Devin Burke, founder of Sleep Science Academy and coaching guide to your best night’s sleep, shares what most people misunderstand and get wrong about insomnia.
Most people believe sleep hygiene can solve insomnia, but sadly, they are mistaken. Sleep hygiene is your behaviors around sleep which can be beneficial for sleep quality, but it may be the very thing keeping you awake.
Let me explain.
If you believe that you need to meditate or take a hot shower to sleep, this is not true. Beliefs like this can be dangerous because if you cannot have that shower or meditate for some reason, you will likely suffer from anticipatory anxiety around the possibility of sleep.
Similarly, it is also invalid if you believe you must take a supplement or medication to sleep. Yes, there is a time and place for sleep supplements and medications, as they can be helpful, but you don’t need anything to sleep; your body knows how to sleep.
Like your heart beats, your hair grows, and you breathe without consideration; the same is true for sleep. So, if you believe you need to do whatever, fill in the blank:
- Take a Hot Shower
- Do Stretches/Yoga
- Take Supplements
- Take Sleep Medication
- Whatever You Believe You Must Do to Sleep
If you hold this belief and that if you don’t do these things, you will not sleep, this belief is likely the very thing that is keeping you from restorative rest.
Again, this is not to say that some of these things are not useful, and there is an appropriate time and place to implement sleep hygiene. However, if you struggle with falling or staying asleep, you want to solve the root issue causing your insomnia and address sleep hygiene afterward.
In most cases, sleep anxiety is poorly managed stress. People often carry the pressures of their day into the night, which causes a racing mind and keeps them from sleeping. They have anxiety about something in their life which disturbs their sleep.
This reality can be hard for some people to recognize, especially men who are often hesitant to admit they are experiencing anxiety or stress. But when we dig deeper, these issues are what keeps them up at night.
Sleep Is Not the Problem
Focusing on sleep like it is the problem creates challenges to solving your insomnia because you are hyper-focusing on a single item. At Sleep Science Academy, we refer to this as the Pedestal Pattern.
The Pedestal Pattern is where people place sleep on a pedestal. Sleep is incredible because your body is repairing, you gain energy, and sleep does deserve to be on a pedestal. Unfortunately, this outlook can foster a buildup of tension and pressure in our bodies, causing us to become like starving people looking for food.
I like to refer to this as stress that releases certain hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and neuro-adrenaline, which all work to keep us up at night. Understanding that this hyper-arousal loop is typically the root cause of sleeplessness for most people who try everything and find no success in solving their sleep challenges is essential.
Tracking our sleep can be helpful because we can’t manage what we don’t measure. If you are receiving data from a device like a Fitbit, Aura Ring, Whoop Strap, or similar devices and don’t know what to do with all that data, it creates more stress and anxiety that hinders sleep.
However, when you are working with a trained practitioner and using that data to create a treatment plan, this data can be beneficial and, I believe, necessary.
I am not a fan of sleep diaries because they are rarely accurate and force you to watch the clock, which is not effective. But, if you have support from someone who understands that data while you are implementing proven science-backed techniques, your diary can be compelling.
Bandages and Crutches
Many individuals often resort to bandages and crutches to solve their insomnia. These mental gymnastics come in many forms, such as medications, supplements, or something you believe you need to sleep.
There is a time and place for all of these elements, but the challenge is that they don’t address the underlying causes of sleeplessness. When you continue to address these bandages and crutches without making the necessary effort to uncover the actual problem of preventing sleep, you will continue to implement unworkable or temporary measures.
Following this path will reinforce the belief that you are broken, that your body suffers a physical condition preventing sleep. In the vast majority of cases, this is not true.
Many Sleep Science Academy clients come to us after CT scans, MRIs, and blood tests working with the best doctors in the country only to confirm there is nothing wrong with them physically.
Change Your Mind
When we help these individuals address the underlying patterns and ways of thinking that lead to certain behaviors, they suddenly shift how they think and behave, improving their sleep.
Why is that?
Because their issues are more of a mental challenge than physical, most people get caught up where they are unsure; they think something must be physically wrong with them. And in some cases, this can be true.
You could be having a reaction to medication, a hormone imbalance, or (God forbid) something like a brain tumor or underlying neurological disease. But this is not the case in most instances (probably about 95% or more).
Most people believe they are physically broken because they attempt fixes that don’t address underlying root causes, reinforcing their belief of being defective.
The Bottom Line
All of that is to say if you’re struggling with insomnia, there are two things you need to understand.
First, how are you relating to your insomnia? What do you think about it? What are your underlying beliefs about your sleep and ability to sleep? And what do you need to do in order to sleep?
Secondly, what are your behaviors? What are some of your behaviors that are not conducive to better sleep?
A big misconception is that if you’re not sleeping well, you should stay in bed longer, which is actually the exact opposite of what you should do. You want to reduce your time in bed to increase sleep pressure.
Many other things seemingly make sense but don’t when you’re trying to solve insomnia, and this is a perfect example of one.
I hope you find this information helpful in resolving your problems with sleep. Gaining sufficient restorative rest is crucial for your overall health and well-being, not to mention your quality of life.
Many aspects of battling insomnia can seem counterintuitive, like not staying in bed if you cannot sleep. But, having the support of a trained professional sleep coach can make all the difference in the world regarding the successful resolution of such issues.
Sleep Science Academy’s uniquely effective and empowering proprietary program pairs clients with a professional sleep coach to guide them to a lifetime of restful nights and restorative sleep.
Regardless of the underlying cause for your sleep problem, the knowledge, skills, and tools you will gain from your experience with Sleep Science Academy and your coach can make your future a dream.
Contact us today to schedule your free sleep consultation and learn more about our process and how you can benefit.
Also, this article explains how Sleep Science Academy incorporates Dynamic Sleep Recalibration (DSR) can help resolve your issues around sleeping.