Paradoxical insomnia: a diagnosis given to people whose sleep studies show they sleep a normal amount but who perceive they sleep much, much less. When I wrote about it in 2015, the word was that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—the gold standard in treatments for insomnia—might not be an effective treatment for it.
But a brief testimonial that recently appeared in American Family Physician argues otherwise. Here’s an update on this puzzling sleep disorder.
You’ve heard it said before: insomniacs typically overestimate how long it takes to fall asleep and underestimate the amount of sleep we get. Time and again, sleep experts ask us to estimate our sleep time. Then they conduct overnight sleep studies with polysomnography (PSG) and find, on average, that we fall asleep faster and sleep longer than we think.
Are insomniacs just unreliable when it comes to estimating time? What else might account for this discrepancy? Should we be reassured that we’re probably sleeping more than we think?
“I’m on Day 4 of SRT and it isn’t going well,” Jenny wrote recently. “I finally had an appointment with a sleep therapist last week. He talked to me about SRT and gave me a 7-hour sleep window, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. My usual bedtime is 9:30 so I had some apprehensions. But I started 4 days ago.
“Since then I haven’t slept more than 3 hours a night. It’s really hard for me to stay up till 11, and then when I get in bed I’m wide awake! In the morning I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open! Is this normal? I’m afraid I may be a treatment failure. Any advice?”
Do you normally get just an hour or two of sleep? Are there nights when you don’t sleep at all?
You may have paradoxical insomnia. Despite its prevalence, the whys and wherefores remain largely unknown. But researchers have made a little headway in recent years, and here’s what they say now.