Perfectionism in the bedroom: How does it affect your work day?
Emily’s slumber suggestions
Two types of perfectionism in the bedroom deprive people of sleep, usually resulting in a compromised work day.
People under the influence of the first type of perfectionism get into bed striving for an ideal about the quantity and quality of sleep they should be getting. We can imagine these people as the “Idealizers.”
The second type of perfectionism keeps people awake in bed making lists. They worry about all the things that they didn’t finish that day and all the things they have to do tomorrow. We can imagine these people as the “List-Makers.”
Both of these profiles find themselves tossing and turning at night and tired during the day. When morning comes, the Idealizers and the List-Makers are tense, dissatisfied and unhappy – which makes for a rough work day. Worse, this can quickly morph into chronic insomnia. Lying awake writing lists or worrying if one is going to get the perfect night’s sleep pairs the perfectionist’s bed with worry and wakefulness through classic conditioned response.
Both of these perfectionists are better served by taking their lists and shoulds out of the bedroom. Here’s an antidote for any Idealizers and List-Makers reading this, to refresh your mornings and reset the bad mood. Follow these three key tenets:
- Accept the fact that there is no such thing as ideal sleep. The myth of everyone needing eight hours of perfect deep sleep is regularly reinforced in popular media. The Idealizers have incorporated this myth into their psyche. The fact is: sleep needs vary person to person and are dictated by many factors, including activity level and individual biology; our sleep needs can also change day to day.
- Manage perfectionism as a life habit but not a bedroom habit. If perfectionism helps one to be super-successful, keep it in the board room. The bedroom must be dedicated to sleep. It’s the place to let one’s guard down and be perfectly imperfect. If a to-do list is too compelling to let go of, carve out space to complete it at least two hours before sleep time. Decision-making powers will be stronger and clearer, and the mind will be ready for rest when bed-time comes.
- Use thought distractions that are far away from today or tomorrow’s to-do’s. There are lots of non-stressful thoughts perfectionists can switch to if they find themselves lying awake in bed. Think about assembling favorite recipes, crafting hobbies, beautiful vacations, plot lines of favorite bedtime stories, or playing with pets. The key is to catch any ruminating thoughts and intentionally go to the happy place. Do that as many times as needed, and rest will come.
Also, this antidote works best with a healthy dose of self-compassion. Mindfulness and neuroplasticity research continues to reinforce the link between self-compassion practices and better health outcomes. Yes, being kind to yourself gives you better sleep.
Emily is a seasoned psychotherapist who specializes in treating insomnia and anxiety. She’s a complete sleep geek, and loves to help people find their sleep sweet spot. Contact Emily if sleep is a problem for you – she will help.