7 myths about sleep that insomniacs should never believe

Have you fallen for one of these myths?


Marianna Kilburn
@MariannaKilburn


26 February 2018

1 – Insomnia isn’t that common

Have you heard about how rare and unusual insomnia is? If you have, now’s the time to abandon this myth!

Not only does it make those who do suffer from the disorder feel isolated, it might discourage those who suspect that they are insomniacs from getting this diagnosis confirmed by a doctor – after all, if insomnia is so uncommon, it’s probably not what’s behind your sleepless nights, right?

However, if you are an insomniac, you can rest assured that you definitely are not alone. It’s estimated that around 30-50% of the US population is affected by insomnia1  and it’s thought that figures may be similar here in the UK! Suffice to say, most of you will experience insomnia at some point in your lives so no, the disorder isn’t all that rare at all!

1http://www.sleepmanagement.md/sleepdisorders/Insomnia.aspx

2 – Only people with mood disorders like stress suffer from insomnia

This myth is perhaps easier to understand than most of the others on this list. Insomnia is considered to be a tell-tale symptom of psychological problems like depression2 and other mood disorders like stress and anxiety are frequently interlinked with the condition.

However, while mood disorders like stress can be linked to insomnia, it isn’t the only factor that can affect your chances of developing the sleep condition.

Everything from your medication, to your menstrual cycle, to your consumption of caffeine can affect your likelihood of developing the disorder! It’s thought to be one of the main reasons why insomnia is twice as common in women as opposed men - because women have more hormonal factors that can impact their sleep patterns, such as menopause!

2https://www.insomnia.net/sleep-health/depression/

3 – Insomnia is just temporary

As I mentioned earlier, most of you will experience insomnia and, for the majority, it will be a transient experience triggered either by stress or by another momentary factor like your medication. However, for some, insomnia can linger and in certain cases, become chronic.

Chronic insomnia is characterised as a ‘long-term pattern of difficulty sleeping’ and usually occurs if a sufferer has trouble falling asleep three times a week for three months or longer.3 It can cause a significant amount of stress and physical discomfort and will definitely require further treatment from a medical professional.

3https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-are-different-types-insomnia

4 – You can just catch up on sleep later

Slept poorly through the week? It’s fine, apparently you can make up for all this sleep deprivation by simply having a lie in on Sunday. Except you can’t, sorry! As I explore in my blog, ‘Are your weekend lie-ins really helping you to catch up on sleep?’ having a lie-in until noon at the weekends can do more damage than good for your sleep patterns.

This is because it can cause what is known as ‘social jet lag’, worsening symptoms like fatigue and affecting your mood, making you more predisposed to stress. Not exactly good news if you’re already suffering from insomnia! Instead, try to keep a consistent bedtime routine and don’t alter your sleep behaviour too drastically at the weekends!

5 – Just take a nap during the day

If you suffer from insomnia, you’ve probably already been told by well-meaning friends and relatives to just take a quick nap during the day to catch up on sleep. However, while napping does have its benefits, it has to be done properly.

As I discuss in my blog, ‘Are naps good for you?’ short power naps of 20 minutes can positively impact your concentration and productivity but, if you’re napping for longer periods, you might fall into a deeper stage of sleep.

When you are inevitably awoken from this sleep phase, you will feel groggier and even more disorientated. Also, if you’re napping late in the afternoon it may interfere with your sleep routine at night, making it even harder for you to fall asleep!

6 – You need 8 hours of sleep each night

This is something that probably sticks in your head if you suffer from insomnia, particularly if you lie awake at night glaring at your alarm clock. The idea of getting your ‘8 hours a night’ has become deeply ingrained into our attitude towards sleep, however, this notion is changing, as I explore in my blog, ‘Do you really need 8 hours of sleep?

Instead, most experts are now appreciating that sleep requirements can vary from individual to individual. One person might feel well rested after just 7 hours of sleep whilst someone else might need around 9 hours to get the same sense of refreshment. Generally, between 7-9 hours is considered to be the best estimation for how much sleep you should be getting.

7 – When you can’t get to sleep just count some sheep

One of the most frustrating things about suffering from insomnia can be the relentless tossing and turning, trying desperately to get to sleep. If you’re really struggling, you’ve probably considered getting up but then put the notion aside – after all, it’s probably just best to remain where you are.

This is where you might be going wrong. You see, after a period of tossing and turning, you’re going to start associating your bed less with sleep and more with the frustration you’ve been feeling for the past 20 minutes. Or, worse yet, if you’ve been distracting yourself with YouTube videos or Facebook, you may well start to associate your bed with social media rather than sleep!

So rather than counting sheep, I would recommend getting up and walking around. Now this doesn’t mean you should move to the living room to binge your favourite television programme on Netflix! Instead, don’t make this time too stimulating – just sitting in a darkened room might be enough to help or if you’re feeling stressed you could practice some deep breathing techniques.

Once you start to feel drowsy, move back to the bedroom – try to avoid falling asleep on your couch!

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