I Can’t Sleep And I’m Anxious About That!
Anxious people often can’t sleep or experience inconsistent sleep. Then they get anxious and afraid because they are experiencing sleep disturbances. Daniel Erichsen from The Sleep Coach School stopped by to talk about insomnia and a cognitive behavioral approach to the problem. If you’re struggling with your sleep … and struggling because you’re struggling … this episode is for you.
- While working as a physician, Daniel did a one year fellowship at the University of Chicago specializing in sleep and sleep problems. He then practiced as a sleep physician for about eight years, during which he discovered what a big issue insomnia is for many people. His work gave him a broader look at the issue of sleep and sleep problems, so Daniel took the bold step of giving up his medical license. He now dedicates his time to being an educator, guide, advocate, and coach in the area of sleep and sleep problems.
- Sleep disturbances are normal, and a natural part of any human life. Things happen that make it difficult for us to sleep, then those things resolve and we return in most cases to our usual sleep habits and patterns.
- Daniel sees insomnia as something different. In Daniel’s view, insomnia is a self-perpetuating ongoing struggle with sleep. Continued struggles to sleep are often based on anxiety and fear attached to not sleeping.
- When this struggle starts, people often try all kinds of “remedies” to help them sleep. If those do not work, or do not work consistently, some people have an anxiety and fear reaction based on, “OMG it didn’t work! I still can’t sleep! This is so bad!”
- This reaction – the interpretation of sleep disturbance as a disaster or a catastrophe – fuels the fear. The more afraid you are, the less likely you are to sleep. It can become a nasty cycle.
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- Sometimes the fear of not sleeping is amorphous and diffuse and just based loosely on the idea that “something is wrong”. In other cases more specific feared outcomes enter the picture. Anxious people often attach lack of sleep with outcomes like insanity, psychosis, heart attack, or other health issues. Catastrophic thinking about sleep or not sleeping begins to rule the roost.
- Daniel points out that in all the work and research he’s done into sleep, he has not come across any real evidence that ties poor sleep to these feared outcomes. Daniel points out that much of the work he does in in sleep education, debunking and demystifying information found online about sleep.
- The average adult thinks they sleep 7-8 hours every night. But in reality, the average amount of sleep an adult gets is about 6 hours per night.
- If you ask someone with no sleep problems “how they do it”, that person will likely not know how to answer you. Sleep is effortless. It’s natural. Your body knows how to sleep when given the chance.
- An anxious person will declare that if they can’t sleep, it is a nightmare because they might be tired, feel things in their body, or develop some horrible health condition as a result of not sleeping. Daniel points out that this interpretation and jumping to conclusions is really the issue that needs to be addressed.
- In the end – and this will sound familiar to you – the sleep struggle is less about sleep and more about the struggle itself. Daniel helps his clients by teaching them the basics of accepting, giving up the fight, and allowing fatigue and sleep-related fear to exist without automatically trying to solve or fix those things.
- Daniel’s message is clear. Addressing what you think is a problem with your sleep is really about addressing your problem with fighting, refusing to accept, and learning to allow sleep to happen (nor not happen) naturally.
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Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)
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