Your approach to insomnia is all wrong
Breus says a big part of insomnia rehab is coaching patients to reframe negative or incorrect perceptions of sleep. “Addressing this catastrophic thinking can help relieve anxiety so sleep becomes just a physical act, not an emotional one,” he says. Plus, believing you slept well—even if you didn’t—may improve brain function the next day, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Researchers asked 164 participants how they’d slept the previous night, then hooked them up to a sham machine that purportedly revealed to scientists their REM sleep. People who were told they had above-average REM sleep performed better on cognitive and attention tasks than those who were told their REM sleep was below average, regardless of how they’d actually slept.
You get out of bed in the middle of the night
Even sleep experts debate whether you should get out or stay in bed when you can’t sleep. Breus makes this helpful distinction: “Don’t worry about the difference between resting and sleeping.” If you’re awake in bed, but feel relaxed and peaceful, it’s perfectly fine to lie there and wait to fall back asleep. He recommends counting backward from 300 by 3s to bring on drowsiness. This may be better than automatically jumping out of bed the minute you find yourself awake, which only arouses you more. Check out these other techniques that help you fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.
You overstimulate in the middle of the night
If you’re in bed, anxious, and your mind is running a million miles a minute, you’re better off getting out of bed. But what you do next is key to ultimately falling back asleep. Stay away from anything too stimulating, like checking email or social media, which can be bad insomnia causes, says Carney. Pick an activity you look forward to—like knitting or reading a novel you’re into—to help minimize the anxiety that many people feel during episodes of insomnia. Can’t shake that nervous feeling? Consider one of these drug-free sleep aids.