21 July 2014

Sleep Hygiene Tip of the Week || What alarm clock?

Ask yourself... do you really NEED to see what time it is in the middle of the night?

After all, if you WERE asleep, you wouldn't know, and it would be fine, right?

Insomniacs often suffer from something called "hypervigilance," a behavioral problem in which one cannot shut off the brain for the night. It's a problem related to anxiety; all sensory details are super present to the minds of these sleepers. Instead of willing away these thoughts in order to relax and fall asleep, these people burden their sleep process by allowing the mind to race. The good news: it can be easily fixed with some cognitive behavioral therapy or training in meditation, both which can empower the sleeper to consciously deter racing thoughts so the brain and body can do the work of sleep.

What does the alarm clock have to do with this? Paying conscious attention to the passage of time while you aren't sleeping can actually aggravate insomnia. If you are in the habit of checking the clock every time you wake up, you may be unwittingly putting yourself into a hyperalert emotional state (fed by stress hormones) which will just enhance your sense of wakefulness.

This is almost always a negative experience for people and can lead to emotional upset, anger, frustration, even depression and suicidal ideation. Once inside this constellation of emotional disaster, what are the odds you will ever get back to sleep?

SLEEP HYGIENE TIP OF THE WEEK: Turn your alarm clock around once you have it set (or, turn off the sound and vibration settings on your smartphone, then turn it face down on your nightstand so it doesn't present unwanted noise or light while you sleep). Retrain yourself to NOT check the clock every time you wake up.

Cut yourself some slack! It's normal and okay to wake up several times at night. You might need to change positions, fix your blankets, drink some water or use the restroom. No need to complicate these normal activities of nighttime sleep by adding the unnecessary pressure of clockwatching into the equation.You can try a number of things to fall asleep, such as doing a body check to relax muscles, counting your breaths and falling into a breathing pattern, or imagining fantasies like what your dream vacation might be like. Eventually you will retrain yourself to go back to sleep and no longer automatically check the clock every time your eyes open.