How primary insomnia may evolve in normal sleepers
The vast majority of us experience a short term problem with sleeping at some point in our lives. This typically results from a stressful experience – a problem with a relationship, loss of a loved one, jobs, money, health, or a host of other everyday problems we all face.
For most people, short-term acute insomnia diminishes over time as the problem is either resolved or we adapt to it in some way. Sleep disturbances fade away completely and our natural sleep system recovers back to normal functioning.
However, for some of us, short term insomnia can evolve into a primary concern about sleeping independent of the problem that originally caused it. In other words, worry about sleep replaces the original source of stress. Sleep itself becomes the stressor. When that happens, insomnia can be perpetuated by a near constant stream of worry about the idea of sleep. This is how primary insomnia evolves for many otherwise normal people.
When worry about sleep becomes excessive, a number of unintended consequences may occur. Many hours at night are spent awake and frustrated; so bed time understandably becomes associated with dread. Thoughts like “Oh no, here we go again, another night of tossing and turning” are automatically connected, subconsciously, with the idea of sleeping. Just the sight of bed triggers worry. The thought of sleeping becomes a primary concern, a constant source of stress.
Once worry about sleep becomes a problem in and of itself, many people inadvertently respond in ways that only worsen their ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Such common counterproductive behaviors include:
- Drinking alcohol before bed to get drowsy.
- Cutting back or eliminating exercise due to fatigue from sleeplessness.
- Trying to force sleep and instead lying awake tossing and turning in frustration.
- Compulsively checking the clock, hour after hour, night after night, to see how much time it’s taking to fall asleep, or fall back asleep, and feeling all the worse because of it.
- Spending more time in bed, especially on weekends, trying to catch up on lost sleep.
Any of these sound familiar? None of these behaviors really help, and in fact probably worsen the problem. To successfully and permanently treat evolved or learned insomnia, you’ve got to get to the true underlying roots of the problem.
The root causes for learned insomnia often are negative thoughts and counterproductive behaviors that undermine a good night’s sleep.
The best way to successfully treat learned insomnia is to treat not the symptoms, the sleeplessness itself, but to get at the root causes – which commonly are negative expectations and dysfunctional behaviors that disrupt sleep.
For many of us the solution is not that complicated. Literally tens of millions of us have some form of primary insomnia, often unintentionally caused by thoughts and behaviors that undermine sleeping well.
Moreover, even in instances where insomnia is associated with a medical or psychiatric problem, there likely is considerable overlap with a conditioned or learned component that disrupts good sleeping.
Addressing these root causes is the focus of this program
Using the STS, you will become more aware of and better understand these underlying thoughts and behaviors that interfere with sleep.
Working with proven principles to counter dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, you will steadily strengthen your mind and body’s inherent natural sleep system. These methods have been shown to help most everyone in some form. Using these tools and techniques, many former insomniacs have become normal sleepers again. There is every reason to believe you can too.
Let’s turn now to some basic principles about sleep. This background knowledge will help you better understand sleep, possibly clear up some misconceptions, and help you begin to feel more confident about strengthening your own sleep system.