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Are these dysfunctional beliefs preventing you from falling asleep?

dysfunctional thoughts about sleep

Image credit: Pixabay.com/bykst

The Dysfunctional Beliefs and Attitudes about Sleep Scale is a 16-item survey designed to evaluate sleep related thoughts.

Studies have found that those who score highly on the scale (ie those with the strongest dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes) are more likely to have issues with insomnia, particularly when it comes to falling asleep.

Take a look at the 16 statements below. If you can relate to them, it's important to take steps to correct these thoughts since they're making it more difficult for you to get a good night's sleep.

Dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes about sleep

I need 8 hours of sleep.

Note: You don't. See: How much sleep do I need?

Chronic insomnia may have serious consequences on my physical health.

Note: The significance of any link between insomnia and negative effects on physical health is often decreased (or disappears entirely) after controlling for baseline health and factors that are known to affect mortality (such as stress, smoking, alcohol use, and lack of exercise).

It's also important to note that:

a) Sleep loss in a laboratory environment is often far more severe than sleep loss in a home environment, which can skew the results and findings of studies that make the news.

b) Surveys that ask people to record how much sleep they get each night are notoriously unreliable since we often get more sleep than we think.

I believe that insomnia is the result of a chemical imbalance.

Note: One study from 2008 found that those suffering from chronic insomnia for more than six months had lower GABA levels compared to the control group. However, the study only involved sixteen individuals and GABA levels for the entire brain were extrapolated based on measurements from a small number of areas. Furthermore, the study didn't note whether participants were awake or asleep when GABA levels were measured.

Finally, the study was funded in part by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals and four of the authors have connections to one or more of GlaxoSmithKline, UCB Pharma, Novartis, and Pfizer.

The fact is, research does not currently corroborate the idea that insomnia is the result of a chemical imbalance.

Insomnia is ruining my ability to enjoy life and prevents me from doing the things I want.

Note: Negative thoughts like this can be self-fulfilling. It's important to avoid such thoughts, or at the very least, put them in context.

Think of the last time you stayed out late with friends; you got less sleep, but it's unlikely you ended up in a bad mood the following day. That's because you knew the circumstances were under your control.

When your sleep loss is a result of insomnia, it's important that you do not focus on negative thoughts about that sleep loss. The fact of the matter is, your daytime functioning after a night of sleep loss is affected not only by that lack of sleep, but also by your attitude towards it.

When I don't get enough sleep, I need to catch up the following night.

When I sleep badly on one night, it will disturb my sleep schedule for the entire week.

Note: Many insomniacs try to 'catch up' on lost sleep by spending more time in bed. Unfortunately, spending more time in bed isn't the same as getting more sleep. In fact,  spending more time in bed can actually make sleep more difficult. 

Spending too much time in bed reduces sleep efficiency and can lead to your mind associating the bed with wakefulness, not sleep. You should stick to a regular (and appropriate) sleep schedule every day, regardless of how well (or poorly) you slept the previous night.

Without enough sleep, I can hardly function the next day.

I know that a poor night of sleep will interfere with my daily activities the following day.

When I feel irritable, depressed or anxious it's because I did not sleep well the night before.

When I feel tired, lack energy, or don't function well during the day, it's generally because I didn't sleep well the night before.

I avoid or cancel obligations after a poor night's sleep.

I struggle to manage the negative consequences of bad sleep.

Note: Sleep deprivation can definitely affect next-day performance when it comes to tasks such as memory recall, problem solving, and reaction times. However, the consequences are not as dire as you may suspect. Furthermore, sleep deprivation affects individuals in different ways.

The main consequences of insomnia tend to be related to mood; we're more likely to feel irritable, frustrated, and less motivated when we don't get enough sleep. In other words, usually  the worst effect of insomnia is being in a bad mood the following day. 

Medication is probably the only solution to sleeplessness.

To be alert and function well the following day, it's better to take a sleeping pill than have a poor night's sleep.

Note: Sleeping pills do not cure insomnia. In fact, it has been suggested that much of the benefit of sleeping pills may come from the placebo effect.

Since sleeping pills do not address the root cause of insomnia, they are unable to cure insomnia. Furthermore, because of the amnesic effects of certain types of sleeping pills, you may think you're sleeping better with them simply because you can't remember being awake.

Many people who find their sleep improves with sleeping pills will experience rebound insomnia as soon as they stop taking the medication.

I can never predict whether I'll have a good or bad night of sleep.

I'm worried that I may lose control over my ability to sleep.

Note: You should not attempt to predict the quality of your sleep. Sleep cannot be forced. Sleep is not the result of a conscious effort. It is a natural process that only comes when you relax and don't think about it.

You cannot control sleep, and  it is impossible to have an inability to sleep. 

How to address dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes about sleep

One of the most effective treatments for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy. It works because it specifically addresses the incorrect thoughts and behaviors many insomniacs have towards sleep.

You can learn more about CBT for insomnia by enrolling on my free sleep training course. It uses CBT techniques to help improve sleep without the need for sleeping pills.

Improve your sleep in two weeks: Over 5,000 insomniacs have completed my free insomnia sleep training course and 97% of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend. Learn more here.

Last updated: July 14, 2016

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

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