Do you have insomnia?
You try to go to bed at a decent time, but you spend hours tossing and turning anyway. You know your body is tired, but you simply can’t turn your mind off and get to sleep. Your mind is wide awake, but your body is not.
The frustration is overwhelming.
I understand! I experienced chronic insomnia for years.
I had accepted it. I had learned to live with the tiredness.
Until one day I learned about the horrifying consequences of sleep deprivation – and realized that something needed to change.
Something can change for you too! You just need to learn how to use psychology. You just need to train your brain into realizing that it’s tired too.
Have you heard of classical conditioning?
It’s a psychological phenomenon in which the brain comes to associate a neutral stimulus with another which already elicits a response from you. After continuous repetition, the response from the affective stimulus transfers over to the previously neutral one.
You’ve probably heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Through repetitious association, their brains recognized the sound of a bell and the presentation of food as the relatively same thing. Even when the stimulus of the food was not present, if they heard the sound of the associated bell they would salivate.
Our brains are interconnected in marvellous ways. And if we know how, we can use its ability to form strong associations between stimuli to our advantage.
We can use it to help us get to sleep.
You may not realize it, but you have already formed many classical conditioned associations in your mind! And a lot of them are getting in the way of your sleep.
Before you can use conditioning, you need to realize that almost everything you experience can be categorized as a stimulus which elicits a response from your body.
For any classical conditioned situation, there must be one neutral stimulus and one unconditioned stimulus which already elicits a direct response from the body. For example, when you watch a movie you are visually stimulated. Your brain focuses on the images and keeps you alert so you can perceive what you are seeing. This is an unconditioned stimulus. The response (an increased alertness) could be transferred onto a neutral stimulus.
What’s the stimulus we want to use in order to cure insomnia?
Without realizing it, we have attached all sorts of conditioned responses to the stimulus of our bed.
We often spend quite a bit of time in our beds – doing things other than sleeping.
We read in our beds, we watch TV in our beds, we surf the net in our beds, we talk on the phone in our beds, and some of us even study in our beds!
A lot of the time, we are encouraged to incorporate these activities into our wind-down process. This is completely backwards!
With the exception of sexual activity, every single thing we do in our beds adds a layer of conditioned response.
When you read or watch TV, you are stimulating your brain in a way which keeps it alert and interested.
When you routinely do those things in your bed, you come to associate that alert stimulation with the bed. Ideally, the only stimulated response associated with your bed would be sleep.
The first thing you need to do is eliminate all the previously conditioned responses you’ve already added to your bed. Go cold turkey on TV in bed. Only read sitting up. Sit at your desk when you surf the net, and talk on the phone on your couch.
Once you’ve achieved that, you will automatically begin to condition the response of sleep with the stimulus of your bed. It is only a matter of time before falling asleep becomes the natural response that your body has been craving.
Another way to condition your sleep pattern into a routine is to go to sleep and wake up at exactly the same time every day. It can be difficult, but try to avoid naps. Learn to associate darkness with sleep, and lightness with awake.