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When the enemy of good is better.
abilities. And being preoccupied with too many details can also result in “not seeing the forest through the trees” – not being able to see the big picture.
Bad Bedmates: Perfectionism and Sleep
Is it any wonder, then, that perfectionists often experience
? A 2019 study in the journal
on more than 600 adults showed that perfectionist tendencies, anxiety symptoms, and dysfunctional sleep-related cognition – which includes flawed expectations about sleep requirements, exaggerated beliefs about daytime consequences of poor sleep, and worry and helplessness related to sleep – were significantly linked to insomnia symptoms. The findings bolster the notion that perfectionism and sleep do not partner well.
Even sub-clinical anxiety can thrum through people’s days, showing up in a wide spectrum of ways that range from
to constant worry to hypervigilance. Mentally they may feel quick to react, and physically they may feel jumpy and easily startled. They may “think too much” – even about things that don’t necessarily stoke their anxiety levels. Because of this, they just don’t sleep well. Many of my patients with low-grade anxiety tell me their sleep tends to be thin – they have trouble dropping off and then rouse easily and frequently during the night.
Ironically, perfectionists can be dealt a double whammy when it comes to how their anxiety impacts slumber: Rumination over the consequences of lost sleep blends with insomnia to thwart possible coping strategies, such as daytime napping.
people who “think too much” often can’t nap by day, even when they try. Their sleep deficit builds – and so does their anxiety.
Besides medications, we often encourage patients to tolerate some level of imperfection in their daily lives. Learning music or engaging in
is beneficial because it’s something new and to begin, people have to tolerate imperfection. Many perfectionists tend to be all or nothing, so they either do something perfectly or not at all. In the case of the latter, it leads to no improvement. Moreover, perfectionists do and practice things at which they are not good. Again, the goal is to get better at tolerating imperfection, and to notice the improvement that comes with time and practice
Where does this all lead? Perfectionists with a lifelong pattern of related anxiety and sleep difficulties owe it to themselves to consider seeking help. While perfectionism may be notoriously difficult to treat, anxiety and sleep problems can readily be addressed – offering perfectionists just a few less things to worry about.
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