What Most People Get Wrong About Insomnia

Devin Burke:

Hey, it’s Devin Burke, the founder of Sleep Science Academy, your coaching guide to your best night’s rest. And in this video I want to be sharing with you what most people get wrong and misunderstand about insomnia. So let’s go ahead and jump right in. So the first thing is that most people think that sleep hygiene can solve insomnia, can eliminate insomnia, and they’re sadly mistaken. So sleep hygiene is actually your behaviors around sleep. It can be beneficial for the quality of sleep, but it actually can be the very thing that keeps people from sleep. Now, let me explain. So if you have a belief that you need to meditate and take a hot shower in order to sleep, well, first and foremost, that’s not true. And believing that can be a bit dangerous because if you’re not able to have your shower and your routine for whatever reason, then there’s going to be a little bit of anticipatory anxiety around sleep possibly.

Or if you believe that you need to take something, whether it be a supplement or a medication in order to sleep, that also isn’t true. Yes, supplements and medications, there’s a time and a place for them, they can be helpful, but really you don’t need anything in order to sleep. Our bodies know how to sleep just like our bodies know how to breathe. Our heart knows how to beat. Our hair knows how to grow. We don’t really have to do anything. Sleep is exactly the same way. So if right now you’re watching this and you have a belief that you need to do whatever it is, fill in the blank, take a hot shower and meditate and stretch and do yoga nidra, and take your magnesium supplement and do all these things. And if you don’t do those things, then you won’t sleep. That belief actually can be the very thing that’s keeping you from sleep.

Now, again, not to say that some of those things aren’t useful and there’s a time and a place absolutely for implementing sleep hygiene, but if you’re struggling with either falling or staying asleep, sleep hygiene is something that you want to address later on after you solve what the root issue is, which in most cases is actually anxiety about sleep. It’s poor managed stress. People take their day into their night and then they wonder why they can’t sleep. They have a racing mind. They have anxiety about something in their life, which then results in sleep being disturbed. Now, this can be hard for some people to see. A lot of especially men have this thing where they don’t want to admit that they’re having anxiety or experiencing stress.

But oftentimes when we really get down to it, that’s actually the thing that is keeping people up. Now, it’s really important also to note that sleep is not the problem. Sleep is not the problem. Sleep is simply a result. So if you’re focused on sleep like it’s the problem then that’s going to create some challenges in actually being able to solve it because you’re hyper-focused on this one thing. And I call it at Sleep Science Academy in our program, we call it the pedestal pattern.

And this is where people put sleep on a pedestal. And it’s a bit tricky because sleep deserves to be on a pedestal. It’s incredible when you’re getting sleep because your body’s repairing. You have energy. So much amazingness happens during the night, and when we put it on a pedestal, then it’s something we kind of can become like a starving person looking for food. And what this does is it creates this buildup of tension and pressure in our body that I like to refer to as stress that then releases certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and neuro-adrenaline, which then keep us up. So it’s really important to understand that that hyper arousal loop is usually the root issue for most people that have tried everything and still cannot sleep or have challenges sleeping. Really, really important to understand that.

Another thing people make a mistake with when they are trying to solve their insomnia is they start to track their sleep. Now, it’s really important to track your sleep because we can’t manage what we don’t measure. But if you’re getting data, whether it’s from your Fitbit or an Aura Ring or Whoop strap or some other device that you’re on your bed or there’s a ton of them out there, things you put on your head and you don’t know what to do with that data, it’s actually going to create more stress and anxiety. So if you’re working with a trained practitioner that understands the ins and outs of insomnia and you’re using that data to make conclusions as far as what to do about it, very helpful and I think necessary. I’m not a huge fan of sleep diaries because they’re really not accurate and it forces you to look at the clock and it’s not really effective in my professional opinion.

But if you have somebody that’s supporting you to understand the data while you’re implementing proven science backed techniques, now that’s effective. So another big misconception that people have when they’re trying to solve insomnia is they use band-aids. Now, band-aids or crutches come in many shapes and forms. They come in the form of medication. It could come in the form of a supplement or something that you believe you need in order to sleep. Now there is a time and a place for medication. There are absolutely is a time and a place for supplementation, and again, for doing certain things like taking magnesium or not eating before bed, the sleep hygiene things. But the challenge is these really aren’t addressing the underlying root causes. And if you continue to just address sleep with bandage or crutches without really doing the work to uncover what actually is keeping you up, then unfortunately you’re going to continue to try things that don’t work or work temporarily.

And then it’s going to usually enforce this belief that you’re broken, that your body has something physically keeping it from sleep. Now, in the vast majority of cases, that is not true. We’ve had clients that had had all the CT scans, the MRIs, the blood tests, worked with the best doctors in the country to confirm that there’s nothing wrong with them physically. And when we really help them address the underlying patterns and ways of thinking, which lead to certain behaviors, all of a sudden when they make these shifts in how they think and behave, their sleep starts to improve. How do you explain that? Well, it’s really because it was more of a mental challenge that became a physical challenge. And most people get caught up in this place where they’re not sure, they think something physically must be wrong with them.

And in some cases that could be true. You could be having a reaction to a medication that’s creating insomnia. You could have a hormone imbalance. You could have, God forbid, something like a brain tumor or underlying neurological disease. But in most cases, I would say probably in 95% or more cases, that’s not the case. And then the reason why you think that you’re broken usually is because you’ve tried all these things to that don’t really address the underlying root cause, which reinforce that you’re broken. All that to say, I want to sum up this video, if you’re struggling with insomnia, there’s really two things that you need to understand. The first thing is how are you relating to it? How do you think about it? What are the underlying beliefs that you have about your sleep, your ability to sleep, what you need to do in order to sleep?

And the second thing is, what are you doing as far as behaviors? What are some of the behaviors that you’re doing that are not conducive to better sleep? And this is a big misconception. A lot of people think, I’ll give you an example, that if you’re not sleeping well, then you should stay in bed longer. And that’s actually the complete opposite of what you really want to do. You want to reduce your time in bed to increase sleep pressure. Now, there’s a lot of other things that seem to make sense that actually don’t make sense when you’re trying to solve insomnia, and that’s just a perfect example of one of them. Well, I’m going to wrap this video up. I hope you found it useful. If you’re new here, welcome, subscribe to the channel. If you like the video, like it, share it with somebody who needs to hear this, and I’ll see you in the next one. Take care.