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Debunking insomnia myths & developing healthier sleep habits

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Insomnia, a sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide (Roth, 2007), is often misunderstood and surrounded by myths that can prevent individuals from seeking help or trying effective solutions.


In this blog post, we will debunk some common insomnia myths and provide guidance on developing healthy sleep habits to help you achieve a restful night's sleep.


Debunking Insomnia Myths


Myth 1: Everyone needs 8 hours of sleep

Truth: Sleep needs vary from person to person. While the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep (Robbins et al., 2019), some people may function well on 6 hours, while others may require up to 10 hours. It is essential to listen to your body and find the right amount of sleep that works for you.


Myth 2: Lying in bed awake will eventually lead to sleep

Truth: Spending excessive time in bed without sleeping can worsen insomnia. If you are unable to fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, it is better to get up, engage in a relaxing activity, and try again when you feel sleepy.


Myth 3: Alcohol helps you sleep better

Truth: While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night, leading to a decrease in overall sleep quality (Koob & Colrain, 2020). Avoid consuming alcohol close to bedtime to ensure a more restful sleep.


Myth 4: Insomnia is purely psychological

Truth: Insomnia can have various causes, including medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle factors. It is crucial to address all potential factors contributing to insomnia for effective treatment.


Developing Healthy Sleep Habits


Establish a consistent sleep schedule:

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps regulate your body's internal clock and improve the quality of your sleep.


Create a relaxing bedtime routine:

Engage in calming activities before bedtime, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises. This helps signal your body that it is time to wind down and sleep.


Limit screen time before bed:

Exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt your body's production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Limit your screen time at least an hour before bedtime, or use a blue light filter on your devices to minimize its impact.


Optimize your sleep environment:

Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep by maintaining a cool temperature (around 60-67°F or 15-19°C), reducing noise and light exposure, and choosing comfortable bedding and pillows.


Watch your caffeine and nicotine intake:

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep (Gross et al., 2020). Limit your consumption of coffee, tea, soda, and nicotine-containing products, especially in the afternoon and evening.


Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine:

Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and duration. However, avoid engaging in vigorous exercise too close to bedtime, as it may have a stimulating effect and make it harder to fall asleep.


Manage stress and anxiety:

Chronic stress and anxiety can significantly contribute to insomnia. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation to help manage stress and create a calmer state of mind before bedtime.


Insomnia can be a frustrating and debilitating condition, but by debunking common myths and adopting healthy sleep habits, you can take control of your sleep and improve your overall well-being. Remember, it may take time to see significant improvements, so be patient and consistent with your efforts. If you continue to struggle with insomnia despite making these changes, consider consulting a sleep specialist or healthcare provider.


Subject matter specialist: Dr. Jacky Wan

Blog post authored by: Dr. Tani Khara


Click the button below to learn more about support for sleep issues and insomnia with clinical psychologist, Dr Jacky Wan:



References

Gross, G., Maruani, J., Vorspan, F., Benard, V., Benizri, C., Brochard, H., Geoffroy, P. A., Kahn, J. P., Yeim, S., Leboyer, M., Bellivier, F., & Etain, B. (2020). Association between coffee, tobacco, and alcohol daily consumption and sleep/wake cycle: an actigraphy study in euthymic patients with bipolar disorders. Chronobiology International, 37(5), 712–722. https://doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2020.1725542


Koob, G. F., & Colrain, I. M. (2020). Alcohol use disorder and sleep disturbances: a feed-forward allostatic framework. In Neuropsychopharmacology (Vol. 45, Issue 1, pp. 141–165). Nature Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0446-0


Robbins, R., Grandner, M. A., Buxton, O. M., Hale, L., Buysse, D. J., Knutson, K. L., Patel, S. R., Troxel, W. M., Youngstedt, S. D., Czeisler, C. A., & Jean-Louis, G. (2019). Sleep myths: an expert-led study to identify false beliefs about sleep that impinge upon population sleep health practices. Sleep Health, 5(4), 409–417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2019.02.002


Roth, T. (2007). Insomnia: Definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. In Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (Vol. 3, Issue 5 SUPPL., p. S7). American Academy of Sleep Medicine. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.26929


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