What Insomnia Sufferers Are Tired of Hearing

Patient Expert
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Unless you have experienced chronic insomnia for yourself, you likely have no idea what it’s like to live with long-term sleep deprivation. We’ve heard lots of tips and advice from people who just don’t understand insomnia — and we are tired of hearing the same old things! Here are some of the of the worst (along with some better alternatives).


“Just relax and stop worrying about it.”

If we could simply force ourselves to relax and stop worrying about sleep, we’d probably not be living with the frustration of insomnia to begin with! We want to be able to relax and stop worrying about sleep — we just find it impossible to do so! A better alternative would be to ask us how you can help take the load off so we can take time to relax, particularly late at night.


“I had a bad night last night, too.”

Although we appreciate that you had a bad night, it just 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 one night of sleep problems with weeks, months, or even years of sleep disruption. A better alternative? Ask us for some tips on getting through the day after 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. Try asking us how much time we are spending in bed to help us make sure we are allotting an appropriate amount of time for sleep, instead.


“Just take some melatonin.”

We already know all about melatonin. Chances are, we’ve tried it (or we take melatonin supplements already). Unfortunately, there is no evidence that melatonin is an effective treatment for insomnia. A better alternative would be to ask us if we’d like to talk about our sleep struggles. Sometimes just venting our frustrations can be a great relief.


“You should take some sleeping pills.”

Although sleeping pills can be helpful for short-term insomnia, they are not recommended for long-term use, and they do not cure insomnia. They also come with side-effects. We want to sleep without relying on sleeping pills! Instead of telling us to take pills, ask us about the alternatives we’ve tried. You might be surprised at how long the list is!


“Come over and let’s take your mind off the insomnia.”

Social support can help prevent insomnia from turning into depression. Although we’d 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. A better alternative would be to ask if you can come to us — the last thing we want to do is drive to your place when we are already feeling exhausted!


“Keep away from the coffee.”

Look, we know that caffeine interrupts sleep. However, we often depend on coffee to keep us going after another rough night, so we probably won’t take too kindly to any suggestion that we eliminate this form of assistance from our lives! Instead, how about inviting us out for a morning coffee? The walk, the exposure to morning light, and the social support will be appreciated.


“Have a couple of stiff drinks before bed.”

We know that alcohol helps us fall asleep — but, unfortunately, drinking close to bedtime actually interrupts sleep during the night. Creating a nighttime drinking habit can also increase our risk of alcohol dependence, too. Instead of suggesting alcohol before bed, ask us about our nighttime routine. Make sure we are taking time to wind down in the hour or so before bedtime (but please don’t tell us to drink a warm glass of milk!).


“Exhaust yourself by getting loads of exercise.”

We’re already exhausted, so exercise is way down on our list of priorities! With that being said, exercise is known to improve sleep quality. So, instead of telling us to exercise to the point of exhaustion, encourage us to exercise during the day by getting out there with us! We don’t have to hit the gym — we can go for a lunchtime walk or pursue an enjoyable outdoor hobby.


“Give sleep hygiene a try.”

Sleep hygiene is probably the first thing our doctor told us about (before suggesting sleeping pills). Unfortunately, studies have confirmed that sleep hygiene is not an effective treatment for insomnia. Instead of asking us about sleep hygiene, check to see if we know about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). The techniques used in CBT-I are considered to be the most effective long-term insomnia treatment option.