Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Cognitive distortions can lead to sleeplessness. People plagued with stress, anxiety, and worries tend to ruminate about their negative thoughts and concerns in bed, keeping them from sleeping well.
Cognitive distortions can also promote a state of mental hyperstimulation, marked by severe anxiety. Insomnia and other sleep disorders can affect people with different cognitive distortions and anxiety disorders, including OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD.
What are Cognitive Distortions?
Cognitive distortions refer to the habitual patterns and tendencies of thinking that cause you to systematically appraise situations negatively.
When a person has cognitive distortions, it can influence how he or she accesses situations. These thoughts can lead to you making decisions that are needlessly prejudiced, irrational, and biased.
The influence of stress, worries, and other negative thinking habits can be avoided by identifying the cognitive distortions you tend to make frequently and habitually. Being aware of your vulnerability to making specific types of mistakes in thinking would enable you to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
Types of Distortions
Personalization is a common form of cognitive distortion that tends to lead to you overestimating your involvement in a situation. You tend to hold yourself responsible for adverse situations and believe that everything that people do or say is somehow linked to you. This type of thinking creates a sense of guilt and shame and contributes to needless worrying.
It can set in a negative thinking pattern in which you assume all problems in your own life and your friends and relatives result from your actions. These thoughts can prevent you from sleeping peacefully and keep you awake for several hours at night.
Catastrophizing refers to people’s tendency to expect a disaster or worse event in life.
Catastrophizing is more likely to occur while trying to sleep as mental stress and anxiety bring in thoughts of how the stressful situations in life can take a worse turn and make it more difficult for you to fight or survive.
These throughs can reduce the secretion of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin and increase the secretion of a stress hormone called cortisol in the brain. The secretion of cortisol interferes with your sleep by preventing your muscles from relaxing and keeping you awake.
Filtering refers to the tendency to focus only on one part of a situation to form conclusions rather than considering the entire situation. It may occur when people focus on the negative elements of any situation and dwell on it while ignoring the positive aspects.
Filtering can affect your sleep by keeping your mind engaged with the thoughts of unpleasant or negative feedback you received from others, including your colleagues, parents, or siblings.
4) Mind Reading
Mind reading is a common cognitive distortion. It refers to the tendency to make inferences about what other people are thinking based on their actions and behaviors.
It’s common for all of us to have judgments about other people; however, this form of distorted thinking can interfere with your sleep when your thoughts become obsessive.
Also, when people engage in mind-reading, they believe they know what other people are thinking and dwell on it while trying to sleep.
For instance, a friend walks by you without acknowledging you. You may think that you must have offended them, and that’s why they ignored you. However, in reality, the friend may not have even seen you.
Mind reading can cause you to have deep concerns about what you have perceived about a situation and prevent you from getting any sleep.
5) Emotional Reasoning
Emotional reasoning is a common cause of insomnia linked to depression, generalized anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues. It occurs when people habitually make decisions based on what feels right to them, letting their emotions control how they interpret situations or information.
Patients with depression usually use emotional reasoning, which causes them to make irrational decisions, leading to unexpected results. As a result, they may develop other cognitive distortions like personalization and catastrophizing, which can further worsen their sleep quality.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-I) can be highly effective for reducing cognitive distortions, thus enabling you to manage your sleeplessness.
There are programs online that use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i) to help you overcome insomnia by adjusting your thought processes and behavior, including how to manage negative thoughts and cognitive distortions. It can improve your sleep by modifying your thought patterns and behaviors before bedtime. It also works by relieving stress and worries that prevent you from falling asleep.
Part of CBT-I focuses on learning relaxation skills and altering lifestyle habits that might impact your sleeping patterns.
CBT-I involves learning to identify and eliminate negative thoughts and beliefs, while behavioral therapy involves avoiding behaviors that keep you awake and replacing them with healthy sleep habits.
Cognitive distortions can prevent rational thinking and affect your decision-making skills. If not corrected, they may lead to insomnia and poor sleep quality, thus worsening your stress, anxiety, and worries.
It’s possible to correct cognitive distortions by undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy. It can make you more aware of negative thinking patterns, provide relief from worries, and allow you to sleep well.
There are programs accessible online that use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) to help you overcome insomnia by adjusting your thought processes and behavior, including how to manage negative thoughts and cognitive distortions. Talk to your doctor.
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