Most sensitive sleepers have experienced a massive challenge with doctors. Professor Colin A Espie says that it’s common for people with insomnia to feel misunderstood.
More often than not doctors do not really know what to suggest either. Insomnia is so ubiquitous that it’s often dismissed by doctors as normal part of life. Technically speaking, insomnia has only been acknowledged as a disease since 2012. And even though it is one of the most frequent health complaints today, doctors in US (and other western societies) receive less than one hour of training on sleep problems during their entire medical education.
Very often people with insomnia are left with the feeling that they just have to live with it. All too often we hear that we might be depressed even though we strongly deny it and our greed for life is deeply entrenched in our bones! (with some people this might however be the correct diagnosis)
Traditionally doctors prescribe medication for insomnia. However, sleeping pills are recommended only for short-term insomnia, not persistent insomnia. So-called ‘hypnotic’ drugs are relatively unproven over longer terms and start to lose their power rather quickly leading to higher dose, and after a while to other side-effects and dependency problems. When treating insomnia, mental depedency could be seen as bad as a physical one because sleeping ‘normally’ requires that we trust in our own abilities to sleep and don’t expect to ‘outsource’ our sleep skills. Another option is to prescribe an antidepressant drug as they happen to have sedative side-effect when taken at night. However, in the absence of depression, this remains controversial.
The treatment with the best evidence of success for persistent insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The doctor’s problem here is that CBT is often not readily available or accessible to their medical practice. This approach involves a combination of techniques such as stimulus control instructions, sleep restriction therapy, and addressing the cognitive aspects of sleep problems such as the tendency to worry about insomnia and misconceptions about sleep.
There are many other treatments, therapies, aids and support available. Please check our Treatments and Experts sections for more information (and blogs!). The reasons for insomnia are plentiful, and so are the variety of treatments. We are all individuals with different histories, challenges, lifestyles, situations and likes. Only by testing and doing (Yes, reading is not enough) we learn what works best for us.
So much can be done on our own. Small lifestyle changes at day start to lead to big changes at night. This is where this site aims to help – getting us onto right direction and helping us to take the responsibility of our own sleep.