Stress Management Insights: The Psychology of Sleep

Millions of words have been written about the topic of sleep. Understanding sleep is very important because we spend at least a quarter of our life asleep.

Sleeping well is essential for health, wellness and personal stress management. Managing the stresses of daily life becomes a lot easier when you get a good sleep.

A good pillow, quiet environment and comfortable bed can assist greatly. But the most important thing of all is a good attitude to sleep.

The Frontal Lobe of the Brain

The frontal lobe of the brain plays an important role in goal planning. The frontal lobe is activated where we set a goal, target or make a plan.

The psychological octane that drives the frontal lobe is expectationExpectations are like switches that light up many neuronal networks within the brain. These networks then work at a subconscious level to turn the expectation into reality.

Let me provide you with an example of how this works.

You decide to buy a red Toyota Prius and have three weeks to wait for delivery. During the waiting period as you drive on the highway you will be amazed how often you see cars of this kind. Every Prius that goes by captures your attention. You are not deliberately trying to find them and your capacity to do so suggests that there may be a neuronal network actively monitoring cars of this shape, size and brand.

Get the frontal lobe working for you by adopting positive sleep expectations.

Steps to Developing a Good Sleep Attitude

1. Go to bed with the expectation that you will enjoy a good night’s sleep;

2. Be confident that the body is well equipped at self-regulation and that it will work in accordance with your expectations to facilitate good sleep;

3. Anxiety is the thief of sleep so put aside any anxious thoughts that you may not get enough sleep to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Avoid negative thoughts such as “I hope I sleep better tonight than last night” or “I absolutely must get a good sleep tonight“;

4. Do not try to go to sleep. Sleep is a natural process and it cannot be forced. Go to bed with the expectation that you will go to sleep and before you do just enjoy the conscious feeling of rest and relaxation – enjoy the bed, the pillow, the quietness;

5. Pretend to be asleep and you’ll probably nod off without too many problems. I have used this technique of pretending to be sleep many times when travelling on planes throughout the night. I assume that I am sleeping and this must happen because the trip goes very fast;

6. Expect to wake up refreshed even if the actual number of hours of sleep are limited. The best quality sleep occurs in the first few hours so 3 or 4 hours of good sleep can do wonders;

7. Practice cat naps during the day. Close your eyes for 15 minutes and pretend to be asleep and there is a very good chance you will nod off.

The attitude you bring to sleep can make a significant difference to the outcome.

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