đź““ Take Action! Write it Down

How much in a percentage, does your sleep contribute to how you feel following day…good or bad…physically or mentally…? Here is a way to write and visualise this:

Here is a pie chart

Notice how there is an amount coloured in. This represents how much this person feels their sleep affects their day. Draw your own pie chart and colour in an amount that you feel reflects how your sleep affects your day and how you feel. This might change day to day depending on your night’s sleep. Perhaps fill it out for today for example.

You can always change your mind and there are no wrong answers.

Now let’s pretend sleep doesn’t exist for a moment…

Hopefully just thinking about this is pretty freaky… imagine every single day of your life….is one long perpetual day. I don’t like the sound of this new world…. even if you don’t use your sleep opportunity to sleep, it’s a wonderful way to at least put the day to bed and start another. Wipe the slate clean…start again.

Now that sleep doesn’t exist, I want you to list all the other things in your life good or bad, doesn’t matter, that contribute to how you feel during the day… but remember the key thing here is sleep doesn’t exist so try not to worry about how your sleep affects these variables or how these variables affect your sleep…. because it’s something we have stripped completely out of the equation.

Think about your diet, your relationships, the way you go about your day.

List everything here no matter how silly or small it may sound. Let’s make some examples:

  • Having a shower,
  • walking the dog,
  • commuting,
  • noisy neighbours,
  • paying bills,
  • food choices,
  • exercise,
  • social time with friends,
  • arguments with family,
  • how I organize my work,
  • menstrual cycle,
  • the kids,
  • cold callers,
  • watching the news,
  • the weather,
  • sitting at a screen all day,
  • back pain, mental health,
  • shopping,
  • nature,
  • laughing,
  • going to the gym,
  • music,
  • reading,
  • learning,
  • spending time by myself… the list goes on!

Now draw these other factors into a new pie chart, like slices of pie…

And then, add the contribution your sleep makes at the end….

Do you even have enough room?! You have probably realised that perhaps your sleep can’t be responsible for as much as we put on it…perhaps there are other things which might seem smaller, but are significant to you and make a difference for you.

Some of the factors you have put into your diagram are uncontrollable and much as we would like to, we can’t do anything about them such as the weather, and some of them are completely within our control. Put a star next to the controllable things.

When you are having trouble sleeping, look at this pie chart and remember that your night’s sleep is not the only factor that will affect how you feel the next day. There are also some other factors that will affect how you feel. Also, some of these will be factors you can do something about.

Our attitude towards sleep

The tendency of many people with insomnia is to think, “If I sleep well, I will feel good. If I sleep badly, I will feel awful.” You therefore fall into one of two categories, either feeling good or
feeling awful.

Life just isn’t that simple! It’s more helpful to think of how you feel on a spectrum, with feeling good at one end and feeling awful at the other.


Feeling awful – 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 – Feeling good

Where are you right now on this spectrum? Once you really have to think about it, you realise that there have been times you have felt worse, and times you have felt even better, right?

This is a great way of improving how rational and realistic we are about things that affect our feelings…which inevitably go on to affect our behaviours…

Suppose you wake up feeling pretty awful, not the worst you can feel, but really not that great.

Suppose you feel only 3/10. What can you do? You can’t be bothered to eat well, so you eat junk food, you don’t go for a walk or exercise, you say no to your friend who has invited you out because you don’t feel like it. You might spend more time resting more than usual. How will you feel by the end of the day? Still a 3/10, or perhaps even lower than that, maybe a 1/10 or 2/10.

And how well do you think you will sleep tonight?

You see, your thoughts and feeling about your sleep are powerful. Even more powerful than the effect of one poor night’s sleep… because they can change your behaviour, and the behaviour
above leads to a poor night’s sleep!

Suppose on the other hand, you decide that even though you feel awful, you will make sure that you eat well, that you will go for a brisk walk, and that you will go out with your
friend however you feel. How will you feel by the end of the day? Will it still be 3/10, or might it go up to 4/10 or even 5/10? And if you do those things, will you sleep better or
worse the next night? You have more control than you think!

So, when you have trouble sleeping, you can look at your pie chart and instead of just thinking, “I am going to feel awful tomorrow” or “How am I going to cope tomorrow?” you could decide which of the other factors you realistically could work on. You could say to yourself, “I know I might feel bad when I wake up, but I can still eat a good breakfast, go to the gym and make sure that I phone my friend.” You can add these things to your diary and to do list that we discussed in session 3.

And when you do them the next day, remember to pat yourself on the back. You have achieved something, you are being consistent, and you are on your way to making long-term changes to your sleep health.