Sleep: we all need it and most of us probably think we don’t get enough. But what is it like to get a bad night of sleep, day after day, week after week, month after month? Awake, by Miranda Colmans, explores this. Told through a series of characters who find themselves awake in the middle of the night and come together in an online chat room, Colmans highlights the difficulties experienced by people with chronic insomnia.
Around 6-10% of the adult population will meet the clinical criteria for insomnia disorder, which requires at least 3 nights a week of poor sleep, for at least 3 months, causing significant distress or impairment to daytime functioning. Colmans portrays not just the exhaustion that is experienced by successive nights of little sleep, but also the frustration and loneliness that people experience being awake while everyone else is asleep. Starting off with the at times comical side of the often conflicting advice and strategies offered to get to sleep, like trying to relax for the third time that night.
Colmans leads us down a path of the increasing frustration and loneliness her character’s experience to the onset of mental health problems. Insomnia is a recognised risk factor for the development of depression and commonly occurs alongside many mental health conditions. Colmans’ portrayal of a single mum as she tries to cope with a new baby on little or no sleep, eloquently demonstrates how things can quickly unravel. The onset of insomnia is not uncommon during or shortly after pregnancy and can be linked with the development or exacerbation of post-partum depression. This is a very vulnerable time for many new mothers and fathers, especially for those with little or no support. Sleep is often low on the list of priorities but more needs to be done to ensure that we give sleep the time it deserves. Work like Colmans’ bring sleep to centre stage, recognising the importance of sleep in all of our lives.
- Kate Porcheret
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Scientific Review of Chronic Insomnia - The Lancet
Why Do We Sleep? - Russell Foster (TED Talk)
Having Trouble With Your Sleep? - Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences