Is Insomnia Making You Ill?Oct 02, 2023
It is common for insomnia clients to worry about the effect of insomnia on their health. This is largely due to the media (which loves nothing more than horrific tales of doom and gloom!)
We are repeatedly told that if we don’t get a minimum of 7 hrs sleep a night we will likely get Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other awful disease and die an early death!
How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need?
Never mind that hunter gather studies show the average human evolved on an average of 6 hrs of sleep or that the main man driving this 7-9hrs of sleep myth has never worked with a single insomnia client. Who needs logic when they have fear to drive them?
In reality, fear of not sleeping (and health fear in general) is a multi-billion-dollar business. Consider, all the supplement companies, sleep gadgets, specialty mattress and eye mask manufacturers, etc etc. How would any of these make money if we were not afraid there was something terminally wrong with us? If people weren’t literally spending for their lives?
Headlines Can Be Deceiving
Just look at the title of this blog. Why did you click on it? The fact of the matter is that no one would read an article titled “I Didn’t Sleep Last Night and Moved on the End”. Fear is an amazing business opportunity, and many companies are simply taking advantage.
I began my career as a nutritionist, and I spent years coaching clients in health and wellness. As such, I am often baffled by how many people refuse to take the steps necessary (things they can control) such as eat more vegetables or get exercise, and instead choose to focus on the 1 thing they can’t control (forcing the body to get more sleep).
It begs the question, are people actually worried about health or is it the lack of control that is the real problem?
What is Association?
Yes, there is an association between lack of sleep and mortality, just as there is an association between ashtrays and lung cancer but what does this actually mean?
Let’s say you are a researcher. If you did not know what we know today about cigarettes and you were trying to find out why lung cancer was on the rise, you might go to examine people’s living environments, to gather information. Upon examination, you notice most of the houses have ashtrays and think “Eureka! That must be the answer”.
Now obviously we all know that ashtrays themselves do not cause lung cancer, cigarettes do. The ashtrays just happen to be present because of the cigarettes. This is an association.
The same thing happens when researchers study insomnia and disease. Yes, they see that sick people often suffer with insomnia, but did insomnia cause the disease or is it a result of the stress of being ill? We all know stress causes insomnia, so this isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
In fact, there was a meta-analysis published in 2019 which reviewed seventeen studies, including a total of 36,938,981 individuals followed up for a mean of 11.6 years which showed that there was no difference in the odds of mortality for those individuals with symptoms of insomnia when compared to those without symptoms. Insomnia had no significant effect on the life expectancy of these people.
Yet we are still being bombarded almost daily with articles of doom and gloom. The fact is that nothing has been proven. Theories are not fact, and we still don’t know exactly how long we need to sleep or what the effects of getting less sleep are.
So, what can you do?
Focus on What You CAN Control
It is completely understandable that if you are not sleeping well, you would be worried about your health. Anyone would be. Even if the ill effects of insomnia haven’t been proven, they also haven’t been unproven, plus not sleeping doesn’t exactly feel healthy!
That said, how well has worrying and stressing and trying to force sleep been working for you? Has it helped you to achieve your desired results?
While sleep is still a grey area, the effects of stress are quite clear. As are the effects of a modern lifestyle filled with processed food and no exercise.
If health really is your biggest concern, what can you do in these areas (the things you can control) to help yourself to be even 1% healthier?
We can all do something. Even if you are someone who feels like they do everything right! I work with a lot of people who display perfectionist tendencies (control and insomnia often walk hand in hand).
If this sounds like you, then it can be helpful to flip the what can you do model on its head and ask “what can I do less?”
The point being none of us is perfect and it is ok to be scared, tired, angry, and confused. There is nothing wrong with wanting to take control of your health and do the best for yourself, this is an act of self-love.
The only thing that needs to change here is the focus. If you really want to live a healthy life, then I encourage you to take all this frustrated pressure that has been built up around attempting to force sleep and direct it towards something you can control. The results could surprise you.
If you would like to learn more or book an individual session, please visit the Memberships page.
In the meantime, I would like to leave you with this important message. You are not broken! You are whole, perfect, and healthy exactly as you are, and you CAN sleep!
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