Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sleepless Shoulds

For as long as I can remember I have had problems getting to sleep. I can get pretty hyped up at night, which doesn't fit in well with having a nine to five work schedule. Not sleeping at night used to bring up much frustration. I would curse the birds chirping in the morning, and beg not to see the first hint of sun peeking through the window.

Fortunately, when I started challenging the thought, "I should get plenty of sleep at night," I felt better. Here's how I apply it now in the middle of one of these aggravated sleepless nights:

"How did you learn that you should get plenty of sleep at night?"
I certainly get bombarded with 'studies' that tell me I should be getting rest. I know I had parents who did their very best to get me to sleep at night. Teachers, doctors, all say I should get plenty of rest.

"But is this true for everyone everywhere 24/7?"
No, plenty of people can function without a proper night's rest. And in fact, I can function adequately without a decent night's sleep. I'm certainly not at my best without sleep, but I can make it through if need be.

"How do you feel when you think you should be sleeping right now?"
I feel angry, anguished, discouraged, powerless.

"And do these feelings help you get the sleep you want?"
No way.

"What would life be like without this should?"
It would be so much easier. I could sleep when I'm tired, relax, and not worry so much if sleep doesn't come.

"Replace it."
I would prefer to get enough sleep. It would be beneficial for me to get enough sleep. But in the long run I'm going to be okay either way. Even if I'm not functioning at my 100% best I can get by. And as Dr. Albert Ellis once said, nobody has ever died from losing one night of sleep.

By changing my thoughts like this, I actually feel a lot better. And when I feel better, I end up getting more sleep. So it turns out that when I eliminate my "should" about getting sleep, that I end up getting a lot more sleep!

This is one of the wonderful paradoxes of Should-less living. When you let go of that thing you think you need, you're often more likely to get it.

1 comment:

JD Tuyes said...

I like this posting a lot, having just been through the experience last night. Really I wanted to keep reading and even if I "should" have gone to sleep and was driven rather crazy by this "should", I still managed to make it through my day just fine. Looking forward to heading in early though!

Hope you are well!