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You can’t sleep because you’re thinking about sleep

A really interesting article was recently published over at Science Blogs about insomnia and metacognition. Basically, it tells us that as soon as we make sleep our goal, our brain will keep checking up on our progress - resulting in no sleep at all.

The article puts this theory into the example of trying not to think of a white bear. As soon as we give ourselves that goal, we find it impossible not to think about a white bear - as the article puts it, "Our attempt at repression turns into an odd fixation". It mentions a study of 110 undergraduates who were split into two groups. One group was told to fall asleep whenever they wanted, the other were told to fall asleep as quickly as possible. The second group took far longer to fall asleep - instead of drifting off, they kept checking to see if they were still awake. That mental check would wake them up.

The article is well worth reading if you're at a loss as to why your insomnia just won't go away. Next time you try to fall asleep, take some of the pressure off yourself and don't think about sleep or worry about sleep. Just relax and have some faith - who knows, one day it may be repaid.

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Last updated: April 30, 2010

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • Martin Reed
    August 9, 2010, 6:18 pm

    You should probably speak with your doctor, or a registered sleep specialist, Faisal.

    Reply
  • faisal
    August 8, 2010, 9:59 am

    i am facing the similar position now adays i am not getting enough sleep the whole day i feel irritated and ache in my head i am so frustrated that whole world is sleeping hy cant i i am so depressed give me some suggestion i am taking the anti depressants like klonaz tablets

    Reply
  • Martin Reed
    March 9, 2010, 2:24 pm

    Thanks for reading, kalon – let us know how you get on.

    Reply
  • kalon
    March 5, 2010, 10:19 am

    thanx i will give it a try i want to sleep but carnt then when i do get to sleep its like i wake up at 3 in the afternoon and got to bed at 9-10 then stay awake till 2-3-4 i hate it cya

    Reply