Meet Toby, our new dog. No, he doesn’t have a sleep problem. But Toby has a problem that seriously affects the quality of his and our lives: he’s terrified of dogs. We adopted him from a rescue shelter, unaware that the mere sight of a 5-pound Chihuahua would cause Toby to leap and bark as though he feared for his life. Toby’s fear of dogs reminds me of my own fear of sleeplessness, which I struggled with for decades. The problem seemed insurmountable . . . until I went through insomnia treatment and found a way out. If sleep anxiety is your problem too, read on.
Anxiety about sleep is a problem for some insomnia sufferers. Fear of sleeplessness is the main thing keeping them awake at night.
Here’s how sleep anxiety develops and how to tone it down.
Do you have a persistent sleep problem? Make cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia your No. 1 New Year’s resolution for 2017.
Here’s what you stand to gain, what may stand in the way, and where to find help.
Lately I’ve been hearing from people who improved their sleep using sleep restriction or full-blown CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) and then experience a relapse. They have a few bad nights and fear they’ve lost all the gains they made. Here’s how one reader recently described her plight:
“I realize that sometimes I will get scared when I have one or two bad nights once in a while. I’m afraid that insomnia will haunt me once again. Is this normal? What can I do?”
Once fear of sleeplessness moves into your bedroom, it can feel like a permanent feature of the night, making insomnia worse. But does it have to be this way?
Therapy with a sleep specialist, or measures you can take on your own with instruction from a book or the web, can help set fears to rest.
I spent years in denial about my fear of sleeplessness. Just how mixed up would I look if I admitted to an anxiety that undoubtedly made my insomnia worse?
I didn’t know anything about emotion then, or how people come to fear things like dogs or water or sleeplessness. I’ve come a long way since.
Before I decided to take the bull by the horns and actually do something about my insomnia, I was convinced there was little TO do. I believed my fate was sealed from birth: on top of being short and stubborn, I was destined to be on shaky terms with the night. I could curse the gods, or I could settle down and make the best of it.