All of us, at some point, have had our share of sleepless nights. Stress is one of the core reasons for a poor quality sleep. Worrying about the final exams, a project deadline at work, or even issues with a partner are examples of how stress builds in our daily lives. Anxiety, medical conditions like chronic pain, certain medications, and irregular sleep habits all cause stress that leads to sleeplessness. Over time, these factors lead to a condition called insomnia.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a state of chronic sleeplessness where people find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. When certain situations, like a bad day at work or an argument with your best friend, cause stress, you lose sleep for a day or two. This is acute insomnia and usually resolve without treatment.
When you have disrupted sleep that occurs at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months, then it could be a sign of chronic insomnia. This chronic condition has negative effects on health like fatigue, hormonal imbalance, reduced productivity, and irritable moods. The stress that an individual experiences in this type of insomnia is more severe and may require some form of treatment to get back to normal sleeping patterns.
However, recent studies have reported that simply “worrying” about sleeplessness can do as much harm as insomnia. Let’s look into this in detail.
Insomnia Identity: A Recent Finding About Insomnia
A professor of psychology at the University of Alabama has introduced a new review stating that stress that causes long-term sleep disturbances is not the only cause of insomnia.1 He reviewed about 12 sleep studies that have been published over the past 20 years and concluded that irrespective of whether an individual has good sleep or not, simply believing that you are insomniac can do as much harm as insomnia.
From his findings, the evidence shows that poor sleep is insufficient to cause insomnia. A study of volunteers who are technically poor sleepers who did not consider to have sleep troubles reported that they did not have high levels of anxiety or increased fatigue when compared with those who had good sleep.
On the other hand, individuals who had good sleep but thought that they suffer from insomnia were more at risk of increased daily fatigue and anxiety levels. In fact, a study showed that those who complained of insomnia, regardless of the presence or absence of good sleep, were more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who actually experienced poor-quality sleep.2
So, what’s actually going on?
Individuals who believe are not getting enough sleep or believe they are insomniacs end up worrying and being anxious about not getting the right amount of sleep like they perceive. This trait is termed as insomnia identity. Individuals with insomnia identity are so worked up about what’s causing their poor sleep cycles that they lose sleep or sleep really late.
As mentioned earlier, worrying about a problem causes stress. Stress leads to sleep problems and can last for a couple of days to months, depending on the severity of its effects on the individual. While worrying about a problem produces stress causing sleepless nights or poor sleep, worrying about poor sleep is added stress to the one that already exists.
Therefore, simply worrying that you are not getting enough sleep can lead to stress and similar negative effects on the body that are associated with poor sleep. There may be a lot of people out there with insomnia identity rather than an actual lack of sleep.
So, if you are worried about facing sleepless nights, here are a few tips you should consider to get good sleep.
Simple Ways To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Whether you’re suffering from insomnia or insomnia identity, sleep is an issue. Simple changes in your lifestyle can have a noticeable impact on your sleep quality.
- Keep a check on your coffee intake: Do not have coffee, tea, or any other caffeinated beverages like energy drinks a few hours before bedtime. Caffeine can delay sleep and may even prevent deep sleep. If you got to have something to drink later in the day, drink herbal tea.
- Engage in physical activities but not before bedtime: Exercises are good for overall health. Engaging in physical activities like dance classes or rock climbing can relieve some tension in the body. But, exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake. Time it right.
- Relax before bedtime: Keep your mind and body relaxed before sleep. Practice yoga, listen to music, or even take a warm bath to relax both your body and mind just in time for bed.
- Make your bedroom a comfy place: Your bedroom should have a calm, restful environment. Manage the temperature, lighting, and noise such that you fall asleep without interruptions.
- Quit smoking: Nicotine is a stimulant, which means it can suppress sleep.3 Smoking may delay sleep and cause disturbed sleep. Now is as good a time as any to quit.
- Stick to regular sleep hours: If you have difficulty falling asleep, it is always better to have a fixed bedtime routine. This will help your body get used to a specific sleep time and can help you sleep better.
- Keep a sleep diary: Keeping a track of your sleep cycles is a good way to know what is disturbing you. Sleep diaries can help you figure out habits or daily activities that are causing disrupted sleep.
If you are facing sleep troubles in spite of a healthy lifestyle, do not ignore the issue for long. Visit a doctor, get professional advice, and sleep your way (if not all the way!) to a long, healthy life.
|↑1||Lichstein, Kenneth L. “Insomnia identity.” Behaviour research and therapy 97 (2017): 230-241.|
|↑2||Jaehne, Andreas, Barbara Loessl, Zsuzsanna Bárkai, Dieter Riemann, and Magdolna Hornyak. “Effects of nicotine on sleep during consumption, withdrawal and replacement therapy.” Sleep medicine reviews 13, no. 5 (2009): 363-377.|
|↑3||Jaehne, Andreas, Barbara Loessl, Zsuzsanna Bárkai, Dieter Riemann, and Magdolna Hornyak. “Effects of nicotine on sleep during consumption, withdrawal and replacement therapy.” Sleep medicine reviews 13, no. 5 (2009): 363-377.|