Motivation To Improve Sleep

Not Getting Enough Sleep?  Whether Insomnia or Deprivation, It Makes a Difference!

Bulldog finding Motivation to Get More Sleep


If you conduct an online search for lack of sleep and its effects on the body, you get 192,000,000 search options loaded with information. This isn't surprising given that people the world over have difficulty sleeping, often looking for ways to mitigate its effects. It's also said that lack of sleep or poor sleep affects whole societies(1). The U.S. National Sleep Foundation estimates that poor sleep costs America billions of dollars each year and greatly compromises the nation's public safety and health(2).Thirty-five percent of all adults in the sleeping on average far less than seven hours per night, with seven being the generally recommended number of hours(2). Other countries, including Australia, Japan, and those in Europe are also battling the effects of poor sleep.  


To improve sleep, you'll find all kinds of options about what to do, what not to do, and even what temperature to keep your bedroom during sleep. If you're a little sheepish about the cold, you better get out tons of blankets for this recommendation and wear long-johns and socks! More about temperature later.... 


There's more to understand about what causes a lack of sleep than one might think. Delving into this a little more can help all of us take a different approach to managing our own sleep issues more confidently and help us to guide our patients as well. 


Not getting enough sleep is referenced as many types in the literature and casual reading. Some of these you may have seen are:  

  • Insomnia  

  • Sleep deprivation 

  • Sleep insufficiency 

  • Sleep disorder 

  • Poor sleep 

  • Sleep disruption 


Are there distinct differences in the list that are worthy to note? If I'm not getting enough sleep, does it really matter what type it is? Yes, it can..  


The Difference Between Insomnia and Sleep Deprivation 


Several of these types overlap, but Sleep Health Terminology suggests there is a major difference between insomnia and sleep deprivation that can help us better sort through the reasons lack of sleep occurs and ways to enhance the sleep we get(3).  


While most people use the terms insomnia and sleep deprivation interchangeably, delineating these two reveals different reasons for each and also different ways to address them.  




Insomnia is defined as: One's inability to get adequate and/or quality sleep, but has the opportunity to sleep(3). Mayo Clinic suggests it is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. We may still feel tired when we wake up(4). In general, we don't choose to be insomniacs(3).  


Sleep Deprivation occurs in two ways(3) as the:  

  1. Loss of sleep due to external factors affecting one's opportunity to sleep, such as working a double shift when you ordinarily would be sleeping. Those of us who have worked "double shifts" where we "double back" several times in a row due to inclement weather, short staffing or call-ins have likely experienced what it feels like to be sleep deprived. It's rough. 


  1. Ongoing loss of sleep over a prolonged period of time, as in the case if a family member/significant other with a long protracted illness/condition or newborn who requires constant attention and care. 


The difference in the opportunity for sleep signifies different management approaches(3).  


If you experience insomnia, you have the opportunity to sleep, but can't sleep well and may likely benefit from medical intervention such as a sleep assessment, sleep medication or testing at a specialized sleep center. 


On the other hand, if you are sleep deprived (not having the opportunity to sleep), then consider all the things you believe you could do to address this. Only the individual themselves has the will to make a change they believe will help. Some options to consider are: 


  1. Take a power nap during your waking hours(short 10-12min) 

  1. Same sleep routine, i.e., pajamas on, room cold [60-67degrees recommended with plenty of blankets in use and bed clothes/socks on(5)] Ouch!  

  1. Same sleep time each day (as close to this as possible) 

  1. Lights out for sleep (circadian rhythms work to synchronize sleep with the external day–night cycle(6). Resist the urge to fight nature :))  

  1. Keep devices off and out of reach (Hard one if you have family/other who may need you at a moment's notice; but make this the goal.) 

  1. Work schedule revision 

  1. Avoid snacking/drinking right before bed  

  1. Avoid exercise right before sleep 


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports most adults need about seven to eight hours of nightly sleep to feel alert and well rested during the day. Getting six to nine hours of sleep per night is associated with higher ratings for quality of life and lower ratings for depression. Among patients who reported having perfect health, there were a higher percentage of normal sleepers, who also had significantly lower scores for depression severity compared to short and long sleepers with perfect health(7).  


Using Motivational interviewing within a health coaching context gives one the framework to effectively guide patients who have sleep difficulties! Hopefully these notes will come in handy the next time you assess patients and also as you conduct your own sleep self-assessment! 


Sweet Dreams! 

Melinda Huffman, BSN,MSN,CCNS,CHC 


The National Society of Health Coaches 


Learn More: 

Motivational Interviewing

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

How to Do Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing as a Health Coach