She had a secret. Things just hadn’t been working out in the bed, not for a long time. She was tired and frustrated and wanted something new. So she did what she had to do and just left. She didn't dare tell any of her friends or family about how she’d been spending her nights. Nobody would understand why things weren’t working with her dependable bed (not even her): it was comfortable and warm and wanted to give her everything she desired. But it just wasn’t working. She had to do something to make things better for her and, for now, that was to abandon it to find something else.
The sofa was the rebellious choice, the bad boy that encouraged her to stay up late and have fun, or at least indulge in some late-night pleasures. The sofa made her feel like she was living a little by breaking some rules. It was edgy, especially around her neck and where her feet weren’t quite as comfy as they could be, definitely not as accommodating as her actual bed.
Of course, she knew it wasn’t her ideal choice in the long term. But the couch just brought something… new and different. Something fresh, without reminding her of old memories from difficult times, like her bed did. It made her feel good in the moment, didn’t judge her - or the Netflix that kept rolling. Ultimately, it gave her what she needed, which was some respite from busy days and the best amount of sleep she could manage right now.
Does this sound familiar, sleep enthusiast? Getting comfortable in a place that’s not really that comfortable for the long run? Maybe feeling some shame about getting stuck in some indulgent habits? You might slip into a routine of falling asleep on the sofa every night, getting takeaways, drinking a bottle of wine, going on endless Netflix binges, doom-scrolling social media or all of the above. As a sleep coach, I want you to know that these are very human responses to our often busy lives. They offer relief and comfort from packed schedules and a bit of pleasure to mask the weariness when we may be going through a rough patch of sleep.
Why do I fall asleep better on the sofa than in bed every night?
You may sleep better on the sofa due to a concept often used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) called stimulus control. Stimulus control helps establish a strong association between your sleep environment and the activity of sleep, eliminating other things that may be disruptive. When you consistently associate your bed with activities other than sleep (like watching TV, working, worrying) or go through a difficult time and experience much suffering in your bed, it can disrupt your sleep quality. By using the sofa to relax in the evening and fall asleep, you create a stronger association between the sofa and rest. This conditioning improves your ability to relax and fall asleep in that place.
How to make the move to falling asleep in bed rather than on the scouch?
Transitioning to falling asleep in your bed again is likely to be a gradual process, it’s important to be compassionate towards yourself and acknowledge that letting go of the sofa may be challenging. It has given so much comfort and enabled you to rest and get at least some sleep, after all! The tips below look at how the principle of stimulus control can be applied to getting out of falling asleep on the sofa every night…
Evening routine activities for relaxation
First, let’s look at the evening routine before bedtime. If your sofa sleeping days come with other ways of relaxing, like watching tv, scrolling online, drinking, smoking, eating takeaway food, that creates more stimulation for your system. In following the stimulus control approach, the aim is to create new signals in your body that it’s time to rest, so you can try alternative ways to relax that come with less stimulation.
Relaxing activities can include reading, taking a bath, breathing exercises, guided meditation and more. Whilst this may be a significant lifestyle switch, the trial and error process helps to find ways that can be sustainable in helping you to unwind, so you are creating reliable ways to get Restful Sleep. This is also something that working with a sleep coach can help with in terms of finding ideas for activities that you can actually enjoy, whilst speeding up the process of integrating them with support, accountability and encouragement.
Exploring old associations you may have with your bed
Secondly, transitioning to sleeping in your bed again may also involve addressing any old associations or limiting beliefs associated with it - most commonly these come from unresolved feelings and issues from a difficult time in your life. An example of this is how former client Nikolina overcame some similar habits and when she hadn’t dealt with left-over feelings from a break-up.
This is where CBTI techniques to explore and challenge these beliefs can be helpful in identifying any unresolved feelings or fears that may be linked to the bed in order to work on processing them. You can do this yourself using approaches such as the rumination exercise, or you can get support with a sleep coach.
Starting to sleep in your bed again
By helping yourself to relax with your evening activities, as well as tackling old fearful thoughts associated with your bed, you are preparing yourself for bed sleeping success! The next step is to start to associate your bed with rest again. There are practical things you can do to optimise your sleep environment for sleep that you can check out here.
Once you have your bedroom set up as best as it can be for sleep you can start small, maybe spending a few minutes resting in bed before moving to the sofa for sleep. Over time, you can gradually increase the duration spent in bed until you're comfortable sleeping there.
Putting it all together
Maybe this seems like a lot of effort to change, sleep enthusiast? You might be reading this on the sofa right now, enjoying some evening treats and thinking you don’t have the energy to make these kinds of changes whilst life is so full on at the moment - those sofa comforts are what are keeping you going! If that’s the case, I want you to know that I get it and there’s no judgement. Sometimes that’s just how it is.
With this article I wanted to offer some understanding and share an overview of the process for people who are considering making the shift from sleeping on the sofa to sleeping on the bed. Hopefully now you know the process, you can bear this in mind and either see what small adjustments may be available for you to try out, or you can make a plan for a date when you would like to make changes to your evening routine. For those reading this who feel a ‘hell yes’ to wanting to make changes, Restful Sleep coaching can support you in getting to where you want to be quicker. Sleep coaching can help you to plan and create strategies for new behaviours to adopt as you wean yourself off of the comfort of the sofa. It's easier to shift behaviours if you have a professional by your side not only cheering you on, but keeping you accountable.
As well as targeting sleep hygiene and rules for better sleep, Restful Sleep coaching provides support with discovering activities that substitute the TV or laptop, with new activities that are aligned with what you enjoy doing. So ultimately, finding "replacement" activities is not just for the purpose of sleep but feeding your entire life with more joy-and-life-affirming energy. If you’d like to find out more about how Restful Sleep coaching could help with your sofa struggles, you can book a free discovery call here today.