REM Sleep and How Your Negative Thoughts Affect It
It’s no secret that a person’s mind running wild can impede their ability to sleep. Whether it’s an exciting event like a new job or an upcoming move or something stressful like a big exam or relationship issues, everyone has spent at least one night tossing and turning, their mind focused on something like negative thoughts that refuses to let them sleep. Though it’s annoying to get a bad night’s sleep because of these instances, it’s not considered a major issue because these instances are fleeting. Once the new job has been started or the big exam has been taken, the person usually returns to their normal sleep pattern.
But what happens when the negative thoughts aren’t fleeting? When they’re not tied to a particular event? When they’re not even being thought of in bed, but during the day? That’s when experts see negative thoughts impacting sleep in a longer-term way. When worry and stress can lead to more than just a single night’s poor sleep. According to some studies, these negative thoughts can cause – or fuel – insomnia.
Negative Sleep Thoughts
These issues with negative thoughts only get worse when the thoughts become geared toward sleep. It’s one thing to be stressed out during the day and struggle to let that stress go when it’s time to sleep, both consciously and subconsciously, but it’s another thing when those thoughts are about your sleep. That just makes coming to bed harder and more stressful. This type of negative thinking can be so powerful that sleep experts have labeled them Negative Sleep Thoughts (NSTs).
Some examples of negative sleep thoughts are things like “If I don’t get some sleep soon, I’m going to die” or “What if I can’t sleep again tonight?” These types of thoughts are bound to make your anxiety related to sleep worse, fueling what’s already a bad situation. Since our thoughts can create a reality for our bodies, enough negative sleep thoughts can cause actual negative sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, one that feeds itself until things get out of control.
It’s not just the act of falling asleep that people struggle with due to negative thoughts but staying asleep as well. When negative thoughts start impacting REM Sleep, the sleep issues can go from bad to worse.
In the early stages of the sleep cycle or non-REM sleep stages, stress from earlier in the day can trick your mind into not fully resting when it’s supposed to. This can cause you to wake up when you’re not meant to, disturbing your body’s restoration process and making you feel unrested.
If your negative thoughts allow you to make it through the first 3 stages of the sleep cycle and enter REM sleep, your brain activity will spike as you begin to dream. It’s here where your negative thoughts from before can manifest, creating a type of bad dream sleep experts refer to as nightmares. Nightmares are classified as bad dreams that cause a person to wake up during the sleep cycle, not just any bad dream someone might have. Since a nightmare disrupts your sleep and causes you to wake up, they negatively impact your body’s health and your overall well-being due to lack of rest and restoration.
What’s worse? The presence of nightmares can cause you to experience even more negative sleep thoughts, making you wonder things like, “Will I have another nightmare tonight?” This just adds fuel to the vicious cycle, making sleep even more difficult than it already was.
How Do We Fix The Problem?
To fix this problem, you’ll need to break the vicious cycle of negative sleep thoughts. There are a few ways that you can try to do this on your own.
First, you can try to tackle negative sleep thoughts by identifying when you have a negative sleep thought and working to correct it. For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I’m going to have such a hard time falling asleep tonight,” acknowledge the thought, then correct it by trying to put a positive spin on the thought like, “I might have a hard time falling asleep tonight, but that’s okay because it’s a process and this is part of that process.”
Second, you can work on the stress and anxiety that you’re experiencing throughout the day. This can be done by adding more fun and relaxation to your daily routine. Studies have shown that even 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce anxiety. Reducing your anxiety reduces the power in your vicious cycle, making it much more manageable.
Third, you can try to cut out anxiety-inducing content. This includes reading books like horror or thrillers that cause your mind to stress out while reading, watching movies or shows that cause you emotional distress, or consuming news stories that lead you to feel anxious.
Fourth, you can work on your sleep hygiene. This includes giving yourself a consistent bedtime routine and ensuring your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to a good night’s rest. You’ll also want to cut out stimulants like caffeine or nicotine, especially in the hours before bedtime.
What if Nothing is Working?
The important thing is to try not to let yourself get stressed out. If you’ve tried the above techniques and still haven’t found relief, that might mean you need a little more guidance. Take action by booking a consultation here with sleep experts from Sleep Science Academy and start your journey to break the vicious cycle today.
Overall, there are many benefits to practicing mindfulness meditation for anxiety relief. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, improve your sleep, or simply feel more at ease in your daily life, mindfulness can be a powerful tool for improving your overall well-being. And with the support of a qualified sleep coach like those at Sleep Science Academy, you can get the help you need to manage your anxiety so you can sleep naturally again and live a happier, healthier life.