Sleep Musturbation: How your “sleep musturbation” creates anxiety and panic for sleep.

It’s Sunday night and you have to get up early on Monday for work, or an appointment, or to catch a plane. You need a good night’s sleep to start your week, but you lay in bed unable to fall asleep, and you become anxious as the clock is ticking the hours away until tomorrow.

And then it happens. Your sleep musturbation starts: “I must fall asleep,” “I should be asleep by now,” “I shouldn’t have stayed up so late,”  “Maybe I should have my doctor write me a prescription so I can sleep.” Your constant Must-ing, Ought-ing, and Should-ing creates anxiety, which turns to panic,which prevents you from falling asleep.

If you’re not familiar with ‘Musturbation’, allow me to inform you of it’s meaning.

‘Musturbation” is a term coined by Dr. Albert Ellis which describes  “absolutist thinking,” or believing things are always in black or white. Musturbatory thinking, according to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) theory, is the kind of thinking that gives rise to extreme frustration, panic, anxiety, lack of sleep, and depression. This kind of thinking drives a lot of the unhealthy choices we make in our lives. The following are some of the most popular sleep musturbatory habits of thinking. 

Note if any of the following statements relate to you:

I absolutely must get what I want, which is a good night’s sleep (or not get what I don’t want, which is to lie in bed awake).

A good night’s sleep should be easy.

 And if these absolutist sleep demands are not being met, then:

 Life is so awful and I can’t stand not being able to sleep! It sucks! 

When I can’t sleep, the next morning will be awful and I don’t like being around happy people. I am an awful person.

When we lay awake at night in bed “musturbating”, we don’t know we’re doing it. The solution is to work hard to eliminate the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary when you are attempting to sleep …but do so without replacing ‘should’ with ‘must’ or ‘ought’.

No matter how badly you’ve slept in the past, you fundamentally always (yes, A-L-W-A-Y-S) have the ability and the power to change your situation and get a good night’s sleep.

Once we stop “sleep musturbating”, our intense feelings of anxiety, panic, and despair from lack of sleep will soon decrease to the point where we can start getting the deep slumber we really desire and need for a healthy lifestyle. To learn about simple and real solutions, read the methods outlined in the following paragraphs. As soon as you start to take positive steps forward, you will achieve a more restful and deep sleep.

What are the positive steps to achieve a more restful and deep sleep?

I'm so glad you decided to keep reading... The difference stems from seeing the things you desire as absolute necessities IE quick fixes, mobile apps, prescription drugs et cetera along with learning the root cause of your lack of sleep. As I pointed out in past blog post, you can get better sleep by blocking out all light which creates sensory deprivation.

So what is sensory deprivation?

Sensory deprivation means not giving your senses any input at all. If it were possible to achieve total sensory deprivation you wouldn’t be able to sense anything— no sounds, no sights and not so much as the slightest touch of clothes on your skin.

Do you recall when we were introduced to floatation tanks in the 1980 horror movie Altered States starring William Hurt? Mr. Hurt plays a Harvard scientist conducting experiments on himself in an isolation chamber. ( A good movie if you’ve never seen it, but back to our solution)

What using a sleep mask does to your brain:

An important factor in the journey to achieving a deep sleep is the role of light. Exposure to light can affect your circadian rhythm; your ability to feel sleepy, and therefore affect your desired good night’s sleep. In the book “Sleep: A Very Short Introduction” by Steven W. Lockley & Russell G. Foster, the authors explain the significance of light on the human brain… 

“Light has a number of ‘non-visual’ effects on human physiology separate and apart from vision, including resetting the timing of the circadian pacemaker, acutely improving subjective and objective measures of alertness, increasing nighttime heart rate and core temperature levels, and affecting some hormones, including suppressing pineal melatonin production.

“Our understanding of how light regulates sleep and circadian rhythms has been revolutionized over the past few years with the discovery of an entirely new photoreceptor system in the eye of humans. 

This new photoreceptor is not located in the part of the eye containing the rods (night vision) and cones (day vision) that are used to generate an image of the world, but in the ganglion cells whose projections form the optic nerve. The ganglion cells of the retina provide the functional connection between the eye and the brain, but a small number of specialized ganglion cells (1–3%) are directly light-sensitive and project to parts of the brain involved in sleep and circadian rhythm control.”

Simply put, your eyes have the ability to sense light even with your eyes closed.

We’re all different, which means the effect will vary from person to person, but there are some general patterns in what you’ll experience from correct light sensory deprivation.

When you block out all light with a sleep mask, the short period of not being able to see has the effect of heightening other senses. Your hearing intensifies with the echoes of your settling house or ambient noise from outside. Within about 5 minutes your mind adjusts to this ambience and you start to experience nothingness, leaving fleeting thoughts in your mind.

Once your body gets used to the total lack of light, the stress-centers of your brain relax and release less cortisol, which is brain chemical related to stress. You body will start making melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. By eliminating light sensory input, you allow your constant fight-or-flight monkey brain to chill out and ease your brain into drifting off into a deep, sound slumber.

Without constant light in your eyes, which makes your brain continue to analyze your world and thoughts, your body produces melatonin, lowers its levels of cortisol. Along with melatonin, your brain also releases dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters for feelings of happiness.

The use of a sleep mask to eliminate light getting to your eyes takes your brain from extremely cognizant alpha and beta waves to solid theta waves—the kind you want to experience right before falling asleep.

Once they start to experience theta waves, most people fall asleep right at the inception. If you’re not familiar with what you experience as sign of theta, it’s like a rich mental imagery even though you’re not awake. Theta sleep is also referred to as drowsy sleep. 

And might result in sudden twitches, and knee jerks of the legs and arms. Most people who sleep with a partner have a better understanding of theta sleep from being punched or slapped in the face from their slumbering companion. I know I have…

Sleep masks provide a reliable means to achieve and sustain a deep sleep without complicated technology, prescription drugs, a sleep tracker, an app, or pre-slumber meditation. A sleep mask can provide the light deprivation you need to achieve theta at will. 

The benefits of eliminating light’s ability to affect your eyes with an eye mask are as follows but not limited to:

•    Reducing risk of panic

•    Decreased anxiety

•    Reduced stress 

•    Avoiding chronic pain

•   Improving problem-solving skills

•    Aiding weight loss

•    Improved skin tone and complexion

An improved relaxed state also helps to lower blood pressure and maximal blood flow. Ya’ll hear that boys and girls? Improved blood flow!

 Now that I’ve explained how you can take positive steps to achieve a more restful and deep sleep, are you ready to give it a try? I certainly don’t need convincing, as I’ve been successfully sleeping sound for a year, now that I use a sleep mask every night.

Maybe you’re still not quite ready to give it a go, but you can actually try a form of light sensory deprivation in your home by going into a closet at night, or any room that is deprived of all light. Sit down or if you can’t be very still, close your eyes, take deep breaths and see if you start to nod off.

So there you have it, we’ve learned how to stop musturbating about sleep and what tools we can use to get a good night’s sleep. And you’re still thinking, “Really?” Yes, really, you can simply block out light to start your melatonin production and finally get a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams.

Source: “Sleep: A Very Short Introduction” written by Steven W. Lockley & Russell G. Foster.