Advice I Don’t Need

Patient Expert
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Unless you’ve experienced chronic insomnia, you’re unlikely to have any idea of how it feels to live without decent sleep for months or years. We insomniacs have gotten lots of tips and advice from people who just don’t understand—and we’re tired of hearing the same old things! Here are some of the worst things we hear about our sleep problems—along with more helpful alternatives!

  • “Just relax and stop worrying about it.” If we could simply force ourselves to relax and stop worrying about sleep, we probably wouldn’t be living with the frustration of insomnia in the first place! Of course, we would like to be able to relax and stop worrying about sleep—we just find it impossible to do so! Better: Ask what you can do to help lighten our load, so that we can take time to relax and decompress—particularly late at night.

  • “I had a bad night last night, too.” Although we appreciate the fact that you had a bad night, it simply doesn’t compare to the torture of enduring a bad night almost every night of the week! We don’t want to be the center of attention, and we aren’t looking for pity—but please don’t try to compare your one night of sleep problems with weeks, months, or even years of sleep disruption. Better: Ask us for some tips on getting through the day after having a rough night. We’d be happy to help!

  • “Have you tried going to bed earlier or taking a morning lie-in?” Yes, we have tried this! Sometimes it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. In fact, spending more time in bed usually means less time asleep and more time awake, worrying about being unable to sleep. Better: Instead, try asking us how much time we are spending in bed in order to help us make sure we’re allotting an appropriate amount of time for it.

  • “Just take some melatonin.” We already know all about melatonin. Chances are, we’re currently taking melatonin supplements or we tried them in the past. Unfortunately, there isn’t any evidence that melatonin is an effective treatment for insomnia. Better: Ask us if we’d like to talk about our sleep struggles. Sometimes just venting our frustrations can be a great relief.

  • “Come over and let’s take your mind off the insomnia.” Social support can help prevent insomnia from turning into depression. Although we would love to hang out, we may need some extra encouragement and motivation to do so. Insomnia leaves us feeling lethargic, and we may even try to avoid socializing as a way to conserve energy. Better: Ask if you can come to us—the last thing we want to do is drive to your place when we’re already exhausted!