The Term 'Insomniac' Makes It Harder To Recover From Insomnia


I don’t like the word ‘insomniac’. Why is that?

Imagine a person says:

I have insomnia.

and then 

I am an insomniac.

Do they actually ‘say’ the same thing?

I don’t think so.

There is a big difference in what those statements mean. As I see it, calling yourself an ‘insomniac’ is unhelpful for your recovery from insomnia. 

A lot of people with insomnia spent a lot of energy and effort working on their sleep issues. They are ‘in the fight’. And not just at night – in the daytime too – continually looking for ‘the next thing’ they can try to see if it helps them get better sleep. They also adapt their routines because of sleep problems, skipping out on meeting up with friends and avoiding activities because of how they feel. 

It’s like their world gets smaller and more defined by lack of sleep – and then they start calling themselves insomniacs. 

The word is used as a noun. This isn’t helpful.

The word “insomniac” is narrow. It’s reductionist. It’s not inclusive. It’s fixed. 

If you say ‘I have insomnia’, you are saying that you are a person who has a condition or is experiencing a state. It’s putting your personhood FIRST. 

You might HAVE insomnia but you are NOT insomnia. Insomnia is not you.  

You have many other qualities and traits and conditions and states of being that are a part of you. These all change with time, and they ebb and flow, which is more the truth about you and about your insomnia as well. 

You are much more than a condition you have – be it diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or insomnia. You might be a mum, you might be an executive, you might be a taxi driver, you might be someone’s brother, you might enjoy footie. You are absolutely more than your insomnia. Even if you can’t recall when it started, there was a time when you didn’t have insomnia and a time when it was better. And a time when it was worse. It isn’t a fixed thing. And through all of that, you have been a person – with hobbies, work, activities, interests, relationships, and experiences.

Insomnia is a condition, and it is not permanent. It may feel permanent sometimes but the proof is all around you that it is not. Some people don’t have it at all – and some people have had it for decades and got over it. Rationally – it is a condition which is temporary. 

By labelling yourself ‘insomniac’, you are fixing your very definition of yourself as a thing, and – the thing you see as a problem and the thing you want to get rid of. Can you see the problem in doing that?

So, calling yourself an insomniac is objectifying, not reflective of your truth, and is also harmful to your wellbeing and ability to move past identifying as your illness.  

Every time you use the word to describe yourself, or to find a common ground with others with insomnia, you could be consciously and unconsciously holding yourself back from the progress and change you want in your life. Holding yourself back from recovering. 

I’d like you to stop after reading this post and write out the word ‘insomniac’ and then scratch it out. Under it, make a list of all the roles you have in life. All the things you describe yourself as being, feeling, representing. Having insomnia might be ONE of those things. 

If you’re struggling to get beyond that, make it aspirational and list out the roles and characteristics you want back in your life or that you want to bring into your life.  

Focus on those, and bring your daily life back in line with your values, and stop identifying yourself with your insomnia.

That’s holding you down, when you deserve to fly.

If you need support, I’m here.  I’m a qualified CBTi sleep coach and I can help you get higher quality sleep – and more of it.


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