When I had chronic insomnia, I spent a lot of time Googling insomnia. It felt like the right thing to do. The vast sea of online information surely held the answers to my predicament. “What causes insomnia?”, “Reasons for insomnia,” “How to cure insomnia,” "Will I die from insomnia;" they all made it into the search bar at some point in the game.
But Google can be a dangerous place for insomniacs. Here are 3 big reasons to avoid the Googling trap:
While not super fun, it is completely normal for humans to experience periods of sleeplessness. Every person, at some point in life, will have sleepless nights! But here’s the thing...
The sleepless night? Not really a problem. Our response to the sleepless night, however, can become a problem. What the survival brain initially perceives as no big deal, can suddenly become a HUGE deal after Googling insomnia. That's because:
The internet is loaded with scary headlines telling us we're going to have a miserable life and suffer a myriad of disastrous health consequences as a result of insomnia. It's enough to freak anyone out.
Once we're sufficiently flipped out and certain we're going to die a hideous death from not sleeping, there's a high likelihood that the safety switch in our survival system turns ON. When this happens, the brain starts perceiving sleeplessness as a threat, and a fear of not sleeping develops. When the brain fears not sleeping, hyperarousal occurs. Hyperarousal causes insomnia.
So researching Google creates patterns of insomnia that might otherwise not even develop! Plus, it perpetuates existing insomnia by fueling hyperarousal and the fear of not sleeping.
(Those scary headlines by the way? They can be misleading. Click here to read more about Google claims when it comes to insomnia.)
I’m going to drop another #truthbomb and say that sleep hygiene does not work for chronic insomnia. Nope. I wish.
In fact, it makes insomnia WORSE.
Chasing Google to “fix” insomnia reaffirms the fear of not sleeping and sends a continual message to the brain that sleep is a problem. That it’s broken. This puts the brain in problem-solving mode which perpetuates (you guessed it) HYPERAROUSAL!
The omnipresent sleep hygiene mantra on Google creates a huge amount of anxiety because it gives the impression that sleep is controllable. When the exact opposite Is true! Sleep happens in the absence of effort, when we’re not trying to control it.
Checklists, rules, and rituals (although incredibly well-intentioned) come from a problem-solving orientation, which creates hyperarousal in the brain and puts the brake on sleep.
Whatever we focus on we create more of in our life (the quantum field is smart like that). Endlessly researching insomnia creates more insomnia.
Ask any good sleeper what they do to sleep so well and they'll probably look at you like you're nuts. They’re good sleepers precisely because they don’t try so hard. They don't think too much about why they're good sleepers, they just go to bed and... sleep.
Adopting an attitude of indifference towards sleep allows insomnia to lose its grip.
When sleeplessness strikes, it makes sense that the first thing we want to do is figure it out. But this is when things get dicey.
Because it’s the need to figure out insomnia that creates and perpetuates insomnia.
Insomnia thrives on the focus we give it. The more we try to figure out insomnia, the more we feed insomnia. Consider doing a detox from plugging anything into the search bar about sleep. Even for a few days. Take your attention off of insomnia and let your brain know that not sleeping isn't a threat.
Our brains, survival machines that they are, can be trained to feel a sense of safety. When we shift our focus away from insomnia and towards anything we really enjoy, our brains get the message that it's okay to come out of hyperarousal.
That is when sleep has the space to come.
Cheering you on,
Beth Kendall MA, FNTP
Holistic Sleep Coach
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Health Disclaimer: The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
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