by Amrit Bandyopadhyay, Awarables
The night has always been the time associated with the terrors of the dark. We celebrated that in costume last week for Halloween. However, uneasiness, stress, and even fear of going to bed is a reality and life for many people. These include the 30M+ Americans who suffer from insomnia, their broken sleep often waking them up at 3am and taking their minds to the darkest places; places of anxiety, stress, fearful thoughts about loved ones, health, work, life, on and on.
Some of the ways fears and sleep intersect can be:
- Fearful stressful negative thoughts while lying in bed trying to fall asleep or fall back to sleep.
- Fear of going to bed, where, over time, the struggles and frustrations around sleep, and the negative thoughts while laying awake, result in a traumatic relationship with the bed and and with sleep.
- Safety behaviors performed out of fear to ensure the opportunity for sleep.
An example of a safety behavior is depriving yourself of the opportunity to enjoy something fun to ensure there is enough time to sleep.
Last week the Washington Nationals finished the fight and elevated the team and city to World Series Champions. Every game, every pitch was tense and something to indulge in and enjoy, for fans. However, while most of the city was making memories for a lifetime, there was a fan who did not go to a game because it would be 2am by the time they got home and not enough time to get sleep. Was it you? Or did you give up going to a sports bar or party to enjoy the game with friends? Or did you not even stay up to watch the game because it goes on till 11:30pm and you have fearfully decided that you HAVE to be in bed by 10pm every night as this ensures that you might get 8 hours in bed. The reality of it may be that you lay in bed anyway for hours, just like every other day, trying to fall asleep, experienced angst and fomo about not being a part of the game, wanted to check the score, heard cheers from the streets, have been doing this for years, sleeping 5 out of 8 hours for the longest time, and have been stressing about sleep and executing these types of safety behaviors which are reducing your quality of life in addition to the insomnia.
All of these are standard for an insomniac to go through and they are fixable. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi), available from psychologists trained in sleep, or learning the techniques from Apps like Awarables’ Sleep Better app (pro version launching in 2020), can step you through these techniques and set you on your path to overcome these fears and towards better sleep. These range from addressing the fearful thoughts by learning how to correct them with more balanced thoughts, and also exercising skills to reduce the amount of time you spend awake in bed.
As for the safety behaviors, it can be helpful to recognize the difference between prioritizing sleep and being paranoid about it. The latter can hurt your quality of life which is what you are trying to improve with good sleep in the first place. Prioritizing sleep could mean giving up the habit of binging tv shows, or every random offering ESPN has, or playing video games every night from 10pm to 12am when you have to get up at 6am, and making enough time in bed for 8 hrs sleep on a normal night. Whereas giving up meeting a friend late who has come in to town for a day or the Nats winning it all can be a counter-productive safety behavior. It can be worthwhile to realize that while you are an insomniac you have the right and the ability to enjoy these occasions, and actually go out, enjoy them, and realize that things will be fine, and then take actual steps in your life to improve your nightly insomnia, whether with a clinician or an app like ours.
Cheers to trying to be fearless, to the Nats, the fans that made this team champions with their unconditional love and support, and to better sleep.