Myths and Facts About Insomnia

Are you struggling to fall or stay asleep at night and wondering if insomnia could be the cause? Chances are, you’ve heard many of the myths about this common condition that affects about 25% of Americans every year. 

Dennis Kellar, MD, Madhu Gundavaram, MD, and our entire care team at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, understand the frustration that trouble sleeping can bring to your waking life. That’s why, as part of our sleep medicine services, we offer comprehensive evaluations and treatments for patients suffering from many types of sleep disorders. 

If you believe you’re suffering from insomnia, it’s important to understand the facts. We’ve curated this guide on the myths and facts about insomnia to help you separate fact from fiction.

MYTH: Insomnia means you can’t fall asleep

FACT: Not all types of insomnia manifest in the same way

Having trouble falling asleep at night can be a symptom of insomnia. However, insomnia is the name of a sleep disorder that can manifest in different ways. In addition to making it hard to fall asleep at night, symptoms of insomnia can include:

Other common symptoms associated with insomnia can include daytime fatigue, low energy, trouble concentrating, mood issues, and an inability to perform in work or school.   

MYTH: Alcohol can cure insomnia

FACT: Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it can lead to a lower quality of sleep  

A review of many sleep studies found that alcohol can have a negative impact on REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and affect daytime alertness, performance, and mood. Although it may help people fall asleep quicker, the disruption to REM sleep can cause problems during the waking hours. What’s more? Alcohol can contribute to or worsen other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.

REM sleep is a restorative part of sleep that first happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and it cycles with non-REM sleep throughout the night. Most of your dreams occur during REM sleep, and it’s during this time that your brain is most active. Scientists are still studying REM sleep, but it’s believed to be a time linked to learning and memory function as well as emotional processing.     

MYTH: Insomnia is only temporary

FACT: Some people suffer from chronic insomnia

Different people experience insomnia in different ways. Most people can have trouble falling or staying asleep once in a while. Short-term insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks and is usually brought on by something in the person’s circumstances, such as eating too late at night, a major life change, or anxiety about a big project. 

Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is diagnosed if you suffer from insomnia symptoms for at least three nights a week for at least one month. Chronic insomnia can arise for many reasons, such as underlying medical conditions, poor sleep hygiene, and mental health issues. 

MYTH: If I can’t sleep for eight hours, I have insomnia

FACT: Sleeping for less than eight hours each night does not make you an insomniac   

People have varying sleep needs. Eight hours is an average. Some people may need more sleep and some may need less. Sleep needs can also vary with age. While babies, children, and teenagers need more sleep — about 9-11 hours each day — adults typically only require 7-8 hours to function well and feel rested. Although some adults may feel their best with six hours of sleep and others may need nine.

MYTH: Insomnia is difficult to treat

FACT: Insomnia can be easy to treat once the underlying cause is discovered

The key to curing insomnia is diagnosing the underlying cause of what’s keeping you awake. For example, if your medication is what’s interrupting your sleep, a simple change may cure your insomnia. 

At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, our sleep experts can analyze all of the factors that may be causing your sleep trouble. Starting with more conservative measures, such as a sleep diary, we can begin to unlock the puzzle of your insomnia. We can also provide comprehensive testing for sleep disorders at our sleep study facility or from your home.  

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine. And if you’re not ready or able to leave home, we offer TELEMEDICINE visits.

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