THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Get in Goddam Bed!

With all the articles that the media on insomnia there is a large related topic that seems to get short shrift. That is, our apparently compulsive need to avoid going to bed until too late (in light of our need to get up early). As a behavioral therapist who spends long days trying to get people to "behave themselves," I've been humbled by this phenomenon.

Conversations with patients and friend attest to the rarity with which people claim to sleep well (or enough). In reality, most of the people who "sleep well" are either depressed, on medication, not from New York or sleep apneic. Snippets of small talk at soirees suggest, however, that these long sleepers are relatively boorish social pariahs. What is more common and attended to are the claims made about how tired one is and/or how little sleep was obtained recently. It almost feels like a competition with each spent soul topping the previous one's experience of fatigue. It almost appears as if the winners of this bizarre auction appear as proud of themselves as a drinker with a hollow leg.

All of this doesn't make a ton of sense given the fact that people feel like flotsam when they sleep so little. Forget all the medical data documenting the causal role chronic (even) mild sleep deprivation plays in obesity, distractability, memory disorders, aging, etc. My thesis, of course, is that a sizable percentage of these tired buggers avoid the pillow and blankey. Why would a presumably educated New Yorker steer clear of the sheets? The majority lack the impulse control to stop doing whatever they are doing. TV, the internet and/or phone conversations, and yes, blogging, may be very fascinating to some, but only boneheads fail to realize that the later the lights go out, the worse you feel in the a.m. Others avoid because they're afraid of not sleeping or of various anxiety provoking thoughts and feeling they associate with bed. Even the misdirected pervert Freud knew that to overcome an anxiety or fear, you've got to confront and struggle with it. You can't force yourself to sleep, but you can commit to getting your pathetic butt in bed and beginning a process of desensitization.

Some people refuse to use alarms and allow themselves to "sleep in," which reliably results in "delayed deep phase syndrome," i.e. the proverbial night owl pattern. You literally are not tired until late and shift to a later wake-up time.

Start wherever you are... Compulsively check your clock if historically you haven't a clue as to what time it is. If the clock generates anxiety, turn that baby away from you and stop checking. Use sticky notes on alarms to remind you to turn off the tools and begin the descent. If you got some lover boy or girl around, have them extend special offers if you pay them and the bed an early visit. (You can always get up after the coupling if you can't sleep.) Make a rigid commitment to a time and lose the lame excuses and rationalizations. Flexibility is not always valuable. Try to remember that whining about your fatigue was passé 10 years ago and that you look better if you sleep.