Challenge your thoughts

Image of Professor Colin Espie
by Professor Colin Espie

One approach to dealing with intrusive negative thoughts is to use information to challenge them. When we're awake at night, tired and frustrated, our thoughts can be exaggerated by emotions. The key is to remember our thoughts and beliefs are just that – beliefs. If we can calmly stand back from them and look at them unemotionally for what they are we can reduce the effect they have on us.

So for example, we might think a thought like “I won't sleep a wink tonight – and tomorrow is going to be a total disaster – I won't be able to function at all!”. If we take a step back, and calmly consider the facts based on our experience and knowledge we might be able to adjust our perspective. We might say to ourselves “Well, even on my worst nights I tend to get at least some sleep, so technically it's not true that I probably won't sleep a wink. And if I think back to the last time I had a bad night, the next day certainly wasn't one of my best but I got through it – and it was nowhere near as bad as I was dreading!“.

By calmly using facts in this way we can diffuse our negative thoughts and provide a more balanced perspective…which should make us feel calmer and more in control, and in turn make sleep more likely to come.

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