Counting Sheep: Searching for better sleep

Insomniacs' sleep stress keeps them awake. Insomniacs seem to be more easily aggravated by daily stress than sound sleepers, according to new research from Canada.

By Colin Allen, published April 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Insomniacs seem to be more easily aggravated by daily stress than sound sleepers, according to new research from Canada. The average troubled snoozer--defined as someone who regularly struggles for 30 minutes or more to fall asleep-- coped worse with daily tribulations such as traffic jams than did good sleepers, who rated their lives as less stressful, despite experiencing an equal number of daily hardships.

These new findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, tracked 40 people with insomnia and 27 who were satisfied with their sleeping schedules. While both groups reported experiencing the same number of stressful events during the day, bad sleepers were significantly more rattled by such events.

Study author Charles Morin of Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada, suggests that treating insomnia requires more than just inducing Zs. He suggests that doctors who treat the disorder should also consider how sufferers manage life's daily aggravations.

"We reduce the worry about losing sleep," explains Mark Chambers, clinical director of American Sleep Diagnostics in Las Vegas, Nevada. As someone who regularly encounters insomnia, Chambers finds that sleep-related worries--not a lack of sleep itself--are the primary culprits. "Insomniacs go to bed every night with dread," in anticipation of lying awake, he notes. "They imagine a thousand worries related to their sleep problem."

Unconvinced that all insomniacs are chronic daytime worriers, Chambers suspects that sleep researchers often ignore personality, leaving those who don't complain about insomnia overlooked.

For those who are troubled by an inability to sleep, Chambers reminds that it's not something you can force yourself to do. "Just let it happen," he advises. "Sleep is something you should not have to work at."