Treating Insomnia: 4 Myths About Sleep


sleepInsomnia is aggravated and perpetuated by a set of false beliefs. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we believe about sleep–and how those beliefs trigger anxiety and compromise a good night’s sleep—until they are laid out before us. In their book, “Quiet Your Mind & Get to Sleep,” authors Colleen Carney, Ph.D. and Rachel Manber, Ph.D. list several myths about sleep and explain why they are not helpful. They have helped me in my most recent bout of insomnia, and I’m hoping they can help you, too.

Myth #1: “Everyone requires eight hours of sleep to function during the day.

Truth: There’s a wide range of sleep needs. The average amount of sleep needed for an adult his unknown but is probably less than eight hours. Second, sleep duration is only one of many determinants of daytime functioning; within reason, sleep quality is probably more important than the total amount of sleep.

Myth #2: If you’ve had good sleep, you should wake up feeling refreshed.

Truth: After waking, it’s natural to spend up to 30 minutes feeling groggy. This is called sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness, which is transient and is likely affected by the sleep stage from which you were awakened. If you are a night person, you may experience more sleep inertia than the average person.

Myth #3: If you wake up a couple of times during the night, even though you fall back to sleep pretty quickly, it must be having a negative effect.

Truth: Brief arousals are a normal part of the sleep process. Although most are not long enough to be remembered in the morning, the average number of awakenings per night is twelve (Bonnet and Arand 2007). A normal amount of time to spend awake in bed is up to thirty minutes.

Myth #4: If you spend more time in bed, you’ll get more sleep and feel better the next day.

Truth: Sleep quality is more important than quantity. In addition to interfering with the sleep driver and your biological clock, spending extra time in bed may increase depression.

Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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1 Response
  1. Barb Quester

    Hi Therese, thank you for posting this subject. as a person with CFS i think that illnesses can and do affect sleep quality and quantity. i sleep 12-14 hours a day and never wake refreshed, which is because of the illness. i know a lot of older folks who don’t sleep much more than 4-6 hours. everyone is different, but sleep is definitely an interesting topic. thanks, barb