By: Jessica Palmer, MA

Published On: March 15, 2015

If you are suffering in silence, or have given up hope that you will ever be a good sleeper again; or if you are tired all the time and don’t know why, it’s time to reach out for help! Speak with your therapist or your physician about your symptoms today. You may have a whole new outlook on life, once you have treatment for your sleep disorder!

MYTH: Everyone needs 8 hours of sleep per night to feel good the next day.

FACT: Everyone has a different need for sleep, some feel good after 6 hours and others need closer to 10 hours. If you feel that your sleep is not refreshing, not enough, broken by periods of wakefulness, or a problem, it’s important to talk to your therapist or physician about options. Sleep problems can take on many different forms and have many different causes. Some common characteristics of chronic insomnia are: difficulty falling asleep, problems staying asleep, waking much too early and can’t return to sleep and finally poor sleep quality (non-restorative sleep).

MYTH: Insomnia is never normal.

FACT: We all have a bad night of sleep once in awhile and that can be caused by anything from too much espresso to a big meeting at work the next day. It’s totally normal to experience acute insomnia (1-2 nights) when you have a stressful life event occur or when you are anticipating a stressful event. What is problematic is when you develop a pattern of not sleeping for example: 3 nights per week for the past 30 days. Bottom line: The sooner you tell someone, the quicker a professional trained in helping you with sleep problems can get you sleeping again!

MYTH: If I just lay there, it’s just as good for my body as sleeping.

FACT: This is a common misconception that leads people to perpetuate their sleep problem for months or even years. Rest and sleep are not the same, and the brain cannot function as well when it is sleep deprived. Common complaints of clients with chronic insomnia are reduced quality of life, problems focusing and concentrating, forgetfulness, increased worry, daytime sleepiness/fatigue, reduced work performance and productivity, irritability, problems in relationships, and reduced activity level.

MYTH: A sleeping pill is the only cure for a bad night of sleep.

FACT: Sleeping pills were developed to treat acute insomnia (1-2 nights of bad sleep), to help people get sleep when they are going through a personal crisis or stressful life event and they need sleep to cope successfully with the stressful life event. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia has shown to work as well as sleeping pills in the short term and better than sleeping pills in the long term for those with chronic insomnia.

MYTH: If I get treatment for my depression or anxiety, my chronic insomnia will go away too.

FACT: Actually, this has been a theory that psychologists have believed for years. “Insomnia is simply a symptom of a larger problem such as major depression or anxiety and once that problem is treated, then my client’s sleep will improve”. Well, it’s fair to say that acute short term insomnia may show improvement, but if the insomnia is chronic (has persisted for more than a month) then the insomnia needs to be treated on it’s own in order to get better- it will not magically go away. But there is GOOD NEWS: chronic insomnia is the number one predictor of recurrent major depression, which means once clients have their depression and insomnia under control, they are far less likely to have another episode of depression than someone who never had treatment for their insomnia.

MYTH: If I had a sleep disorder, I would know it.

FACT: If you have chronic insomnia, you know it, as you have probably tried everything under the sun to get your sleep back on track (except CBT-Insomnia hint, hint). However, unless you have had a consistent bed partner who tells you that you snore, gasp for air during the night, kick or thrash about, have sudden, jerky limb movements, then you may have a sleep disorder and be completely unaware of it. This is why it is imperative that mental health providers and physicians are educated about sleep and are asking the right questions.

Sometimes an undetected sleep disorder (Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA) can look a lot like major depression in adulthood (low energy, lack of motivation, sleeping more than usual, getting in bed whenever you have the chance, isolation from friends, reduced pleasure in activities that I once enjoyed due to feeling tired, and reduced daytime functioning).