Having Trouble Sleeping? Don't Think About It
At one time or another, we've probably all had trouble sleeping. But thinking about sleeping might be the worst thing we can do.
Jonah Lehrer's NY Times Op-Ed, 'Mind Games', discusses his struggles with getting to sleep -- and how thinking about "not sleeping" often makes it worse:
Dan Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard, refers to the failure as an "ironic"mental process. Whenever we establish a mental goal — such as trying not to think about white bears, or sex, or a stressful event — the goal is accompanied by an inevitable follow-up thought, as the brain checks to see if we’re making progress. The end result, of course, is that we obsess over the one thing we’re trying to avoid. As Wegner notes, "The mind appears to search, unconsciously and automatically, for whatever thought, action, or emotion the person is trying to control. … This ironic monitoring process can actually create the mental contents for which it is searching."