The time allocated to allow myself to freely think negative, irrational sleep thoughts was also used for another purpose: to think positive and true sleep thoughts. By doing so, I could help to reprogram my subconscious to properly evaluate sleep as something good instead of a danger and threat.
The first step for me to start thinking positive sleep thoughts was to come up with them.
Below are positive sleep thoughts that I identified. Notice that, unlike negative sleep thoughts, they are all true facts about sleep -- assuming that one has a reasonably good sleep environment, good sleep hygiene, is not ill or taking sleep-undermining legal or illegal drugs and is not engaging in negative sleep thoughts.
Now that I was armed with these positive, true sleep thoughts (which I had written down), I was ready to move them into my mind at the expense of the deeply entrenched negative, irrational sleep thoughts that were dominating my evaluation of sleep.
During my twice daily sessions in which I allowed myself to give into my strong urge to think negative sleep thoughts, I also included thinking positive sleep thoughts.
Specifically, I would let myself think something negative about sleep that had been building up in my mind, such as Trying to sleep tonight will be so stressful and anything but relaxing. After this I would force myself to say a positive sleep thought to counter the negative sleep thought, such as Sleep is pleasant, relaxing and even blissful.
I would do this technique with as many negative sleep thoughts as I wanted to think, but, of course, there was a 10-minute time limit I could not go over for each twice daily session.
I found it helpful and more effective to use the following guidelines with the positive sleep thoughts:
Just as it is important to limit the negative sleep thoughts to the daily sessions, I found that the same is true for the positive sleep thoughts. Thinking too many positive sleep thoughts throughout the day often backfired, causing me to sleep more poorly at night.
Heres my explanation for why this is the case. If sleep were not a problem for me, I would not think about it at all. Before I developed insomnia, I never thought about sleep, falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping well or sleeping poorly. These kinds of thoughts never entered my mind. This is the proper state of mind.
However, by thinking a lot about sleep, even positively, I was indirectly sending to my subconscious this message: Sleep is an issue of concern and worry for me, otherwise I would not be thinking about it so much. Sleep and bedtime must be dangers. Then my subconscious springs into action, especially at bedtime, by alerting me of the danger by making me afraid, stressed and anxious.
Therefore, I found it best to limit positive sleep thoughts to the sessions and only in response to negative sleep thoughts.
After a few days of my twice daily sessions, my worrying about sleep decreased somewhat and, as a result, I was sleeping a little better.
Over more time, things improved overall even more. As a result, I started to lower the amount of time that I allotted for each session by one minute a day. Eventually, I was able to eliminated the sessions entirely because my negative sleep thoughts had almost entirely gone away and I was sleeping much better.
Yes, I would have the occasional setback or relapse which is is normal and to be expected. When this occurred I would begin the sessions again and gradually reduce them until I got things back under control again.
Finally, I want to point out that getting started and making a habit of battling negative sleep thoughts was the hardest part. However, the longer I consistently stayed with the sessions and did them correctly, the faster and easier the results came. I found that the more I was successful at not thinking negative sleep thoughts, the easier it became to further avoid them. I think that the often true saying Use it or lose it, applies to thoughts as well. They are sort of like a muscle, and if you dont use them then they will lose their presence, power and force over time.
While I was doing my cognitive techniques, which no doubt played a large role in my overcoming insomnia, I was also working to eliminate self-defeating sleep behaviors. And that is the topic I will turn to next.