MythBusters: Insomnia myths
31st March, 2022
Insomnia is a common problem that is thought to affect nearly one in every three people. This could mean finding it hard to drift off to sleep, waking in the night, waking up early and not being able to get back to sleep or finding it tricky to concentrate throughout the day.
“Insomnia means you can’t fall asleep”
Myth! This is a bit of a confusing one. Insomnia is a difficulty with sleep, you probably will fall asleep but it’s often not easy, or the sleep is very short. All of us have difficulty getting off to sleep sometimes – that’s completely normal, particularly if we have something on our mind. However, if this happens regularly you might be experiencing a form of insomnia.
“Counting sheep helps you sleep”
Myth! Using this distraction activity is supposed to help to reduce the worry of not getting off to sleep. There is no good evidence that this is effective, in fact it may cause more worry for some, while others find their brain more active and thus unable to drift off – for most, counting sleep could even prolong the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. If we can calm our mind, we can allow our body to go to sleep.
“Insomnia can’t be treated”
Myth! There are many factors that go into getting a good night’s sleep. We start with adjusting the basics – addressing any issues that may be associated with insomnia, like stress, medications, medical conditions. You should also address what we call sleep hygiene which includes regulating your room temperature, avoiding caffeine, and not using electronic devices before bedtime.
“Your body gets used to getting less sleep”
Myth! Research has shown that your body and brain can’t just get used to getting less sleep. Persistent sleep deprivation affects daytime performance, mood, decision making, memory, focus and creativity. Even if you are getting used to having less sleep, more serious health problems may be accumulating because of your body’s inability to get the rest it needs.
“Napping makes up for lack of sleep at night”
Myth! Napping can be helpful if we feel over tired but keep naps short to perhaps 10 – 20 minutes. This can give you a boost to get you through the day. Have a nap early as napping in the late afternoon or evening is likely to interfere with you sleep cycle and increase insomnia. If a nap turns into a full-on sleep this again can interfere with our sleep cycle, so keep it as short as possible.