Insomnia Identity: Thinking you’ve got insomnia can be worse than having it

insomnia, insomnia identity, sleep therapy,

Insomnia Identity

Insomnia Identity, (believing you have poor sleep), can be worse than actually having poor sleep. As a hypnotherapist, this comes as no surprise.

Lack of sleep is seriously debilitating, impairing both physical and cognitive function. It’s so bad, it’s even a recognised form of torture.

It used to be thought that complaining about the effects of poor sleep and having poor sleep were intimately linked. If you had one, you had the other. It seems this isn’t true, according to a recent scientific review by Kenneth Lichstein of Alabama University.


Some people can function really well, even though they have clinically poor sleep. Conversely, some people suffer the effects of poor sleep, even thought their sleep patterns are normal. How you think about sleep seems to be more important than how much sleep you actually get!

What is Insomnia Identity?

“The hallmark of insomnia is regularly having such poor sleep that it affects your daily function. This implies a person with insomnia will have poor sleep, as measured objectively, and that they will complain about their lack of sleep. To get a sense of how poor sleep and reports of insomnia interact, Lichstein reviewed twenty studies that measured each of these aspects separately, with questions like “How long does it typically take you to get to sleep?” on the one hand, and on the other, questions like “Are you dissatisfied with your sleep?” or direct probes into how confident the person was that they struggled with insomnia.

The evidence shows that poor sleep in itself is not sufficient to produce insomnia.

On the other hand, poor sleep isn’t necessary for people to complain that they have insomnia. Polysomnography and sleep diary studies show clearly that people whose sleeping patterns do not meet clinical criteria for poor sleep can nonetheless believe that they suffer insomnia. What’s more, these “complaining good sleepers” can have as high impairment in terms of daily fatigue, anxiety and depression as those suffering under a clinical deficit of sleep.

Lichtstein reports that 37 per cent of individuals complaining of insomnia “do not have poor sleep by conventional standards”. This is not to say that their sleep was flawless, or that it wasn’t worse than average in some way, but it certainly falls in the normal range.”

Source: BPS Research Digest


What does this mean for you?

Well, for one thing, if you feel you’re suffering the effects of insomnia then you really are. From a therapy point of view, it is your experience which matters. This is what a good therapist would help you to address. Insomnia identity is just as real a difficulty as insomnia.

If you feel you have insomnia and yet sleep remedies don’t help, perhaps there’s more going on than meets the eye.

Find yourself a therapist who works with your experience rather than just treating the apparent problem. This is one of the many reasons I choose to use Cognitive Hypnotherapy. It helps you become better at being you, rather than putting you through a course of pre-defined ‘insomnia therapy’.


What next?

If you’d like to talk to me about how to beat insomnia, stress or anxiety, simply book a free 20-minute conversation with me via this link:

Feel free to look around the website whilst you’re here. This page might be useful next: Anxiety, Depression and Stress


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