Most doctors tend to believe that insomnia is caused by some other primary reason- be it sleep apnea, diabetes cardiovascular disease, or some other respiratory issue. According to a study, that doesn’t really work in the long run, with the insomnia remaining because of “behaviours, cognitions and associations that patients adopt as they attempt to cope with poor sleep but that end up backfiring.”
However, according to a report in the Guardian, a clinic in London seems to have finally found a way to fight insomnia. The Insomnia Clinic in Bloomsbury, founded by Hugh Selsick, a South African psychiatrist, seems to show 80% of patients reporting major improvement, and half claiming fully recovery from sleeplessness.
What’s Selsick doing that seems to work? He believes that treating insomnia as a psychiatric disorder is the way. “The first thing I do [on the programme],” Selsick told me, “is dispel the myth that there’s a certain number of hours you are supposed to get. It is ingrained in us as if it’s absolute gospel that you are supposed to sleep eight hours a night. It’s not true.”
“Some people need six and a half, some people need nine and a half. It doesn’t make anyone abnormal,” he adds.
How does his technique work? “We tell them to always get up at the same time every day, regardless of how much they’ve slept, what time they’ve gone to bed, or what they’ve got to do that day.”
The idea is that if you wake up at the same time every morning, you should feel sleepy at the same time every night, thus making your bedtime more consistent. “We compress their time in bed down so that their sleep is more compact and tighter,” explains Selsick.
Interestingly enough, that doesn’t mean Selsick abhors sleeping pills. “The drugs, like any drug, are not without risk,” said Selsick. “But having untreated insomnia also comes with risks. I’ve had patients where it’s destroyed their marriages, where they have lost access to their kids because they are so tired that they can’t look after them properly.”
Looking to see him? You might have to wait a while though- the waiting list is reportedly two years.
“The treatment is not rocket science,” he said. “It really isn’t. Our job, primarily, as therapists, is not so much to tell people what to do – because we could just give it to them as a handout – but to convince them to do it for long enough for it to work.”
If you can’t wait two years, maybe it’s time to try just waking up at the same time every day?
By Kelvin Tan, Editor for Men’s Health Singapore