Are Insomnia Subreddits Keeping You Awake?
As of June 2021, Reddit was ranked one of the most popular social media apps in the United States with nearly 330 million active users. The name itself is a play on words – “I read it”. Registered users and members view, discuss, and vote on content submitted by other members. You have to register to utilize all the site’s features but registration is free. People turn to Reddit for everything from information and entertainment to opinions and general conversation.
As informative and helpful as Reddit can be, it also has its disadvantages. Not only is the platform overflowing with content, but most of it is unverified. If you’re looking for something specific, it can be difficult to sort through the overwhelming volume of comments and information to find what you need. The best place to look is in subreddits which are forums dedicated to a certain topic.
There are subreddits for just about everything from video games and cosmetics to relationships, music, and even health and wellness topics. One such topic is insomnia. If you’re currently experiencing sleep troubles or have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder like insomnia, you’re probably searching for answers and understanding. A subreddit dedicated to insomnia can help you meet other people who are struggling with the same issues and asking the same questions.
As valuable as this might seem, subreddits may actually be keeping you awake at night and worsening your insomnia symptoms. Keep reading to discover the potential risks of insomnia subreddits and tips for using them in a healthy way.
Understanding How Subreddits Work
A subreddit is a niche forum on Reddit designed to help people more easily find the information they’re after. Each subreddit has its own moderator, rules, and voting system for links, comments, and self-posts. The moderator and all members of the subreddit work to maintain the group’s focus by only posting relevant information, comments, and questions. Anyone can create a subreddit for free but it needs to be approved before it goes live. You can also choose to make it public or private. A subreddit needs 5 comments per day to be considered active. If the subreddit doesn’t meet this goal, it’s removed from the community.
What Is an Insomnia Subreddit?
As you probably guessed, insomnia subreddits are about just that – people’s difficulty falling and staying asleep. Here, people can ask questions about insomnia, share their own personal experiences and struggles, and swap useful information and resources. In some ways, it’s like a form of online group therapy.
Unfortunately, anyone can create a subreddit (there are currently over 3 million), regardless of their knowledge or expertise on a certain topic. This means that no one is monitoring the information being shared. This can be especially harmful if people are posting medical advice or information that isn’t being fact-checked.
How Subreddits Could Be Harming Your Sleep
If you find comfort in reading insomnia subreddits and engaging in conversation with other insomnia sufferers, you may not notice the warning signs that it’s harming your sleep. Left unchecked, reliance on subreddits for information and comradery as you battle an insomnia diagnosis can do more harm than good.
Here are just a few ways that insomnia subreddits may be keeping you awake at night.
One of the most common side effects of insomnia is anxiety. Worrying over not being able to fall or stay asleep can cause increased stress at night and worsen your insomnia symptoms. It can also cause insomnia-induced anxiety. Additionally, if you already have anxiety, you may find it causes sleep deprivation as you experience higher levels of stress at night. Lack of sleep can also worsen anxiety symptoms, creating a complex relationship between the two conditions.
In an effort to relieve your stress and find answers to your insomnia questions, you may turn to the Internet. While there are plenty of useful resources online, there’s also an influx of false information. If you’re like millions of other online users you may have stumbled on an insomnia subreddit where members are discussing all the same topics and questions that you have. While some members might share useful information, encouragement, and sound advice, others may inadvertently increase your anxiety.
Reading through personal stories that depict negative experiences, unpleasant side effects of insomnia, or worsening conditions could cause you to panic or worry over your own recovery. You may start to feel hopeless or compare your journey to theirs. For example, if someone used the same techniques as you and is already seeing an improvement in sleep quality but you’re not, you may start to worry that there’s something wrong with you or that your condition is worse than theirs. Comments by other users can plant seeds of doubt in your mind, increasing anxiety levels and also worsening your insomnia symptoms.
Unfounded Worry Over New Symptoms
The negative comments and conversations in some insomnia subreddits can not only put a damper on your recovery but trigger paranoia over new symptoms. This occurs due to suggestive information that you may internalize without even realizing it.
For example, someone facing rebound insomnia after using over-the-counter sleep aids might express how it’s more difficult to fall asleep now that they stopped taking these medications than it was before. While this may be true for them, it may not be true for you. Unfortunately, reading this information might make you second guess taking a sleeping pill that could drastically improve your condition. Or, you may be in the process of weaning off of a certain medication and start to notice withdrawal symptoms that never existed before. Online comments and conversations can be very suggestive and cause you to worry unnecessarily.
An Increased Urge to Stay Awake at Night
The information found on Reddit and within certain subreddits is constantly changing and being updated. With little risk of getting bored, people spend countless hours scrolling through different conversation threads and joining new subreddits. Similar to scrolling through other social media feeds like Facebook and Instagram, many Reddit users spend hours on the platform hunting for new information. Similar to a video game addiction, some insomnia sufferers feel compelled to stay up into the wee hours of the morning engrossed in subreddit banter. For obvious reasons, this is unhealthy and unproductive for someone with insomnia.
A common myth is that staying up later at night will help you fall asleep faster or make it easier to fall asleep. This isn’t always the case. In fact, staying up late one night and going to bed earlier the next disrupts your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. Your body has an internal clock that resets itself every 24 hours. It also signals you when it’s time to prepare for sleep and when it’s time to wake up. When you follow an inconsistent sleep schedule, your circadian rhythm becomes misaligned, worsening or even causing insomnia symptoms. This is one reason why setting a consistent sleep schedule is part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi).
If you’ve become addicted to following and participating in insomnia subreddits, it could be keeping you awake at night, making it increasingly difficult to achieve quality sleep. You may also notice you feel groggy and lethargic in the morning.
Blue Light Exposure
Another major culprit in disrupting your circadian rhythm is exposure to light too late at night – especially the blue light emitted by popular digital devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, and television screens. If you’re using any of these devices to read insomnia subreddits, you’re sabotaging your sleep.
Your body’s circadian rhythm is controlled by several things, but the most important is light exposure. This phenomenon dates back to before there were clocks or an endless supply of digital devices. A person’s brain would naturally release the sleep hormone melatonin as the sun set, inducing sleep. In the morning, when the sun rose, the light signaled the body to wake up. With the creation of countless electronic devices that produce artificial light, it confuses your brain and body about what time it is and if you should be awake or asleep.
Reading insomnia subreddits before bed can disrupt your body’s ability to naturally release melatonin and prepare for sleep. These screens trick your brain into thinking it should be awake and alert. Even if you find useful information for your condition, it was all for naught when you finally shut down your digital device and can’t fall asleep.
Being Tainted by Other People’s Negative Thoughts
Overcoming your insomnia is all about keeping a positive mind frame and outlook. This includes surrounding yourself with positive people and energy. That’s not to say that every insomnia subreddit group you join will be bogged down with negative people or comments, however, they do tend to slip in from time to time.
Your best defense against this is a strong offense. When you join an insomnia subreddit, be aware of people who are spewing misinformation, dramatizing their situation, or pointing out only the negatives in your own journey. You can also avoid these comments by not posting information about yourself and simply reading what others have to say. If you can trust yourself to weed out the negativity and only take the information and feedback that serves you from each group, then a subreddit for insomnia can be a useful tool.
Tips for Using Insomnia Subreddits in a Healthy Way
Subreddits aren’t all bad. When used correctly, they can provide helpful information and much-needed support during your insomnia recovery. Talking openly and honestly with people that are sharing your same struggles and issues can be a very healing experience. It also helps insomnia sufferers feel less alone in their journey.
Here are a few tips for using insomnia subreddits as a benefit rather than a detriment.
- Be mindful of misinformation and false claims
- Never take medical advice from someone unless they are a certified healthcare professional
- Avoid comparing yourself to others in the subreddit group (including their progress, recovery process, etc.)
- Don’t read insomnia subreddits too often or too close to bedtime
- Don’t let other members’ negativity or opinions deter your recovery efforts
- Be honest about the physical symptoms you, yourself are experiencing without imagining anyone else’s as your own
Beware of the Pros and Cons of Insomnia Subreddits
The world wide web is a great resource for a lot of things from ordering goods to connecting with friends and discovering new and useful information. If you’ve recently learned of the phenomenon that is Reddit, you’re probably familiar with subreddits and what they have to offer. What you may not be aware of is that some insomnia subreddits could be as damaging to your insomnia as they are beneficial. Tread lightly when exploring insomnia subreddits and do so in moderation.