This month, our health blog highlights the common and distressing problem of insomnia. We welcome guest author Dr Hugh Selsick, Consultant from the Insomnia Clinic at University College Hospital. Dr Selsick writes:
“Insomnia can be a very distressing disorder, and has a huge impact on quality of life. However, it is very treatable and, while medications can sometimes be helpful, the best long term treatment is cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia. This is an effective, evidence-based treatment that teaches patients practical techniques to sleep better. Although many people worry that their insomnia is caused by some defect in their brain or a physical problem, this is very rarely the case. In the vast majority of patients with insomnia it is the anxiety about insomnia and unhelpful sleep habits that drive the insomnia. Therefore by changing these habits and managing the anxiety it is possible to improve sleep greatly.
Unfortunately there is very little good information available on how to sleep well. Sleep hygiene advice, while useful, is rarely sufficient to make a significant difference. And very often the common sense things that people do to improve their sleep in fact make it worse. For example, if one has insomnia it can actually be a bad idea to go to bed at the same time every night. But what is important is to get up at the same time every morning.
It is important to stress that effective insomnia treatment takes time. People have often developed unhelpful sleep habits over years or even decades and it can take a few weeks or even months to correct those habits. But with the right techniques, and some persistence, insomnia can be beaten!”
We are grateful for Dr Selsick’s permission to show a video of him discussing insomnia at an education event for Camden GPs. The talk is a practical and fascinating resource for doctor and patient alike on different ways to approach the problem of poor sleep: