You Don’t Need to Sleep
As we work together, my client Charles notices how his desperation for sleep keeps him agitated and awake. His firmly ingrained “I need to sleep” belief means that:
- If he doesn’t sleep, he won’t be functional the next day, much less healthy in the future.
- He must be doing something wrong or someone is to blame if he can’t sleep already.
- If a technique (e.g., relaxing or focused breathing) doesn’t put him to sleep in a short period of time, it’s a fraud and waste of time.
In fact, I suggested that Charles practice Restful Insomnia tools before he goes to the bedroom. He had told me that if practices in bed, he’ll expect the technique should put him to sleep, so his anxiety just escalates. And that puts a glitch in just about any tool he tries.
The belief sticks around even though he’s experienced that when he rests, he does have energy the next day (and, shhh! it helps him sleep).
“I need to sleep” framework is deep in his system, and makes insomnia much worse.
One of the key issues interfering with rest… and sleep
Obsessing over sleep is a foundational issue for many clients, not only Charles.
I work with clients on how to move through the 5 Restful Insomnia obstacles, how to change their relationship to their mind, emotions, etc. During our sessions, we often revisit how their craving for sleep gets in the way.
We unlock the individual ways this belief takes hold, so over time they release their insomnia prison and move into the gift of rest…. And the paradox of welcoming sleep.
What’s true about sleep
What’s true is that sleep is a delightful gift from the gods. Yes, it does keep you healthier, make you more functional, more yourself during day. It’d be a sad life if sleep did not exist.
But… the belief that you need to sleep puts you into the insomnia hell of shoulds, stress, shame, and blame.
It takes you out of your body, into your mind, and the mind cannot make sleep happen. However the mind can help you rest.
Wanting to sleep, and cozying into rest
As Charles and I work together, he is shifting his mind from needing to sleep to this:
I want to sleep, and I value rest.
Sleep may come, and I’m staying here with rest.
It’s not a snap to make this shift. Just like the other Restful Insomnia tools, it requires practice and revisiting at coaching sessions.
With Charles, I see this new framework sinking in deeper and deeper. He even is considering practicing techniques in bed, as long as they’re just to help him, as he says, “relax.”
He understands that being asleep can’t be his goal, but that he can create a gentle room for rest in his body as the place to hang out.
No, he doesn’t want to be stood up by sleep, but he’s in a soothing, comfortable place that really welcomes sleep, instead of trying to force it.
As they used to say when I was a teen, “If you truly love someone let them go.” That’s because you can’t force someone to love you. And you can’t force sleep either.
Changing this perspective on sleep is key with all my coaching clients. Be like Charles, let go into rest. And if you’d like some help moving through the obstacles in its way, just let me know.
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