Insomnia affects millions of people every night, but all that really matters in your life is how it impacts you. You need to sleep. The good news is that you have the ability to retrain your mind and your body to get the sleep that you require to be healthy. You can get to sleep by better handling your stress, reprogramming your subconscious mind and developing new, healthful habits. Anything from when and how you put on your PJs to counting sheep can help you sleep.
The Stress of Insomnia
Chronic insomnia is nearly always caused by stress. When you reach a certain level of stress it becomes difficult to sleep, which in turn makes it more difficult to deal with your problems. This is often because your brain is too active at night, worrying, to rest. Soon, you begin to expect sleep to be a problem also and it becomes a vicious cycle – add insomnia to your list of stress inducing problems.
What happens here is that knowing and expecting to have problems sleeping will cause these problems to become much greater. This is because your subconscious mind listens to what your conscious mind tells it and reacts according to that information, true or false, helpful or destructive. Thus, if you continuously tell yourself that you have a problem with sleeping before going to sleep your subconscious mind will automatically start responding to these thought patterns by making it harder to sleep. Effectively you create a feedback loop on the initial problem which makes it much worse. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy – you expect to have trouble sleeping so your brain makes it hard to sleep. Your stress has led to expectations of insomnia, which has lead to true sleeplessness.
This cycle is sometimes known as auto suggestion. This is the idea that your mind makes subconscious suggestions which your mind acts upon.
Sleep in History
Early humans had little choice but to sleep when it got dark and wake up when it got light because they lived by the sun. But as man progressed and learned to create light that we could use into the night we began to lose our natural sleep triggers. Then, if you think about the stresses that we have in modern life, the need to do so much in so little time, along with the opportunities for entertainment that the night affords, it is perhaps not surprising that humans seem to have literally lost our attachment to the sun and even forgotten how to sleep.
Insomnia is not Hopeless
If this sounds hopeless, don’t worry about it – it’s not. Just as you programmed your mind into insomnia you can reprogram yourself out of it. Our caveman ancestors had habits. They hunted and gathered during the day, then went somewhere safe at night. They probably never had insomnia, and soon, you’ll be able to say the same thing.
A large part of curing insomnia is getting your brain around the idea that you need to sleep. Your mind needs to be trained to get you mentally ready for sleep at the same time every night. The only way that you can train your mind is through routine behavior and behavioral triggers. Building habits can be a great way to get to sleep. It’s the little things. For example, if you create a “bedtime ritual” that ritual can, logically, end in sleep.
One such ritual might include getting a bedtime snack while you watch the evening news. Then, taking a warm bath, putting on your pajamas, closing the blinds and going to your bedroom. And, of course, falling asleep. Once you create that habit of sleep your body will recognize the cues and learn to fall asleep when your ritual is followed.