No, no, no, I am not suggesting that you sleep with Arianna Huffington or others!

I am referring to books that have been written by her and others about the benefits of getting sufficient sleep.

This is not a review of Arianna’s recent book, nor that of any others, which write about the importance of getting sufficient sleep. There is no question in my mind that sufficient deep sleep nightly (or daily for shift workers) is certainly something worthwhile and most beneficial to aspire to getting.This piece is in no way intended to discourage readers from learning beneficial information that can enhance well-being, health and longevity when applied.

My goal is to alert you to the danger of thinking that we should and must do what we read is good for us, and do it perfectly well—and that if we don’t do so sufficiently, or (even worse) if we don’t do so perfectly well—the results will be catastrophic to some degree or other.

The anxiety one might create about getting insufficient sleep would most likely be greatly magnified by thinking in those demanding “should and must” and catastrophizing ways.

In fact, a whole new realm of fear and anxiety would most likely be created, which can be aptly referred to as “anxiety about anxiety.”

The potency of that condition (referred to in the approach of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy as “secondary anxiety”) may have the stimulant potential of more than 12 cups of the most intense expresso coffee, and those with such anxiety about anxiety can bid hopes of deep rejuvenating sleep and healthy restorative dreaming a sad farewell.

The solution may come in the following steps:

1. Work on removing the anxiety about the anxiety by thinking about the situation realistically and keeping it in healthy perspective. We might do so by telling ourselves that even if we do not succeed every night to remove the anxiety and to relax enough in order to get a good amount of sleep, it is not the end of the world, and success can still come over time through applying ongoing and persistent effort.

We can remind ourselves that even if we don’t initially notice any progress, or as much progress as we’d prefer, in attaining the goal we aim for, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make some progress, and increase it gradually with ongoing effort. Over time, as we continue to remind ourselves that we can tolerate not experiencing immediate results in eliminating anxiety about our anxiety, even if we don’t like that status, we can keep on making effort, accept the ebb and flow of our progress, and in so doing—reduce anxiety about anxiety.

2. Attend to the original anxiety that we feel when we think we “need” a certain amount of sleep and then awfulize about not getting it.

We can remind ourselves that getting only some sleep can be sufficient and is certainly better than none, as many people who have been sleep deprived for long periods of time can attest to (for example, nursing mothers, people working many consecutive shifts, and others). It is not preferable to have only few hours of sleep, but for many people it can be a part of life to be “sleep deprived” for a time, and does not necessarily remove all quality and enjoyment in life. Reducing that primary anxiety and experiencing instead a healthy concern can motivate us to take step 3.

3. Look for practical solutions that increase the probability of longer, deeper and better sleep and sleeping patterns. Common sense tells us that eliminating caffeinated drinks some hours before sleep; winding down calmly towards sleep time by putting away work related tasks, closing the computer and doing calming and enjoyable activities, listening to relaxing or meditative music, and drinking calming beverages such as chamomile tea can be helpful. Books, like Huffington's and others, contain additional information and suggestions that can inform and motivate us.  

Any actions we perform to improve sleep quality will be enhanced after the reduction or elimination of paralyzing and restrictive anxiety.

We humans can be, as the great Albert Ellis used to say, talented at thinking in self-defeating ways, which create the unhealthy and often debilitating emotions. With awareness and the willingness to train ourselves to think in healthy and rational ways, we can choose to dispute the irrational beliefs and demands that create anxiety, we can increasingly think in the ways that free us from restricting and painful emotions, and allow ourselves to create healthy life enhancing emotions along with behaving in productive and helpful ways.

Sleep on that dear readers!

Wishing you good and sweet dreams!

About the Author

Debbie Joffe Ellis

Debbie Joffe Ellis, MDAM, Licensed Australian psychologist and Licensed New York Mental Health Counselor, teaches at Columbia University in NYC.

You are reading

Tried and True

A Bird's Life in New York City

Compassion and care as people come together to save a fledgling's life.

Acceptance, Gratitude and Celebrating Life

Reflections on Attitudes, Emotions and Mother's Day.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want !

Vigorously choosing a healthy perspective in the face of disappointment.