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Setting Boundaries: Saying No Was Like Saying Yes to Sleep

If I were to talk about boundaries and sleep, you might quite rightly imagine that I'd be talking about when I stop drinking coffee, when I eat last, and when I stop scrolling on my favorite social media channels. Or perhaps the idea of having a fixed bedtime or waketime comes to mind as some kind of 'boundary.' Now, all of these 'boundaries' may prove helpful for some – but these are not the most important boundaries for me or those people I know with sleeping difficulties. Here are my tips for setting boundaries with insomnia; and, when saying no was like saying yes to sleep.

When unhealthy boundaries need to be changed

Meeting other people's needs before my own worsens my sleep

Sleep procrastination – not going to bed because of work or other demands – can lead to worsening insomnia. It is not simply 'being awake' that creates challenges but not 'turning off' the emotional demands of external life.

When I have felt I needed to deny myself the opportunity to sleep because I'm busy with meeting other people's expectations (say, around work), this has had a definite negative impact on my anxiety and mental well-being. This, in turn, worsened my sleep.

Insomnia and anxiety erode important boundaries

I think this type of pattern is true, especially for those who have insomnia. If we aren't sleeping well, some of us can be more prone to anxiety about other things - like work, meeting other people's needs, and other social demands.

In the case of 'doing work,' or things for other people, that anxiety can be alleviated to some degree by 'doing the things,' or getting the work done. However, not having healthy boundaries around work can erode sleep quite easily. This is tricky for people like me (self-employed and work with people across many timezones).

Additionally, not having the 'boundaries' of a workplace can aggravate sleeping problems for some people and takes practice to manage in a healthy way. Working from home means work can expand to fill the space that could be filled with other joyful things that could promote sleep. Working all evening also encourages a dynamic with others that take the form of expectations of immediate replies, which can further raise anxiety or erode boundaries between work and personal circles of life.

Setting boundaries for insomnia eases my anxiety

Having healthy boundaries during the day helps me with my sleep. I learned to say YES and NO appropriately to requests for my time and energy during the day. This was anxiety-provoking to begin with, and I'd toss and turn with guilt over the 'nos' and resentment over some of the 'yeses.' But in the end, learning to do this better eased my anxiety and improved my sleep in a few different ways:

  1. I could accept into my life only the energy and time demands that I wanted without resentment.
  2. I could decline requests without guilt – because I was doing it to be healthy and for myself.
  3. I could do both of these things knowing they were both right for me and the other person.
  4. I could work during work time – and only rarely into the evening (by my own choice).
  5. I could have time to fill with other things that brought me joy, peace, and relaxation – especially in the evenings.

Setting boundaries improved my daytime and my emotional life – as well as my work/personal life balance. And – that helped my sleep tremendously.

Have you ever felt that boundary issues in your daytime affected your sleep at nighttime? What have you done to help improve those and did that have a positive impact on your sleep?

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