The Hidden World of Insomnia

Insomnia is nothing more than sleeping troubles. It can’t be that harmful, right?


The clock ticks on, each hand marking another second without sleep. A quarter to four, three hours until she has to be awake for work. Bleary eyed and frustrated, she closes her eyes once more and tries desperately to fall back asleep but her brain still buzzes with thoughts “What will she wear tomorrow?” “Why hasn’t her dad rung her for three days?” This is not a one off. It occurs nearly every night. Molly suffers from insomnia.

Insomnia is the inability to get to sleep or to fall back asleep after waking. It can range from a moderate condition (spending an hour or more getting to sleep and falling back asleep at least 4 times a week) to a diagnosable chronic condition (inability to sleep for hours and daytime fatigue for over 6 months).Photograph of figure in bed

Molly Snape, an eighteen-year old club hostess, discussed how insomnia affects her  “I’ve had it since I was fourteen but its gotten worse with my strange shift patterns. Often, I won’t sleep at all and i’ll just take daytime naps, which obviously effects work. I’ve been to the doctor many times but they haven’t really taken it seriously. I’ve learnt that it’s just something I have to put up with.”

It is surprising to know that 51.3% of British people suffer with some kind of insomnia which seems to increase with age. There are a number of reasons why people tend to develop insomnia such as poor sleep conditions and strange shift patterns, but chronic insomnia normally stems from a deeper rooted problem such as stress or depression. For some, it takes mild changes to bring the sleeping pattern back to normal, but for others, it becomes something they may have to deal with for the rest of their life.

The side effects of insomnia are not pretty. Some of the common ones include daytime fatigue, difficulty paying attention, irritability, anxiety and depression. Long term, it can also lead to increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Image of a bedUniversity graduate, David Cordingley, gave his view on the side effects of insomnia “I find that i’m really tired throughout the day if I’ve had a bad night and I can’t concentrate at all. It’s okay while I’m
not working and can have lie-ins but I’ll find it hard to get into a shift pattern once I do.”

Everyone knows what insomnia is and nearly everyone at some point in their life will suffer a patch of ‘difficult sleeping’ but not many people know exactly how harmful and serious it can be as a condition. A recent UK study found that over 63% of people suffering with insomnia don’t actually go to their doctor for treatment.

“It leaves you open to a whole range of physical illnesses and mental health problems”

Dr Andrew Mayers, a psychology academic who has studied and written a journal on antidepressants for insomnia. When asked if he believed health professionals should be taking it more seriously as a condition, Andrew answered “Absolutely. We all suffer with a little bit of sleeping problems but for some image of sleeping tabletspeople if it does go on for longer, the impacts can be quite devastating. Apart from the fact it has a huge impact on the quality of life, it leaves you completely open to a whole range of physical illnesses and mental health problems. To just simply dismiss it is a problem and at the same time we don’t want to be over medicalising it.”

On the topic of dealing with insomnia through medication, I asked Andrew what his concerns were for people using sleeping tablets as a long term solution, seeing as 1 out of 10 people in Britain now
regularly take sleeping tablets. “The reason why people have a sleep problem is that something is happening in their lives that is interfering with their sleep. By taking medication, all you are doing is papering over the cracks. You’re not dealing with the problem itself and also you could become dependant on those sleep medications.”

Tick, tick, tick. The echo of the clock drones on through the darkened room. The bed continues to hold Molly captive for another sleepless night.


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    Emma Written by:

    Student at Bournemouth University studying multimedia journalism, specialising in opinion articles and travel writing.

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