Better Sleep in Less Than a Week: Day 4

Day 4 Lesson: Thoughts → Feelings → Behaviors → Thoughts

Yesterday, you learned that we want your bed to be associated only with sleep, and that the behavior of worrying in bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep. We identified that we can change that behavior by getting out of bed to worry. Today, we’re going to talk about knocking out worry right where it lives: in the mind-body. Worries make us feel tense and keyed up. Those sensations also make us worry more.

There are two ways we can calm our bodies down:

  • starting with our thinking brains, and having them send a message to rest of the body to chill out (which we call “top-down”), or
  • using the body to signal the brain that everything is fine (which we call “bottom-up”).

Today, we’ll use a top-down technique of exploring your beliefs about sleep and how those thoughts impact your experiences. Sometime the nature and content of our thoughts can actually leave us feeling more stressed out than the situation actually calls for. When we examine how and what we’re thinking, we can help ourselves ultimately feel better and less worried.

Let’s start with an example:

Imagine you’ve gotten everyone to bed, and it’s finally your turn to rest. You climb into bed and close your eyes, but suddenly feel totally and completely awake.

What thoughts might immediately pop into your head?

  • “I’m never going to fall asleep!”
  • “There’s no way I’ll be okay tomorrow.”

These thoughts are your brain’s interpretations of the situation.

Now, what feelings follow those thoughts?

  • Dread
  • Anger
  • Resentment

Finally, how might you behave when you have these thoughts and feelings together?

  • Lie in bed and think about how unfair this is
  • Start looking up strategies to fall asleep RIGHT NOW on your phone

Okay, now pause for a second. We can see how the initial interpretation of the situation leads us down a path that is honestly not at all relaxing! So let’s try again, starting with more balanced alternate interpretations:

  • “It’s hard for me to fall asleep right now, but I know I will be tired eventually.”
  • “I don’t feel ready to go to sleep.”

Those thoughts lead to feelings of:

  • Acceptance
  • Mild disappointment that the timing feels off
  • Trust that your body can do what it needs to do and you’ll be okay

Together, the thoughts and feelings result in these behaviors:

  • Getting out of bed to go do something else until I feel tired
  • Doing a few minutes of yoga or breathing to help cope with the disappointment

See the difference?

Although the original situation remains the same (lying in bed, not falling asleep), the outcome is much easier to deal with when we find balanced thoughts and introduce them as possibilities.

Day 4 Activity: Wiping Out Worry

Time to try this top-down technique yourself. Complete the worksheet below to challenge those thoughts that don’t serve you.

Sleep well,