A specialist insomnia service at Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is transforming the lives of people suffering from long-term sleep problems.
Around 80 per cent of patients who complete the one-to-one course at Royal Surrey report a marked improvement in their sleeping patterns and overall welfare. Royal Surrey is one of only a handful of trusts across the country providing an insomnia service.
Each year, hundreds of people are referred by their GP or medical specialist to the clinic’s four-strong team of Occupational Therapists.
Many of these people have suffered years of chronic and distressing sleeplessness.
In a series of about six individual consultations lasting around 50 minutes each, patients learn scientifically proven techniques to manage and resolve their insomnia.
“We see patients of all ages and from all walks of life,” said Louise Berger, the Sleep Clinic’s Team Leader.
“We understand that insomnia has a massive impact on a person’s quality of life. It robs the joy from their daytime as well as their night.”
“Several recovering cancer patients have even told me that the misery they suffer from insomnia has been worse than the cancer.
“Many people are so desperate they will do anything to get their sleep sorted out.”
Insomnia is strongly associated with many medical conditions.
Aggravating other health problems
Not surprisingly, people with insomnia tend to present at GP surgeries much more often, probably because of the way sleep problems aggravate other health problems and impact on a person’s coping mechanisms.
There is clear evidence that insomnia can cause mental health problems.
Patients with persistent and untreated insomnia are at between two and 10 times the risk for new onset or recurrent episodes of major depression.
With around 10-20 per cent of the adult population experiencing clinically diagnosable insomnia, the condition has a huge, unseen impact on overall welfare. On Friday 15 March, the problems associated with sleeplessness and insomnia came under the spotlight during World Sleep Day, an annual event aimed at raising awareness of how important sleep is to overall health and welfare.
Royal Surrey’s insomnia service uses a treatment called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia, often called CBT-I.
This is an approved method for treating insomnia without the use of sleeping pills.
Changing sleep habits
CBT for insomnia, which is very different to CBT for depression, is aimed at changing sleep habits and reducing the mental arousal that perpetuates sleep difficulties.
“When we started the service in 2011, we provided six hours of therapy a week,” Louise said.
“Due to on-going increasing demand for service and positive feedback from patients and GPs we now provide an insomnia service across the week at three different locations.” “I think insomnia, like stress and other health complaints, is becoming more commonplace nowadays. Unfortunately our lifestyles are just not setting us up for optimal sleep.
“Insomnia is a hugely distressing condition, some of our patients even describe it as torture, but we want people to know there is both hope and help available and most definitely hope for better sleep.”
More information about the Insomnia Service is available here. Please note that all referrals must initially be made by a GP.