How can you get the perfect night’s sleep? Learn why asking this question may be sabotaging you.
Hi, I’m Kali and I’m a perfectionist. I’ve been in recovery for about 10 years.
Perfectionism doesn’t discriminate based on context. When one has perfectionist tendencies they apply to work life, home life, hobbies and health.
Mistakes aren’t seen as learning experiences but as personal failures. And, if we don’t have our wits about us, human foibles can drive us to being even more rigid and strict with ourselves.
As a coach who also struggles with perfectionism, I’ve learned time and again how this lays the foundation for sabotage. Rather than helping us achieve our goals, perfectionism keeps us stuck in the same place (or worse, causes more serious issues).
A popular way to perfect your sleep
Sleep has become the new hot topic in health and wellness, and for good reason. Research about how much our poor sleep habits are impacting our health seem to come out every day. Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s.
The new emphasis on improving sleep is fantastic. As a culture, we need to re-prioritize slowing down enough to get more rest and refreshing sleep. Much like technology for weight loss, technology is providing a wealth of data about how well (or poorly we sleep).
Establishing healthier sleeping habits is an admirable goal. Using technology (like trackers) is great for people who need a wake up call. For example, how much time do you actually spend in bed, providing the opportunity for sleep? Sometimes we need to externalize our behaviors so we can start to make important changes.
Unfortunately if you’re a perfectionist, these trackers provide data showing just how imperfect you are and how miserably you’ve failed.
Related: I discuss more pros and cons of tracking your sleep in How to Improve Your Sleep Efficiency.
A dose of data + an ounce of perfectionism = less sleep
With this external proof that we suck at sleeping, perfectionists can start obsessing. There’s a term for this now: orthosomnia.
Sleep and stress don’t make good bedfellows. In fact, stress is the number ONE reason why most of my clients struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake feeling refreshed. And a lot of the stress around sleeping comes from–you guessed it–what they tell themselves about the quality of their sleep.
Obsessing over tracking and other methods for creating “a perfect night’s sleep” creates more stress. When you fail, this further erodes sleep quality. What’s more, you are guaranteed to fail, because perfect sleep is a myth!
Are you an orthosomniac?
Here are 4 questions you can ask yourself to determine whether your sleep efforts may be obsessive:
- Do you self-describe as a perfectionist (or have others suggested you have these tendencies)?
- Have you been overly focused on the quality of your sleep for 3 months or more?
- Do you track your sleep even though you don’t understand the data, or the data you get isn’t aligned with how you feel?
- Do you spend more time working on your sleep than you do on discovering and changing the thoughts and behaviors contributing to your sleep concerns?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to take a step back.
Perfect sleep is a nice, if unreasonable dream
If you haven’t been seen by a medical professional to rule out physiological reasons for poor sleep, including sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, bruxism, etc., please start there.
Say you’ve already ruled out these conditions (or have been treated for them). The next step for a perfectionist is often to reset the mind. It’s highly likely you need to embrace the idea that there’s simply no such thing as getting a “perfect night’s sleep”.
What you think about your sleep health has a huge impact on your ability to get more consistently refreshing sleep. (And that, my friend, is a reasonable and very possible goal!)