Can it truly be that our expectations alone about our sleep can impact whether or not we get that good snooze?
In this episode, I’ll discuss some of the most common dysfunctional beliefs about sleep, first described by Dr Morin nearly 3 decades ago, and what we can do to help reduce their negative impact.
Having a bad night of sleep can be troubling. Making a lifestyle of bad sleep leads you down some dark paths. Practice makes perfect, and the more we practice poor sleep, the more readily it appears next time. And the more frequent and reinforced a behavior is, a behavior like poor sleep, the more that behavior will influence the quality of our thinking and our mood. Poor sleep increases the likelihood of anxiety and the likelihood of holding onto judgements about sleep that are not just untrue, but quite dysfunctional. And the more dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes we hold, the worse our sleep is likely to stay.
These dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes about sleep, first described by Charles Morin nearly 30 years ago, generally fall into 3 categories: 1st, beliefs about helplessness and inevitability; 2nd, beliefs and attitudes characterized by rigid and inflexible thinking: like have to, must, always, absolute; and 3rd, beliefs that over attribute powers to sleep, combining rigid thoughts about disaster unfolding from problematic sleep that one is helpless to affect.
It can feel terrible holding some of these beliefs: it must be awful having the thought that your life is ruined and unsalvageable; it must feel terrible losing all sense of an internal locus of control and feeling like control of your own life is out of your grasp. From the outside, some of these statements may sound absurd or ridiculous. But individuals holding these beliefs are suffering, make no mistake. And that’s terrible.
Thankfully, there are solutions. Evidence shows that improving sleep behaviors, namely by bumping up that sleep efficiency - improving the percentage of time spent asleep per time spent in bed - that change in behavior has been shown to decrease these dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes about sleep.
And as this study just a couple weeks ago showed, that other sleep behaviors, including maintaining consistent wake up times to reinforce one’s circadian rhythm; avoiding daytime napping; maintaining the sanctity of the bed for sleep and intimacy; following simple sleep hygiene recommendations about timing, activity, and substances, and aiming for consistent normal sleep duration all help to reduce these dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes about sleep.