Saturday, September 6, 2014

Emotional Causes for Insomnia

Photo "Scratching" by Kevin of sheep counting people
As promised, here I am writing about insomnia.  Yes, midlife women might have a bit more trouble sleeping during perimenopause, but the causes can be complex and might affect women and men of all ages.

Let me focus first on emotional causes for insomnia and some basics on how to 1) identify an emotion 2) trace its origins 3) neutralize it, and 4) gain habits that prevent or remove insomnia-inducing emotions before bedtime.

1. What emotion am I feeling? People can experience a variety of emotions that interfere with sleep--anger, fear, worry, sadness.  Even positive emotions such as euphoria can prevent people from getting a good night's sleep.  When I have trouble sleeping, I do well to reflect on the emotions I am feeling.   Here is the Plutchik Wheel, just one list of emotions, some of which interfere with sleep:

Image of the Plutchik Wheel by Machine Elf 1735

2. Where did that emotion originate? Once I've identified the emotion, I try to trace it back to its origins, which are often complex.  For example, I have a tendency to wallow in regret (remorse in the chart).  I will struggle to sleep because I keep replaying a scene from the past over and over--criticizing myself for doing something that was stupid.

Merely changing my mental habits doesn't always work.  The source of my regret can be a combination of poor mental habits and a physical imbalance.

  • Am I stuck in a state of rumination?
  • Did I run myself ragged during the day?
  • Did I forget to eat a balanced dinner?
  • Did I really do something that requires reparation? 
Mental habits, physical habits and personal body chemistry can all work together to create an emotional state.  In fact, some people take medication in an effort to control their body chemistry so that negative emotions don't overwhelm them.  But I don't fee qualified to address that, so I will leave the subject of psychotropic medication and hormone replacement therapy to the experts.   

Nevertheless, I recognize that emotions arise from an interplay of 1) mental habits 2) physical habits and 3) body chemistry. So addressing an insomnia-inducing emotion such as regret requires change in many areas. 

3. Can I do something to neutralize that emotion? After identifying the problem, I try to create a well-matched solution. Here is a list that pairs with the bullet points above.

  • Can I choose to think about something more constructive and positive?
  • Can I step out of achievement mode and be still, grounded and affirming?
  • Do I need to eat something? 
  • Do I need to apologize to someone, or at least commit to apologizing when it's a decent hour?
You might forge a completely different paired list for the emotions that interfere with your sleep.

4. Can I prevent negative emotions by purposely invite calming emotions?  I could do a better job managing my negative emotions when they are just emerging.  Preventing them from forming in the first place is ideal, but not realistic. I find that if I create a space for stepping outside of myself, I can better control emotions before they cause me multiple problems, including insomnia.

Psychologists all this awareness cognitive restructuring. The Buddhist concept of mindfulness serves as a great tool for calming the mind and body.  Yogis recommend moving the body into a state of calm as a way to invite the mind to follow.  Christians talk about prayer and meditation.   I admit that I try a combination of all these methods as a way to address negative emotions so that I can enjoy more calm.

Photo by Kathy.
I wish all readers greater calm and a good night's sleep.  May you find your own path for controlling negative emotions.  Please consider sharing what works for you by adding a comment.


Logging More Sleep
Multiple Causes for Insomnia


  1. Very interesting Karen, and well done! I have learned something new by moving to a slow, comfortable rural area: my insomnia disappeared! Now I see the atmosphere of city living was unconsciously raising my anxious level. It was time to let that go. Now I sleep so much better.

    1. Wow, that move to rural CO has been super positive for you. That's great news.

  2. This is very interesting, I'm off now to read more about Plutchik's wheel..

    1. Enjoy! It helped me focus on the morass of emotions that sometimes wash over me. Identifying leads me to better management. And the chart is just pretty!

  3. Very useful and informative. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Excellent post on a topic dear to my brain. May I reblog this for my caregiver readers?

    1. Mary Ann: Thanks for the feedback. Yes, go ahead and share this info on your blog. I like your lyric, lovely blog. All my best to you as a lobbyist turned hospice volunteer turned caregiver turned blogger.

  5. I enjoyed reading this article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from