This episode is a shout-out to all my fellow analytical, detail-oriented, problem-solving, Type A, perfectionistic code-crackers.
I know you're out there.
If you find yourself meticulously scrutinizing every detail of your life looking for clues as to why you have insomnia, this one's for you.
We deep dive into a common behavior I call ‘pattern-seeking.’ This natural facet of our safety system helps us survive in the world, but in the case of insomnia, often turns into patternicity.
Patternicity looks for patterns that don’t necessarily exist and makes predictions based off those perceived patterns.
Tune in to hear more about:
Towards the end of the podcast, I share three key insights about pattern-seeking:
By changing how you respond to insomnia, you can initiate a shift in how insomnia responds to you.
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About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP:
For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights.
EPISODE #22 [PODCAST SCRIPT]
Hello and welcome to the show today. I am so excited to talk about this topic of cracking the code because I am guessing there are some pretty talented code-crackers among my listeners. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to be very skilled at problem solving, and figuring things out and getting to the bottom of what’s causing a particular issue in my life which are all attributes that have served me well and I really like about myself, but they are also the things that played a significant role in my journey through insomnia, so that’s what I want to dive into today.
And I want to give a big shout out to Jennifer in the Mind. Body. Sleep. mentorship because she was the inspiration behind the podcast today. She recently posted about her own experience of pattern-seeking, and it was so spot on that I wanted to build an episode around it because it's such a common behavior when you have insomnia.
First, I want to say that if you are currently struggling with your sleep and you’re tired of being at the mercy of insomnia and not being able to live your life the way you really want to live it because you’re constantly worried about sleep, join us in the mentorship. We can help you stop looking at life through the lens of insomnia and shift into creating a life you truly love. Because isn’t that the whole point? I’ve lived life with insomnia, and I’ve lived life without it. And I can tell you that life without insomnia feels a lot like freedom and it’s the whole reason I started doing this work, and I want to help you have that, too.
Okay, so let’s talk about something that I call pattern-seeking. I was curious what the literature had to say on this topic so I did a surface level dive into some of the studies around pattern-recognition (which was really pretty interesting and I’m sure I could have spent hours studying it) but I was fascinated to learn about something called patternicity which is a term I’ve never heard, and I’ll talk more about that in a moment.
But what I’m talking about when I say the words pattern-seeking is the tendency for people with insomnia to look for patterns that are affecting sleep. Now humans are designed to naturally seek out and see patterns. We instinctually and instantaneously look for connections without conscious thought — it’s just automatic. Because when you think about it from an evolutionary standpoint, this ability could mean life or death. Historically, if we failed to make a connection to a potential predator or threat, then we probably become dinner for that threat. So, it’s really important that we’re able to make these links quickly — we’re ALL descendants of the most successful pattern-seekers on earth because the ones who maybe weren’t so great at this probably perished much faster.
So, true pattern recognition can save your life.
Now, what can happen with insomnia is the tendency to look for any possible pattern that is affecting sleep, right? We want to crack the code! And this applies both to when we’re sleeping well, or when we’re not sleeping well, it doesn’t really matter. So, just to provide some perspective… when I was sleeping well, I would look for any possible clue as to why that would be… was it because I took a bath instead of a shower? Was it because I ate dinner earlier instead of later? Was it because I added more Valerian or didn’t take melatonin. Usually this involved scanning back over the previous day, or even week with intense scrutiny looking for evidence that I could link the better sleep to so I could do it again!
And likewise, during periods of poor sleep, I would question what I did to cause it… did my sleep go south because I went out with friends, was it because I went to bed too early, was it because I kept the door open instead of closed, was it because I looked at my phone too long. Trust me, after 42 years of this I was on a relentless quest to uncover every conceivable factor that could affect my sleep. Because if I could just pinpoint the exact triggers, then I could add or avoid all these things and get better sleep.
Now, I don’t need to tell you how this turned my entire life into a minefield. Because every single thing I did or didn’t do was tied to how it was going to affect my sleep.
And it makes total sense that our brains would do this because in the context of insomnia, not sleeping gets tagged as a threat by our survival system. So, the whole overarching goal in life becomes the relentless avoidance of sleeplessness at any cost.
If what I’m saying seems a bit confusing like “What is she even talking about?” I recommend going back to Ep 1 where I talk about my 3 core philosophies, and also Ep 18 where I talk about insomnia and the perceived danger connection.
So, let’s break this down a bit because I want to share with you what I wish I would have understood so long ago.
The habit of pattern-seeking during insomnia becomes patternicity when the human tendency to detect patterns goes a little too far, okay. We start searching for patterns that don’t exist and we start making predictions based off those connections that can ultimately keep us stuck on the hamster wheel of insomnia indefinitely.
Ask me how I know this.
Doing all the things or not doing all the things doesn’t really matter. The supplement dance, the sleep hygiene mantra, the sleep restriction, the bedtime rituals, the nervous system tools, these are all solutions looking for a problem. The real issue is the pattern-seeking itself because the pattern-seeking is the pattern we are trying to break.
The pattern-seeking is what sustains insomnia.
So, how can we work with this knowledge? How do we integrate it into our journey of recovery? Here are 3 key points that I think you’ll find beneficial as you move forward:
The first step is just having the education and awareness about the ingrained pattern of pattern-seeking. Increased awareness, along with an understanding of why your brain is engaging in these behaviors empowers you. Throughout my own life, I was doing all these things without having any idea why I was doing them or what was driving it. I just thought I had a broken brain that wouldn’t sleep like other people, so I needed to maneuver everything around that.
Understanding and being able to see the stress signals coming from a scared brain will help bring an unconscious pattern conscious so you can acknowledge it and let it go.
The second thing to consider once you become aware of when you might be pattern-seeking is to dive deeper into the motivations behind the behavior. Is it rooted in fear or trust? If you didn’t have insomnia, would you be making changes to your life to accommodate sleep, or would it be a non-issue? Looking at the unconscious driver can be a good way to see it for what it for what it truly is: a fear of sleeplessness that is telling you to crack the code!
And the third thing I’ll offer, and I know there might be some resistance to this idea, is that there is no code to crack. If such a code existed, I surely would have found it and I would be telling the whole world about it and probably winning a Nobel prize or at the very least be doing a Ted Talk (which actually is a personal aspiration).
But there is no code because your body already has the code. And here’s the thing… the more we try to fix something that isn’t fundamentally broken, the more we confuse the unconscious mind. It just spins in circles looking for something that can’t be found.
Your body knows how to sleep like a cut knows how to heal and that’s the beauty of sleep. It’s an effortless process that requires nothing from us.
So, if you notice this response to insomnia showing up in your life, thank your brain for its valiant effort and just move on with your day. Change the pattern and teach your brain there is no threat. Over time, it will get the message that hyperarousal isn’t even necessary, and new neural pathways will take hold.
I like to say we change the input to change the output.
It was a pleasure to be here with you today. If you find the podcast helpful, please consider leaving a rating or review. This not only helps the algorithms do what they do, but it also helps me out a lot, too.
Until next time, I’m Beth Kendall and this concludes the Mind. Body. Sleep. podcast. Bye for now…
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