Will a cure for insomnia ever be found?

Q:  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years.  And I’m losing hope.  When I lie in bed, I have a hard time distinguishing sleep from waking, so I can’t even tell for sure how much sleep I actually get.  I am so tired of this.  Will a cure for insomnia ever be found?

A:  Many insomniacs experience the difficulty of recognizing the difference between lying in bed awake with eyes closed in a relaxed state, and actual sleep.

Sleep state misperception is real and widespread.  If you want to get a better handle on this, you might try a sleep tracking device.  While the ones for retail purchase do not have the sophistication or accuracy of EEG monitors used in sleep labs, the technology is rapidly changing and improving.

And regarding a “good night’s sleep”, maybe that’s relative.  For instance, it’s quite normal for our inherent sleep system to become less robust as we age, just like most every other aspect of our physical body.  So a “good night’s sleep” for a 75 year old is typically not nearly as sound as that experienced by a 25 year old.  In fact, this is what sleep research has found.

However, even though our sleep may become more fragmented as we age, that doesn’t necessarily mean our satisfaction with what sleep we do get can’t be OK.  This is also what sleep studies in fact find — that many people as they age report satisfaction with sleep, even though the tendency for insomnia increases.

So if you are having problems with insomnia, and your ideas about sleep haven’t been helping you sleep better, maybe part of the solution is to reconsider what the whole idea of “good sleep” means.

As we age, for any of us to think we’ll ever be able to sleep like we did years ago is a pipe dream.  We therefore may be well served by just accepting what sleep we do get as OK; and developing more trust that our mind-body system is in fact powerfully predisposed to get what it needs.

There’s nothing in sleep science that we’ve found to suggest otherwise.

So will a “cure” ever be found?  Rest assured that medical technology will continue to improve to more effectively treat underlying health and psychiatric issues that disrupt sleep.  Beyond that, and especially when insomnia is fueled by a more or less nonstop worry about the idea of sleep, re-thinking your entire concept of what sleep means may go a long way to help you more accurately understand the situation — and improve it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Insomnia, sleep

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One Comment on “Will a cure for insomnia ever be found?”

  1. Michael Says:

    Great commentary. So true for the elderly. Modern society/medicine has done such a disservice by implying that we always need 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Phasic sleep is natural.


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