Insomnia: Can we reverse its effects by forcing ourselves to stay awake?

This psychotherapeutic technique could be the answer to getting a good night's sleep.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can affect just about anyone for various reasons. The repercussions of it can last a lifetime by degenerating into more complicated conditions like full-blown depression.

In the UK alone, 36% of adults have a hard time falling asleep at least once a week, and almost half of them experience the same troubles at least once a month.

What is paradoxical intention?

Although medication has become more readily available over the years, it is not always the best solution as it can lead to substance abuse. One therapeutic technique that isn't as widely known is called 'paradoxical intention' and it entails encouraging individuals to face their fears head-on. In the case of those battling insomnia, this would take the form of staying awake as long as possible instead of focusing on not being able to fall asleep.

Hussain Abdeh, a sleep expert and pharmacist at Medicine Direct, explains that:

Through attempting to stay awake, sleep may occur more easily. This is a form of challenging your normal mentality and sleep thought process to reduce the pressure and anxiety that you have about falling asleep.

Adding:

Often when we have anxiety about something we over think the problem and this can exacerbate the problem and in turn form more anxiety.

Performance anxiety

Essentially, the logic behind this technique is to focus your energy in a way where you are not adding pressure to 'perform' (in this case, the performance would be to fall asleep).

By no longer feeling consumed by the anxiety that comes from insomnia, you feel more relaxed, which in turn allows you to organically become tired and eventually fall asleep. Dr Abdeh says:

If a person stops trying to fall asleep and deliberately keeps themselves awake for as long as possible, the performance anxiety will be significantly lessened because they will feel too tired to be anxious. This makes it easier for them to fall asleep and enjoy a quality sleep.
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