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.
Last updated: April 30, 2010