Roughly a third of adults in the UK get by on around five hours of sleep, despite the NHS recommendation of getting seven to nine hours per night, and the importance of sleep and the consequences of not getting enough of it is now being highlighted.
Medical professionals need to thoroughly explore treatment options and refer insomniacs to sleep clinics or specialists, instead of putting the responsibility on the patient. Chronic insomnia needs to be treated - by doctors, employers and governments - as a serious chronic illness. In general, this means being sensitive to the lived experience of insomniacs, and taking time to understand what we go through so that policies and practical arrangements can be adapted to our needs.
Doctors have explained to me, sympathetically but firmly, that they couldn't prescribe sleeping pills for chronic insomnia, since the highly addictive pills are only suitable for short-term problems, often related to stress or bereavement. Instead they printed out the NHS pages on 'sleep hygiene' and told me to stop lying awake in bed - to give up, get up and 'read something boring' until I felt sleepy.
Only then was I allowed to get back into bed. It was a disaster: previously I'd been relatively calm just resting in bed throughout the night, but now I had to follow rules and so became increasingly obsessed, distressed and anxious about whether I was doing it right. Medical professionals need to thoroughly explore treatment options and refer insomniacs to sleep clinics or specialists, instead of putting the responsibility on the patient.