An Empowering Truth
by Brian Curtis, Ph.D.
If you regularly have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, this is your responsibility.
Yes, there are many factors that predispose you for having disrupted sleep that are not in your control. For me, it's likely a genetic predisposition to anxiety, planning, perfectionism, and hyperarousal. Generalized anxiety and chronic insomnia run in my family. THANKS MOM! :)
Yes, there are many factors that precipitate short-term insomnia that are also not in your control. For me, it was usually an upcoming exam, presentation, or conversation that I would keep replaying in my mind once my head hit the pillow. For you, it may be one or more traumas, a death of a friend or family member, losing your job, financial struggles, a romantic breakup, discrimination, inequality, socioeconomic difficulties, or other stressors.
However, there are a seemingly endless variety of perpetuating factors that keep your difficulty sleeping going on. And on. And on. Day. After day. After day. And these, these you do have some control over. These you need to take responsibility for.
For me, it was evening alcohol use to manage my anxiety and fall asleep easier, caffeine use during the morning and well into the afternoon to combat sleepiness, checking email and working right up until bedtime with no space for a routine, relaxing "buffer period" or "pre-sleep schedule", sleeping in longer on non-work days to try and recover that sleep debt built up during the week, taking sleeping medications without putting in the time and effort to complete the first-line treatment for chronic insomnia (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia; CBT-I), regularly tossing and turning in bed when I couldn't sleep. This went on for 21 years.
Take a moment to consider what behaviors, thoughts, and emotions you have noticed perpetuate your own sleep difficulties.
At the very least, you must acknowledge the difficult, yet empowering truth that if you don't take responsibility for your sleep, nobody else will.
It's not effective to blame your genetics. Stressing about past injustices doesn't help you overcome them. Being willing to acknowledge past wrongs, to accept them (without necessarily approving of them), and to work towards changing what you can change is often the first step towards a new and more fulfilling life. A new life where sleep is no longer a constant struggle and barrier to having the energy you need to build the life you truly want to live.
If you're feeling stuck and unsure of where to even begin, please always feel free to reach out to me directly. Donating my time to helping people get on an evidence-based path to overcome their chronic sleep difficulties is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.
It leads to a lot of happiness.
I take responsibility for that.