Is Insomnia Actually Bad for You?

Is Insomnia Actually Bad for You? Getty Images

If you’ve ever Googled “how to sleep better” or “why can’t I fall asleep," the search results would suggest that you practice something called "sleep hygiene." Sleep hygiene is the idea that to sleep better, you have to drink less caffeine, less alcohol and other rules. But, according to Dr. Michael Perlis, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at University of Pennsylvania, “sleep hygiene” is actually not useful, and mostly not even tested.

Everybody has bouts of insomnia, and it is generally seen as a bad thing. Here are some things you should know about sleep, or lack thereof.

Insomnia is not always bad.

Acute insomnia is mostly brought on by stress. This is our body’s way of telling us we have something important to do or that we’re forgetting something. According to Dr. Perlis, “acute insomnia is probably something that comes to us all to keep us active and to allow us to do whatever we’re supposed to be doing.”

If you miss sleep, don’t try to catch up on it.

It’s normal to miss sleep and then feel like you need to sleep in or go to bed earlier to make up for it. Dr. Perlis says this just messes up your sleep schedule even more. If you miss sleep, the best thing to do is nothing. If you have to do something, caffeinate wisely, he says.

Women are more likely to battle insomnia.

According to Dr. Perlis, “women are given to chronic insomnia about 2-1 to men.”

Acute insomnia will usually go away in 3-5 days.

Perlis says that if you’re a good sleeper, your chances of getting a good night’s sleep within three days of insomnia are 90 percent. Even if you’re a bad sleeper, you’re most likely to get a good night’s sleep within five days.

College students can suffer from insomnia and not even know it.

College students are more likely to get less sleep due to many factors, some of them being parties, studying, etc. Typically, college-aged students don’t even know that their bodies are sleep deprived. According to Perlis, younger bodies can handle the affects of sleep deprivation better, but it still has long-term negative affects, including psychological well-being and performance.

There’s help for insomnia.

“If any kind of sleep disturbance lasts for more than a couple days, you should go talk to somebody,” Dr. Perlis said. People struggling with insomnia can visit the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine to find a specialist.