When we talk to people with insomnia it’s common for them to think they’re in the 1%. In other words, they feel like they are so unique that they can’t be treated. This is really sad because insomnia is common, and so many different types of people suffer from it.
The reality of the 1%
I worked for Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, one of the biggest sleep disorder centres. I saw thousands of patients with complex sleep disorders and insomnia cases. I never came across someone in the one percent. There are some very rare genetic conditions which look like insomnia, but these affect only one in a million people. In my 16 or 17 years experience, and in all the thousands of people I saw at Guy’s and St Thomas’, I have not seen one of those people.
Insomnia is insidious because it holds you on a knife edge. There is definitely a condition called insomnia and I hate how our society hasn’t recognized it for a long time. You can be suffering from this thing that makes you not present in your own life. It makes it feel like you’re walking through treacle the entire time. But you still have to get up and do everything that everyone else does. It’s a silent disease which is completely invisible to everybody else. So it slowly chips away at you and makes you feel like something bad is going to happen.
But the reality is that you can live with insomnia for a long time – your whole life. I have often treated people that have had it for decades. The only reason they weren’t treated before is because they were trying all the wrong things. That is often due to a lack of understanding in our society and a lack of specialists. Also, other areas of medicine often take on sleep medicine and can alleviate some issues, but never resolve the chronic sleep problem.
So it’s lovely to be part of an area where you can be treated. But I find it so sad that it makes people feel like they’re the one percent. Every time someone comes to see me they say I know your success rates are good, but I’m the one percent that you won’t be able to treat. Everybody who walks through my door says that. I find that so sad that it makes them feel like they are unique but in such a horrible way.