Most people who have sleeping problems tend to talk about their difficulty with sleep quite frequently.
You may think it’s reasonable to talk about something that’s causing you suffering, but it’s important to realize that if you want to sleep well—it’s not at all helpful. The two main reasons for this are:
- When you talk about something stressful—like sleeping badly—you activate stress hormones in your body, which contribute to poor sleep.
- Whatever you focus on most becomes your experience, so you’re actually setting yourself up for more sleeping problems when you focus on sleeping badly.
Take a moment to consider how you feel when you talk about your difficulties with sleep. Does it cause you to feel at ease and optimistic, or do you re-live the pain of being sleepless and feel upset by it? If you’re like the majority of people I’ve spoken to—it doesn’t make you feel good. Two of your primary goals during this program are:
- To reduce your stress levels and nurture your nervous system so it’s easier for you to calm down and be deeply restful and night.
- To shift your focus from sleeping badly to sleeping well as often as possible. This will cause a shift in your behavior and ultimately your experience. Remember—the road you look down is the road you walk down.
People who sleep well, never think or talk about sleep, unless it’s to simply look forward to a good nights sleep with a deep sense of certainty. If you cultivate the mindset of a person who sleeps well, it will help you sleep well.
You can shift out of the habit of dwelling on and talking about your sleeping problems relatively easily once you commit to do it. One simple way that you can curb this habit is to focus on positive sleep memories and re-live them with as much detail and pleasurable emotion as possible.
Take a moment to remember a time when you slept really well. Recall what it was like in as much detail as possible and how you felt when you awoke. Don’t read any further until you have at least one positive sleep memory. Now put the memory in your pocket so you can use it as a helpful distraction next time you notice that you’re dwelling on thoughts about sleeping badly.
My favourite ‘good sleep memory’ is from a day I spent on a luxury yacht. There was a bed in the hull that stretched across the width of the boat. I lay on it in the late afternoon and let the ocean lull me very into a very deep sleep. Whenever I tune into this memory, my body remembers the soothing motion of the boat and I feel calm and peaceful.
Strategies for changing your conversations
Are there people you know who also have difficulties with sleep and when you get together it’s your main topic of conversation? I suggest that you tell these people that you’ve decided to stop talking about your sleeping problems and then ask a question that spawns a more uplifting conversation.Here are a couple of suggestions you can try:
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since I last saw you? What are you looking forward to in the next few days?
Are there people in your life who always ask you ‘How did you sleep last night?’ When you’ve had a particular issue for a long time, it’s common for people to ask you about it as a means of greeting. Even though you may feel compelled to answer this question in detail, you don’t have to. It’s probably become a habitual pattern, which you can shift out of once you see that it’s unhelpful.
Here are a couple of suggestions for how you can handle it in a way that will lead the conversation in a more positive direction.
I’m sleeping better now, thanks for asking. Then change the subject to something positive. I suggest saying that you’re sleeping better even if you’re not. The adage “fake it till you make it” really works.
Another option is to tell them that you’d really appreciate it if they could help you avoid talking about sleep.
It may take effort in the beginning, but stay firm in your resolve and keep a soft heart, remembering that their intention is to connect with you.
If someone asks you why you’re making these requests, you could tell them that you’re shifting your attention to what feels good because you’ve noticed that it has a positive impact on your state of mind, health and sleep.
Don’t underestimate the power of changing this habit—it’s one of the most powerful things you’ll do on your way to becoming a great sleeper.