Insomnia: 11 Most Common Truths and Lies
According to a report of the World Health Organization (WHO), insomnia torments between ten and fifteen percent of the people in the USA. However, if you find it difficult to fall asleep at night or wake up at 2 or 3 am and then can’t go back to sleep for a while, this does not necessarily mean that you are an insomniac.
The Sleep Health Foundation distinguishes between poor sleepers and people with more serious insomnia, adding that every third person in the world has, at some point in their lives, experienced symptoms of mild insomnia.
The authors list stress, anxiety and depression as the main culprits for poor sleep and insomnia among adults and children.
For those who feel they aren’t getting enough sleep, or the quality of their sleep is poor, here are some of the most popular facts about insomnia, along with myths that need to be busted.
These are important, because chronic insomnia increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
In addition, insomniacs are more likely to put on extra weight, compared to individuals with normal sleeping habits.
Here are 11 of the most common truths and lies about insomnia.
1. Alcohol Cures Insomnia
This is not true. Desperate for a good night’s sleep, many poor sleepers are inclined to think that a drink or two will give them the sound, heavy sleep they’ve always wanted. Unfortunately, they just can’t be more wrong.
While alcohol certainly helps falling asleep, the quality of the sleep you get under its influence is far from satisfactory.
Your body will process the alcohol in a few hours and you’ll probably wake up with a dry mouth and racing heart. Needless to say, it’ll be almost impossible to get back to sleep. The next day you’ll have a horrible hangover, meaning that you’ll hardly be able to do anything useful.
2. Insomnia Is A Strictly Psychological Problem
This is a lie. While it is true that psychological factors such as stress and anxiety can cause sleep troubles, they aren’t the only culprits for it.
For example, those who drink a lot of coffee, or are used to having a nap or two during the day, can also encounter some problems sleeping at night.
Medical conditions such as chronic pain, the Willis-Ekbom disease (also known as the restless legs syndrome) or sleep apnea can worsen the quality of your sleep. Some asthma medicines may also cause mild insomnia as a side effect.
3. Regular Physical Activity Improves Sleep Quality
It’s true. The excess of energy in your body makes you feel restless at night, so working out regularly during the week can help you get rid of it.
However, Fitness maniacs should be careful, because late night workouts increase the levels of stress hormone in your body and thus make it harder for you to relax and fall asleep. Experts recommend to finish your workout at least three hours before going to bed.
4. Surfing The Internet Before Going To Bed Helps You Let Off The Steam
This is not true. This myth is probably fueled by the fact that we practically live in our smartphones and tablets, so they’ve naturally become our number one stress relief method.
Researchers have found out that much of the content we see online or on TV is actually meant to stimulate us, not help us relax.
So, if you are in the habit of falling asleep in front of the TV, better choose a monotonous and even slightly boring program to help you drift away.
5. Sleeping Pills Are Mostly Harmless
Well, this is only partially true. Certainly, sleeping pills kick in as soon as you take one. No wonder they are extremely popular in the USA, where between 50 and 70 million people take them every night.
The problem is that the effect of most of these medicines tends to weaken over time, meaning that you’ll find yourself compelled to increase your intakes slightly but steadily. This, in turn, increases the risk of overdosage-related mishaps.
Worse still, you can easily get addicted to your sleeping pills. Addiction symptoms include, but are not limited to cravings, frantic attempts to resupply sleeping pills from more than one doctor and overlooking most of their obvious side effects.
6. Catching Up On Sleep Is A Piece of Cake
That’s a lie. If you think you can catch up on the sleep you’ve lost during the week in the weekend, forget about it!
In fact, sleeping off the weekend can actually do more harm than good, because it disrupts your natural circadian rhythm.
Hard as it is, catching up on lost sleep isn’t mission impossible. Just try to fix your bedtimes and your evening routines. These are also known as sleep hygiene.
7. Having a Nap In The Afternoon Helps You Sleep Better At Night
This is partially true. Big companies such as Zappos and Nike have provided special nap rooms for their employees, where they can rest for about twenty or thirty minutes during the day.
However, those with persisting sleep problems are hardly likely to benefit from such afternoon naps. Rather, such rest periods will decrease their natural sleep drive, making it even harder for them to fall asleep at night.
8. Your Body Will Eventually Adapt to Sleep Deprivation
This is a big NO. In the past, military psychiatrists and psychologists carried out numerous sleep deprivation experiments in their search for the real ‘universal soldier’.
However, these only helped establish how important it is for soldiers to get enough sleep, so as to be efficient and highly operative.
For example, after only one night without sleep, the participants in one experiment found it very hard to perform even basic tasks involving vigilance and cognitive functions.
So, while it is possible to train your body to function on less sleep, your cognitive abilities will certainly get impeded by it.
9. If You Can’t Sleep, Get Up and Do Something Useful
That’s so true. If you’ve been tossing and turning for an hour or so in bed, perhaps it’s a good idea to get up and read a bit, or listen to some music that may help you go back to sleep.
On the other hand, if you just stay restless in bed, you can eventually start feeling guilty about your inability to sleep.
10. You Can Learn To Sleep Tight
That’s true. You can train yourself to practice good sleep hygiene in a few simple steps. These include giving yourself enough time to unwind before turning in, avoiding caffeine containing foods in the afternoon and going to bed at one and the same time during the week.
11. Insomnia Will Eventually Take Care of Itself
That’s a lie. Your sleep will return to normal only after you’ve established what’s been disturbing it and eliminated the problem. In addition to the reasons for insomnia mentioned above, other common causes include incessant workload, a difficult relationship, or noisy neighbors.