Three Benefits of Accepting Insomnia
Last updated: December 2022
One of the most important things I did to overcome my insomnia was to accept it. Sound crazy? An immediate reaction might be: "No, I'm NOT going to accept this. I'm going to FIGHT TO GET BETTER, not ROLL OVER and ACCEPT it."
I imagine the comments might hold some of these feelings, despite actually reading this article! Those reactions might be because we have a habit of using the word, 'accepting,' differently. I consider these 3 benefits of acceptance for insomnia. Acceptance has allowed me to get needed help, choose how to respond, and shift to a more productive mindset.
What some think "acceptance' means
To begin with, lots of people see the word 'acceptance', and they think:
- Resign/give up trying to get better
- Stopping getting help
- Laying back and being miserable, like – forever
- Somehow deciding to LIKE the situation
That is most definitely not what I mean, and in my mind, that is not actually what acceptance really means.
My 3 benefits of accepting insomnia
To me, accepting insomnia meant:
Benefit #1: getting help
- Continuing to get help and look for help, including medications and therapy – but not letting that journey consume my days and nights and all my emotional energy
Instead of filling my life with obsessive thinking about sleep, I lived my life despite my lack of sleep. If I cast my mind back to compare (usually disparagingly) to my past, it might not have been what I had done before – but it was what I could do at the time. I could never slam dunk a basketball because I'm 5 foot 2 inches (163cm) on a good day – that doesn't mean I can't play and have a good time. Doing things other than focusing on insomnia helped me recover.
Benefit #2: choosing my response
- Seeing I could choose how to respond to my symptoms rather than them telling me what I was able to do 100% of the time
Doing this one thing can help with so much! It is simple and is based on a treatment called behavioral activation and is used in a lot of therapies for depression, anxiety, and other conditions.1
I could feel the fatigue, confusion, and red eyes – and I could still ask myself to get moving and do things. The more I did this, the more energy I had and the more empowered I felt. The more confident I became. I reconnected with the people and things I cared about, making it even easier. Like the opposite of a vicious circle, it was a spiral upward into my best self.
Benefit #3: shifting mindset
- Shifting my mindset to the things I could do – despite my insomnia – instead of focusing on the miserable feelings
So, in addition to 'just do it,' I worked on shifting my mindset to retask itself from focusing on how insomnia was a hurdle for me. I looked past the hurdle to what was on the other side. Just doing that helped me get there.
A lot of people get angry when they hear the concept of 'acceptance' being used alongside the word 'insomnia'. But it isn't about dousing oneself in toxic positivity that isn't real or giving up or anything like that.
It's about seeing it for what it is: a part of life now, but not the only thing in life and not necessarily a defining feature of life in the future. We get into the habit of calling ourselves 'insomniacs' like insomnia is some permanent feature of our lives – it might feel that way, but if we live our life in such a way that we behave as if condemned by it, we're perpetuating the problem and we are depriving ourselves of possibility.
If I had been hit by a bus in my 20s, I'd have spent years not living my life because of my sleeplessness. I was focused on it and nothing else.
Accepting that insomnia is a PART of life
Insomnia is a part of the lives of so many people – but it's not the total life of anyone. Embracing other things, even when it's a challenge, was a major step for me to not only ultimately sleep well again -- but to also live my life in the meantime!
Your insomnia homework:
I'd love to know one small thing that you will do today that you would normally not do because you were tired. Please let me know in the comments what that thing is, and then go do it.
And then please come back and tell me how you felt after just going and doing it. Inspire others by creating the start to a day that is written by you, and not your insomnia.
What are the benefits of accepting insomnia? Share your story.
Do you manage any other health conditions alongside insomnia?