When you read advice of how to overcome insomnia, you’ll see there’s a debate – should or shouldn’t you get out of bed if you can’t sleep?
Some say that moving will cause you to wake up. However, I am firm believer in getting up after 20 minutes if you want to overcome insomnia.
You won’t know if it’s exactly 20 minutes because you won’t be checking any clocks. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I look at a clock, I start doing ‘sleep math’. This is when I see the time and start calculating how many hours I have left to sleep. If you’re the type to do sleep math, don’t look at clocks close to bedtime. It just causes further stress.
Here’s what you do: If you’re not getting tired after a few minutes of laying down and start tossing and turning, move to a different room. Do something relaxing like reading or writing under low light. Wait until you feel really sleepy and your eyes get heavy, and then go to your bed again.
This isn’t the only way you’ll solve insomnia, but it’s a huge piece of the puzzle.
A conditioned response
Chronic insomnia is a conditioned response. Somewhere along the line, you started to associate your bed with anxiety. To overcome insomnia, you need to work on reconditioning your brain.
If you are not familiar with the concept of conditioned response, it is based off an experiment by Ivan Pavlov. His famed experiment, Pavlov’s dog, involved reconditioning dogs. Before the experiment, the dog would salivate at the sight of food. When a whistle was blown, it was a neutral stimulus that dogs did not salivate to. Pavlov then performed the experiment in which he blew the whistle and then fed the dogs. The dog was now conditioned to salivate at the sound of whistle.
That’s why even if you prepare yourself perfectly for bed, sometimes you just can’t fall asleep. You can tell yourself over and over that you’ll sleep (and positive thoughts is part of the process of overcoming insomnia), but your subconscious mind is hard at work to prove otherwise.
If you only go your bed when you are sleepy, you’ll recondition your brain to associate your bed with sleep rather than restlessness and stress.
Do this consistently
After you get sleepy, go back to bed. If you fall asleep, or feel your body relaxing, perfect. If your mind ramps up again, get up and try again. Keep doing this as many times as needed, every night.
Retraining your brain to only associate your room and bed with sleep takes time. You’ll probably feel like this exercise is pointless some nights. That’s okay. Do it anyway.
Your brain is like a hyped up kid that needs to learn to pipe down when it’s time for sleep. Be patient.
Your brain WILL respond eventually.