07/31/2015 05:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Here's the Real Reason You're Not Getting Seven Hours of Sleep


You've done the impossible. You've shut your devices, learned how to meditate, stretched into downward-dog and cut out double-shot espressos. You've said "no" to late night social activities and you've ruled out possible sleep disorders.

After sipping chamomile tea, you crawl under the puffy down covers feeling calm and ready for a solid seven hours of sleep. So why are you staring at the ceiling four hours later?

Don't misunderstand me. These sleep hacks are valuable. They'll surely transition you from the frantic pace of the day, but you still can't sleep through the night.

Let's face it. Sleep is stressful. We're anxious about getting the recommended seven hours. And then we're stressed out when we don't get them. If our bodies didn't require sleep, we'd probably avoid it completely. Sleep is mysterious and dreams are too.

According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), "We typically spend more than two hours each night dreaming. Scientists do not know much about how or why we dream. Only after 1953, when researchers first described REM in sleeping infants, did scientists begin to carefully study sleep and dreaming. They soon realized that the strange, illogical experiences we call dreams almost always occur during REM sleep. "

Every night you leave an alert, conscious state and transcend into the depths of your subconscious mind. Slowly you journey through the five stages of sleep wandering into the land of dreams. You see people you haven't seen in years. You visit places you've never been to, and when you wake up, you can't even remember the visions that you conjured up five minutes earlier.

As hard as you've worked your body to soothe your soul into a restful sleep, your mind might be still wide-awake.

The reason you can't sleep is because...

Most people have one. I'm not talking about the person sleeping next to you. The roommate I'm talking about is the negative voice inside your head.

You know the one I mean; that one tiny thought that triggers a whirling vicious cyclone in your mind. The mental images twist and turn over and over until reality is distorted. Not knowing what to do, you helplessly watch the horror movie in your mind. No matter how hard you try, you can't stop the frightening images your imagination is creating.

That's how it used to be for me until I heard Arianna Huffington in the Thrive O Course call the negative noise by its appropriate name- the obnoxious roommate.

If you think of your negative thoughts as an obnoxious roommate (and who hasn't had one), you realize that you are in charge of what you allow into your head. You have the power to kick out the irritating chatter that is disturbing your life.

When you give your disruptive voice a name, you control the direction of your thoughts. Whether you're worrying about your next project, why your son isn't home yet, or how to convince your partner that the expensive car you want is a smart choice, naming negative thoughts is a game-changer. (It even works if you're in the middle of a full-blown panic attack!)

You won't stop the initial trigger thought but when you identify your thoughts as imagination and not reality, you create a separation between the two. Your negative thoughts no longer control you. You realize that you don't have to believe everything you think.

Mind control is a character strength that improves the quality of your life.

Here's how to evict your obnoxious roommate and finally get a good night's sleep.

1. Name it.
When you feel yourself falling into the dungeon of darkness, stop your fall by identifying it. The negative force is strong but you can be stronger.

2. Follow Arianna's advice:
Write a letter from your "obnoxious roommate" to yourself, listing everything the obnoxious roommate says -- even the most extreme, bizarre and preposterous negative self-talk!

Now shred it into tiny little pieces and flush it down the toilet! Say bye-bye and watch all of that negative energy as it gets flushed away.

3. Find your positive message.
Now turn your attention to a positive trigger, an image that evokes joy for you. Think of an encouraging message (Arianna's message is "the blessings already are") and select an image that embodies that message for you.

4. Do a reality check.
The imagination is powerful. It convinces you to believe whatever you think. When in reality it's just a movie you've created in your mind. The images are intense and realistic. If you're into statistics, ask yourself, What are the chances of your visions becoming reality? But fear is illogical. A person can be incredibly brave in one aspect of life, and illogically fearful in another. Fear makes no sense.

5. Present Moment Mindfulness
If you are going to take control of your thoughts, you need a mental support system. Present Moment Mindfulness works instantly to guide you away from your negative voice. When you are caught up in the spiraling whirlwind, recognize it, and bring your attention to whatever you're doing. If you're washing the dishes and feel your mind meandering onto the dark path, notice what you're doing and whisper, I am washing the dishes. I feel the soap bubbling on my hands. The water feels warm. Let yourself go with it. It sounds silly at first, but mindfulness works. Try this breathing mediation from the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh; "Breathing in I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out I know that I am breathing out."

6. It's your choice.
Remember, you determine what thoughts you let into your mind. You choose when it's time to evict your obnoxious roommate.