Free Sleep Quiz


Can't Sleep? You Might Have the Yips!

Jan 30, 2024

Have you ever heard of yips? The term "yips" refers to a phenomenon in which athletes, typically in precision sports like golf, baseball, or tennis, suddenly and unexpectedly experience a loss of fine motor skills and coordination, leading to a decline in performance. Athletes affected by the yips may struggle with basic movements or tasks that were once routine for them.

While the term "yips" is commonly associated with sports performance, similar phenomena can occur in other areas of life. In a broader context, the term may be used to describe instances where individuals experience sudden and unexplained difficulties in performing tasks that used to come easily to them.


For example, some musicians may experience a form of the yips when they suddenly struggle with playing specific passages on their instruments, despite prior proficiency. Surgeons or other professionals who require fine motor skills for their work may also encounter similar challenges.

Trying Too Hard Can Affect Performance 


In these non-sport contexts, the underlying factors contributing to the difficulties may still be a combination of psychological and physiological elements. Stress, anxiety, or other psychological factors can play a role in the manifestation of these issues.

It should be noted that yips usually applies to skills that require fine motor control which is why it’s not normally used to describe losing the ability to sleep.

What is interesting is that it is commonly agreed that (similar to insomnia) yips is often more psychological than physical, and the exact cause is not fully understood.

True Insomnia is Often Psychological, Not Physical


We have spoken several times on this channel about the importance of mindset and behavior in relation to sleep. Insomnia is often associated with sleep related anxiety and hyper arousal, and this is why CBTi (and more recently ACTi) are considered gold standard insomnia treatments, not sleep hygiene.

For anyone who doesn’t remember, sleep hygiene is a collection of lifestyle practices such as get morning sun, sleep in a cool room, balance blood sugar levels, etc. and (while these are healthy general practices that can help improve disturbed sleep) studies show they are not effective for true insomnia.

True insomnia occurs when sleep disturbances last for 3 months or more and usually includes a significant amount of sleep anxiety (also known as a fear of wakefulness)

Because of the psychological stress associated with insomnia (just like with yips the person is caught up in their own head and the pressure to perform (or in this case sleep) is what is perpetuating the problem) it is important to reframe perceptions and reduce the stress response, vs focusing on rituals and routines.

For Insomnia, Sleep Hygiene is Shown to Be Ineffective


I always tell clients, using sleep hygiene for insomnia is akin to attempting to treat a cavity by brushing and flossing. While brushing and flossing is an excellent way to maintain oral health and prevent cavities, it is powerless to “cure” or treat a cavity once it occurs. At this point brushing and flossing is simply too little too late.

Does that mean you give up brushing your teeth all together? Of course not (I hope)! It simply means you continue to care for your general health AND go to the dentist to have the cavity filled.

It is the same with sleep. We continue to care for ourselves, live a healthy life AND examine the thought processes that have led to insomnia (our own personal yips battle).

Self Sabotage is Common in Many Areas of Life, Besides Sleep


When considering all this, how much does it help to see how common it truly is for humans to struggle with self-sabotage from over trying in all areas of life (not just sleep)?

Would it help to have some more examples of how over trying can sabotage results?

How about this, can you remember a time when you were super nervous to meet someone (maybe your new boyfriend’s mother) and you tried so hard to make a good impression that everything you said came out weird and unnatural (maybe you end up laughing too loud or talking too much or too little). You know if you could just relax everything would go fine, but you just don’t know how!

Or what about writer’s block? When a writer is putting so much pressure on themselves and worrying so much about not knowing what to write that they actually manifest the exact things they were trying to avoid!

Most of us do not perform well under pressure (from the professional athlete to the musician to the nervous soon to be daughter in law) we all know that if we try too hard and allow ourselves to get too stressed, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

So why is it that we recognize this in other areas of life but not when it comes to our sleep?


Interested in Learning More?


If you would like to learn more or book an individual session, please visit the Memberships page or enroll in the FREE 10 Day Sleep Course

In the meantime, I would like to leave you with this important message. You are not broken! You are whole, perfect, and healthy exactly as you are, and you CAN sleep!



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