What would happen if instead of trying to take a break from your insomnia, you gave your insomnia a break?
In this episode, I explore a couple exercises for an Insomnia Break, including scheduled worry time, paradoxical intention, and the compassionate Insomnia Break.
It was common to hear in sleep medicine circles that no one with insomnia ever dies from not sleeping, they just worry about dying from not sleeping. It was all too easy to dismiss complaints of insomnia because the assumption were: 1) sleep was probably normal; and 2) that the individual is likely sleeping, even though s/he believes s/he is not.
One method of trying to get ahead of the worry of not sleeping that may derail you from actually sleeping, is to literally get ahead by scheduling some worry time. Specifically, this means setting aside some time ahead of your intended sleep period to let all the worry out. Block off a bit of time, maybe in that last hour or 30 minutes before you want to be in bed.
The next technique (previously discussed in Episode 49) was initially proposed by Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor. Essentially, if something is really plaguing you and keeps popping up no matter how hard you try to avoid it - like insomnia - be paradoxical: rather than trying to avoid the your insomnia, lean in, embrace it actively, and try to induce the thing you’ve been avoiding unsuccessfully with so much vigor. Don’t try to escape insomnia. Instead, try to stay awake. Can you lay in bed even with your eyes closed, and stay awake as long as possible?
Thirdly, the Insomnia Break. Modified from Kristen Neff and Chris Germer’s self-compassion break, this simple technique helps to put your troubles into perspective, importantly, that you’re not alone. “This is challenging. It is challenging for millions of people just like me at this very moment. May I accept this without judgement and give myself the care I need right now.”