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  • Hartley

RANT: INSOMNIA AND UNHELPFUL DOCTORS

Updated: May 5


Text reads "Rant: insomnia...and unhelpful doctors. How to advocate for your health" with an alarm clock on a pink background
my bedside table

“Have you tried exercise?” the doctor looks up from his ipad. I purposefully let silence fill the room a moment too long to express my irritation.

“Every day,” I reply.

“What about not having coffee in the afternoon?”


When you have a sleep disorder, these questions make you want to claw your eyes out. When it's obvious the doctor I’m talking to is the type to nod off during the evening news, I let him think I’m listening while my eyes shift to the blurry print of Monet hanging in his office.


Fitting. Life feels just as hazy as his impasto brushstrokes.


Medical professionals used to send me off with Zopiclone–in 2023, I’m lucky if I can get eight at a time. Was it the celebrity overdoses? I don’t quite know. But there’s been a crackdown.


Desperate times, desperate measures: many midnights I’ve wandered to the nearest 24 hour drugstore, a winter jacket over my pyjamas. I circled the aisles seeking the sedative side effects of whatever was available: NeoCitron, Gravol, cough syrup…I do not advise this but I’m certain every insomniac has been there.


What can you say to someone who will otherwise clock 3.5 hours? That was me last night, as I watched the time turn 5am. I was too tired to sleep, if that makes any sense.


I feel largely on my own in this battle, months ahead of me still until my scheduled sleep study, where at least I can try to appeal to a specialist. Until then, it's just me and my insomnia brain.


Part of why I decided to start blogging about my anxiety/insomnia journey is because I’m tired (literally) of being told to sip chamomile tea and shut up. There must be other people like me, awake in the late hours, googling solutions. Why not connect? Why not share what actually works? Because if you don’t have sleep problems, you don’t get it.


The internet is full of boring blogs with sleep guidance, written by people (or ChatGBT…) who clearly don’t suffer. I don't need banal advice. I need useable information.


This brings me to the topic of this blog: advocating for your sleep issues.


I have learned that if I don’t push, and insist, and sometimes even shed a few tears—doctors don’t seem to take my sleep deprivation seriously.


I understand waterworks may not be in everyone’s arsenal but if you’re trying to get a doctor’s advice on your sleep problems, here’s a few things I’d suggest:

  • List your questions ahead of time

  • Be explicit about the toll your sleep issues are causing in your life (how few hours you get, how it impacts your performance at work, what it’s doing to your mental health and so on). Ensure they understand the reality and severity of it.

  • Follow up on wait lists

  • Recognize when you are just with the wrong professional or need a second opinion

  • Find a specialist! If your issues are severe like mine, you would benefit from a doctor for whom it is an area of focus (more tips here)

It IS a serious issue because while sleep deprivation not only feels awful, it also is a slow burn on your health at large.


I have to do a lot of research to write this blog. Drawing on my background in journalism, I’ve been sifting through studies and…it’s not fantastic news for the sleepless.


So how bad is chronic sleep deprivation for you? Weeeeelllll……the cumulative effects of long-term sleep loss have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of:

  • hypertension

  • diabetes

  • obesity

  • heart attacks

  • strokes

….now add in some memory loss, immune system deficiency, psychiatric disorders and decreased fertility.


As I always say, we’re living through an epidemic of lack of quality sleep. Don’t normalize the abnormal. Don’t put sleep, and thereby yourself, last on the list.


The quality of your life quite literally depends on it.




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