I love sleep. Sleep is super important. A good night's sleep is kind of like a reset button for your brain. It can help you recover when you're sick; rejuvenate you during periods of stress; and help your body repair cells that have been damaged due to UV exposure. Activity in parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making processes, and social interactions is drastically reduced during deep sleep, suggesting that this type of sleep may help people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while they are awake.
So sleep is critical to function. And yet it manages to be so elusive to so many people, including myself. When the lights go out, I do not blissfully sail off to dreamland on a cloud of zzzz's. There's something about going to sleep that makes my brain turn up the volume on every single thought in my head. I don't understand this. What is it about that hour that causes me to introspectively examine every single negative thing I did during the day? Instead of drifting off, why do I construct a mental list of stuff I need to do the following day and formulate blog posts and worry about my daughter's grades and try to remember what my fourth grade's teachers name was? Who cares, anyway?
The problem is worry. I am a worrier. I worry ALL THE TIME. I worry about everything. I worry that I'll never learn to bake a pie from scratch. I worry that my kids won't get scholarships to college. I worry about the results of the endometrial biopsy I had last week. I worry that my book will never get published. And mostly, I worry about my body - my weight, my appearance, the pimple on my chin. I need to lose ten pounds. I should be eating better. SOMEONE HAD BETTER GET THE HALLOWEEN CANDY OUT OF MY HOUSE. I become preoccupied with random "what-if's" and and worst-case scenarios and before I know it it's 3 am and I am no closer to sleep than I was when I first got into bed.
Studies say that half of all people have trouble sleeping at least one day a week, and 33% have trouble falling asleep every night. How does worry interfere with sleep? Here's an explanation:
- During the day, our conscious mind processes all the information we collect: events, sounds, converstaions, etc.
- Our brains can't handle all the information in our conscious minds, so it filters the information and decides to hold onto the thoughts that have value. These are stored in our subconscious. All other info is discarded and forgotten about.
- Before we go to bed, our minds relax and we don't filter out information as much.
- When our conscious mind starts to relax right before sleep, all the information we stored in our subconscious mind starts to bubble up.
- This gets added to thoughts regarding the things we need to finish and all the problems we need to solve, and builds tension. This tension interferes with our ability to fall asleep.
Do you have trouble falling asleep at night? Are you a worrying? Does your worrying interfere with daily life? What are some thoughts that keep you awake at night?
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