When I’m working with clients who struggle with sleep, the first thing I always do is assess their sleep hygiene and make simple recommendations that they can start following immediately. In most cases of sleep disturbances, I start by suggesting this one simple adjustment: to do nothing in their bed except for sleep (and sex). Here’s an explanation:

When I was a freshman in college my roommate would come back from class each morning and sit upright on his bed while he attempted to read or study. Within minutes, he would fall asleep again, regardless of how critical or interesting the material. He had a paired association between sleep and his bed that was stronger than his association between focused study and his bed. The more we engage in an activity in a particular environment, the more likely that behavior is to occur again in that environment. In most cases, the stronger paired association wins.

Given this example, you should make it a point to limit your activities in bed to sleep and sex. Yes, this means no reading, watching TV, or being up late on your phone while in bed. Over time, this association will strengthen to the point where the minute your head hits the pillow, your body will know that it’s time for sleep, and a great night’s rest will set you up for a well-balanced day tomorrow.

Sleep issues commonly come along with stress, anxiety, and depression, and too often go unaddressed. There are many other simple strategies that can improve your sleep today, and regular therapy can help you establish and maintain important changes to get you feeling better soon.

If you're interested in learning more about how working together can help, call for a free 15-minute consultation at (704) 750-2778 or contact Charlotte Counseling and Wellness to submit a request.

John Clarke, MA, EdS, LPC, is a licensed counselor who specializes in integrative treatment and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship issues in the Elizabeth area of Charlotte, North Carolina.

John Clarke