many of us identify as people who have trouble sleeping. Thus, when we go to bed, we do so expecting that we’re going to have problems drifting off and this means we’re in a somewhat defensive state of mind before we rest.
This, in turn, causes more problems because it means we’re not going to bed essentially during a stress response. We’re stressed that we’re not getting to sleep ironically! And this, in turn, means that we’ll end up beating ourselves up, tossing and turning and getting more and more aggravated that we aren’t actually resting.
Have you ever looked at the clock, seen that it’s 4 am, and just felt a sense of dread about what tomorrow is going to be like?
That sense of dread means your heart rate will have increased and it means that your thoughts will be racing. This is the furthest from sleep you could be!
So what do you do instead?
The first step is to recognise that simply lying in bed is actually very good for helping you to repair your body and rest. This is one reason to feel less stressed: the very fact that you’re lying down is already beneficial so you don’t need to completely rely on sleep.
But this only works if you’re enjoying yourself and if you’re calm. For this reason, the next thing to do is to just allow yourself to enjoy the relaxation. Focus on the fact that you don’t need to be anywhere and on the fact that you don’t have to do anything. Think about nice things and how comfortable you are.
And guess what? If you can do this, you’ll be asleep in minutes!