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Sleep Problems

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Because of my work as a nurse, I have to get up at 5:00am. It is just the anticipation of this unpleasant hour of waking that seems to keep me from having uninterrupted sleep. I tend to fall asleep easily, sleep for three hours, then go through waking/sleeping/waking cycles about an hour apart until 5:00am. During these cycles I never really have deep (REM?) type sleep.
As a result I’m very tired during my rather stressful 12 hour nursing shifts.

My guess at an interpretation of this is that somehow my subconscious knows that something unpleasant is going to happen while sleeping (I will be forced to wake up early against my will, so to speak), and it is the anticipation of this jarring interference that keeps me from relaxing into sleep.

Do you know of any strategy for this, other than changing jobs or schedules?

Sleep Problems

Answered by on -


This is a very important question, as I know many others struggle with sleep issues. The behavioral components have to do with changing your anticipatory response. Along these lines I would recommend doing an evening gratitude list, reviewing everything that has happened during the day that you are thankful for. Large or small appreciation along these lines tends to reorient us with a positive mindset. At this same time I would also identify at least one thing you are proud of within the last 24 hours and one thing you are looking forward to the next day. These brief exercises will help you highlight the positive aspects of the past, help you feel better in the future and give you something to look forward to the next day.

You may also want to get a consult from knowledgeable people at your local health food store, or from a nutritionist or registered dietitian on such natural remedies as GABA, tryptophan and teas that have natural relaxants such as valerian root. Of course restricting caffeine later in the day would be important.

Let us know how this goes!

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Sleep Problems

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Sleep Problems. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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