Woman sits on her bed punishing herself with terrible food and boring games in order to fall asleep. Pushes all the things she loves under the bed.

I Stopped Punishing Myself. I Started Sleeping Better.

Insomnia is punishment enough. Don't punish yourself. And if you are punishing yourself, consider stopping. Stop punishing yourself to improve your sleep.

What am I talking about, you ask?

Stop punishing yourself and start sleeping better

I work with people who have insomnia. Years ago, when I had insomnia myself, I shared with so many here that familiar crushing fatigue, the headaches, the nausea, the burning sandpaper eyes, the brain fog, the word salad, the trembles, and the wild emotional swings.

My punishment: self-neglect and impositions

I no longer have insomnia, courtesy of CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia), but before I began the end of my insomnia journey, I punished myself by acting out my desperation for relief in so many ways:

  • Doing things I hated in hopes I'd bore myself to sleep (...puzzles and math equations...)
  • Eating things I didn't particularly appreciate because I was told they'd help me sleep (...liver.....ew...nearly made me sick...)
  • Spending lots of money on things I used to try to get myself to sleep (...magic earplugs...eye masks...supplements...)
  • Abandoning a few activities I really really enjoyed (...because I was tired and didn't think I could live up to my own expectations)
  • Quitting my sport and even my knitting hobby! (...I didn't replace them, I just removed them...)
  • Giving up meeting friends because I didn't think I was up to it (...Sorry for all those cancellations, Sarah...in hindsight, I wished I'd have gone more often than not...)

The thing is – none of these self-neglects, impositions, or downright punishments actually helped my sleep in the slightest. Not one tiny bit.

The result: more sleeplessness and less joy!

Despite only getting 3-4 hours a night for a long time, the things I was doing – each small action or inaction as a response to sleep – actually deprived me of more than my sleeplessness ever did. And giving up the things I gave up just created more space for me to sit and feel miserable and tired.

Yes, I was tired. Yes, I had physical and mental symptoms. And yes, it was hard. However, I made choices nearly every day that deprived me of joy. And this made it all the worse.

I deprived myself of time with people I loved. I didn't have to. I thought I should because I might not be at my 100%. But you know what? I still could have enjoyed that time to the maximum I could and focused on that instead.

My joy gets killed by my fatigue

The same with giving up on my hobbies. I didn't think I could 'do it well enough to bother' – even though I'd have enjoyed the time spent. Maybe I wouldn't have enjoyed it the same as if I slept well....but I let my fatigue decide for me how much joy to allow into my life. Just because things wouldn't be as I would have wanted them somehow.

So I dealt joy a death by a thousand small cuts over the years, until I was really miserable – but I still wasn't sleeping.

Bring back my joy from death

When I look back, knowing what I know now, I see how I came through my insomnia.

Instead of staying in a place where I eliminated everything that meant something to me, I brought those things back in. Even if it wasn't easy. Even if it was actually hard. I brought some joy back to my life instead of depriving myself of what I COULD get from life. I began to stop punishing myself to improve my sleep.

And guess what? I enjoyed my life more. I had some fun. I was more active. And – my sleep slowly began to improve.

Have you cut things out of your life or started doing things you hate because of your sleep?

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