Meet the sleep saboteurs: thoughts that are holding you back from improving your sleep

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

“Il'll sleep when I'm dead” "Sleep is for losers"

"My dad always said that sleep was for losers" said my client. This was what we call an "ah-ha" moment. When you uncover a simple belief that you've been carrying around with you, that has actually been holding you back from change.

We had been making improvements to my client's habits and sleep routine, but when we got onto mindset, everything changed. He realised that this belief had always been with him, deep inside, influencing his ability to do what was necessary to get the sleep he needed.

We know that our mindset has a huge influence over how we behave, what choices we make, how we relate to other people and therefore the outcomes that we experience in life. Real, long-lasting, transformational change begins with a look at who you really are and what beliefs are shaping you.

What is a sleep saboteur?

In Co-Active Coaching we call these limiting beliefs “saboteurs”. Saboteurs are thought processes and feelings that maintain the status quo in our lives.

The good news is that these saboteurs lose their power of us when we can name it, become aware of it and can actively review our options in face of this saboteur.

I hear Sleep Saboteurs come up all the time with my sleep coaching clients, here are a few that I have heard recently.

20 examples of Sleep Saboteurs

1. If I cannot sleep my day will be ruined

2. I am a terrible sleeper

3. I will never be a good sleeper

4. I will sleep when I’m dead

5. Sleep is boring

6. I wish I didn’t have to sleep

7. I need a perfect night’s sleep, or I simply cannot function

8. Everyone else sleeps so well, why can’t I?

9. I need to be available all hours of the night, just in case

10. I will put off sleeping until I’m really tired

11. I cannot sleep without [insert your sleep crutch]

12. I’m my most productive at night

13. I hate having to stop what I’m doing in order to sleep

14. I don’t have time to sleep eight hours

15. Powerful business people / politicians don’t sleep much, so why should I?

16. How can I sleep less but more effectively?

17. I am so frustrated or annoyed with myself that I cannot sleep

18. I want to be able to control my sleep

19. If I look at my clock, I’m going to feel anxious

20. I hate sleeping

These saboteurs are not right or wrong, they are just examples of things that people tell themselves about sleep or themselves that can create barriers to making positive changes to get the kind of sleep they are searching for.

Is this saboteur serving you at this moment?

Typically, if you are reading this, or you are speaking to a sleep coach, you do want to see some improvement to your sleep! So, asking yourself whether these sleep beliefs are helping you make progress is a good way to start to let it go, so you can move forwards.

Sleep Saboteurs are highly personal. You only know when you have uncovered one for yourself when you feel like the penny has dropped. You recognise its truth and power over you immediately and in pronouncing it, you feel the load lighten a little bit already.

The best way to start exploring your own sleep saboteurs is to do a short journaling exercise. Spend a few minutes on each question, writing down whatever comes up for you in the moment, without any judgement or filter.

Once you have finished you can look back and think about whether you would like to make any changes, in order to let sleep come to you more naturally.

10-Minute Sleep Saboteur Journaling Exercise

1. What were you told about sleep as a child?

2. What “truth” statements about sleep come to mind spontaneously for you (however ridiculous it might sound)?

3. What does the little voice in your head tell you about your own sleep?

4. What words or phrases do you use to talk about sleep to other people?

5. Write down five words that you associate with sleep (without overly thinking)


About the author

I am Dot Zacharias, an Integrative Adult Sleep Coach, Co-Active coach and iRest Meditation teacher. Feel free to get in touch with any questions or for information about my sleep coaching.

Contact me for a free introduction call!

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