April 2018

We Are What We Think

Understanding Insomnia

An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26/04/2018 reinforces the “cognitive aspects” that contribute to insomnia, and how treating them improves insomnia.

The article discusses a published paper in the journal Sleep which shows that the processes involved in reducing conscious awareness might be impaired in people with insomnia.

“people assume there’s a close relationship between how sleep feels and what is happening physiologically. So if people (like yours truly) are aware of noises or things around them, they think they’re sleeping lightly, or have poor quality sleep.

But, although we may think the only way to sleep "well" is to be completely unconscious, it is normal to have an awareness of sensory inputs, like hearing, during some stages of sleep.” 

“That’s why mothers can respond to their child’s cry almost immediately, or why other noises during the night can be incorporated into our dreams.”

Another reason insomniacs report “poor sleep” is because they may not recognise some periods of sleep, a condition sometimes referred to as “sleep-state misperception” or “paradoxical insomnia”. In studies, insomniacs have under-estimated their sleep time by as much as 2 hours.

Finally, “Attitude” is an important part of managing insomnia:

“We are what we think,” … if we tell ourselves we’re tired all day, we will most definitely feel tired all day.”

“challenge your beliefs about sleep: just because you feel you only had four hours of slumber, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be tired the next day, so stop telling yourself that.”

In summary, insomnia has complex causes. There is no quick easy treatment. Non-drug treatments, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Insomnia, delivered by experienced sleep psychologists or online through validated CBT programs will provide the best long term treatment success.