Can’t sleep?

March 6, 2010

Did you know that one of the worst things you can do, when you can’t fall asleep, is think about not being able to sleep? Don’t believe it? Try this game, courtesy Dostoevsky and Jonah Leher’s post on Opininator:

To understand this frustrating mental process, let’s play a simple game with only one rule: Don’t think about white bears. You can think about anything else, but you can’t think about that. Ready? Take a deep breath, focus, and banish the animals from your head.

You just lost the game. Everyone does. As Dostoevsky observed in “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions”: “Try to avoid thinking of a white bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.” In fact, whenever we try not to think about something that something gets trapped in the mind, stuck in the recursive loop of self-consciousness. Our attempt at repression turns into an odd fixation. More..

So, the next time you can’t sleep after 15 to 20 minutes drag yourself out of bed and do something mindless like folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher. You’ll break the cycle of anxiety over not sleeping … and before you know it the mundane activity will lead you to sweet dreams….

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