The term “insomnia” is often used to define when one can’t fall asleep. Such a general use of the word invites confusion and incorrect assumptions on this potentially serious sleep disorder.
Here are five misconceptions on insomnia that Alaskans need to know:
Common Misconceptions about Insomnia
Misconception #1: You couldn’t fall asleep right away last night, so you must have insomnia. We have all experienced occasional nights when no matter what we do, sleep just doesn’t come easily. We had trouble winding down from a busy day, or ate giant burrito right before bed, or we watched a scary movie, and so on, and an hour after hitting the pillow, we’re still awake. If you can’t fall asleep in 15 minutes three times a week, you might have insomnia. If it happens once every couple months, you are merely human.
Misconception #2: All insomnias are alike. Many insomnia patients aren’t falling or staying asleep because something else is keeping them awake. Temporary anxiety, some medications, alcohol, caffeine, exercising too close to bedtime, pets hogging the bed of the bed or meowing for food, too much screen time too late, or even another sleep disorder can cause this kind of insomnia, also known as secondary insomnia. When the insomnia is chronic and no other external factors are causing the sleeplessness, it’s primary insomnia.
Misconception #3: Insomnia is only the inability to fall asleep. Some insomnia sufferers experience no trouble dozing off but wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep. Some sleep through the night but are so restless during their slumber that they wake up feeling unrested. Though these cases are less common than the definition of insomnia most people subscribe to, they are insomnias nonetheless.
Misconception #4: Lying awake in bed is the symptom that proves I have insomnia. If you needed an extra half-hour before reaching sleep last night, or even on repeated nights, you might simply be one of those people who just can’t fall asleep right away. The primary indicator you have clinical insomnia isn’t how you fall or stay asleep, but rather, how fatigued you are the next day. If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) after a sleepless night, you might have insomnia. If you feel fine the next day, you might just be going to sleep too early.
Misconception #5: Insomnia is not a medical condition that warrants treatment. For sure, not being able to fall/stay asleep can be frustrating, but when it happens repeatedly, serious side effects could arise, including decreased alertness, EDS, high blood pressure, weight gain, and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
If you can’t fall asleep within a reasonable number of minutes more than a few times a week, seek medical help. Don’t let insomnia keep you up nights. Do you have questions about insomnia or any other sleep disorder? Contact Alaska Sleep Clinic, we have answers.
What do you do when you can’t fall asleep?