Had they known… A view on what my former company wish they had known about helping when I had insomnia.

Credit – Caroline White Photography

Last week, as you know, I started sharing an incredible accomplishment. I presented the world with a preview of a book in the making, ‘Your Night’s Architecture’. To you, it will not sound like a big deal right now, but for society at large, it is. My former boss and friend commented on it. Way back when, I had never told him, or any other former employer for that matter, that I had been dealing with a severe insomnia. His comment was this:

“What could we have done for you?”

This article will give you an idea on what the medical society has to say. I will also look at what assistance can look like for corporations. We will discuss the handling of impacted individuals on operational level another time, shall you require it. Ping me for that. For the sake of this article, issue refer to sleep-related problems impairing people’s daytime functioning and people who feel they are transitioning into a pattern like that, alike. 

So, here goes. On 7th September, a close circle of friends and I celebrated the free-of-charge preview of my book ‘Your Night’s Architecture’. It’s a fraction of what the book will provide and an exact the opposite of sleep hacks, looking at sleep issues in the individual’s context. If you have ever spoken to someone with sleep issues, you will quickly learn that prescribing sleeping pills or self-prescribed measures to sleep are common practice. Individuals quickly get stuck in the medical system. This is why the book in the making and its preview is such a big deal. It gives people a chance to understand sleep in their own context, using a medically accepted questionnaire. It empowers people get the right help on board because they understand the background of those questions. Sometimes, it’s as simple as agreeing with one’s physician to change the dosage or timing of medication. 

Anyway, right after sharing that 33-pager, jam-packed with a questionnaire that’s medically recognised and some of the basics to shed light on the reason these questions are being asked, amazing feedback keeps pouring in. Amongst them, my former boss and friend gets in touch via Facebook. He had just read the first few pages, and he dropped the question on me.

“What could we have done for you?” 

Well, first of all, we need to find a way to get people to open up about this topic, which is tricky. I will share good news about this later, the stigma I felt seems to be vanishing. Back in the day it felt to me like sharing my predicament was pointless, I had toughened up like some of the sleepless do. Plus, why would I discuss an issue that was only getting worse over time? Help seemed out of reach. That’s how, unbeknownst to me, my movement started. You see, from time to time, I had sought help, got checked from head to toe, my physicians were struggling. According to my medical records, on 12th June 2006, I genuinely crashed and showed up at a psychiatric clinic to get help. There I was again, actively trying to fit get a psychiatric diagnosis to stop the misery that sleeplessness presented me with. You read that right. It didn’t pan out that way, yet again. I am perfectly healthy, but you get the point. I did work it out and overcame insomnia eventually, but that’s a story for another time.

On corporate level, I want to see education happening to prevent people from transitioning into sleep issues in the first place. I want to see practical guidance happening for people to discuss their specific situation with their physicians. 

What currently hasn’t hit the media in detail is this: Sleep issues depend on the individual. I mean, think about it. One’s biological set up, psychological traits, personality, social environment, work demands, view of the world, state of health, hormone levels… all unique. Hence, we need to address it as such, even its precursor. It’s recognised among the medical society that, for instance, insomnia might require addressing of several layers playing into sleep, such as medical issues, psychological traits and/or behavioural aspects. They go further saying that as long as we don’t address that way, we’re amiss. Sleep apnea and other ailments in themselves need to be looked at closer, too and not rubber-stamped as per the status quo. There are influencing factors even here. The good news is this: there is a structured way to address this rather than having insomniacs getting stuck in the system like I did. The structured way is what my movement is all about. 

Now, you have seen the numbers. An estimated 10% of people seem to fit the diagnostic criteria for insomnia, the number of people transitioning into that situation is even higher. Extensive research about sleep issues and the economic impact has been done – see RAND’s view here, Depending on where the individuals stand, the effects can be devastating. As a movement leader and researcher, I want to see prevention and practical assistance happen in order to assist you with your team goals, overall satisfaction at the workplace and retention.

Here’s the good news. While doing corporate work, here’s what I witness:

  • team leaders requesting a view on how to handle high-demand periods to assist their employees with better sleep
  • senior management pledging to assist their employees with mental health and wellbeing programs (google it – you’ll find so many organisations, and even the government pledging to an overhaul for NHS staff)
  • senior managers leading by example and requesting walk-in clinic slots or publicly speaking about their sleep woes during Q&As
  • people are so much more outspoken about their sleep issues 

From a prevention point of view, I want to see more guidance. When your staff gets a view on what we actually know about sleep and what to look out for, they will be more equipped to establish good sleep patterns or get help to address their medication or other aspects of health, well-prepped.

Coming back to my friend and his initial question, I thank him for asking in the first place. My movement will at some point address physicians, healthcare systems, knowledge-transfer and a view on how to implement an approach to sleep issues on a larger scale just like ‘Your Night’s Architecture’ proposes. Plus, we need the curated content I am providing, a single point of truth, quickly accessible. 

For now, it’s on us to help the individuals to understand sleep in one’s context.

As promised, if you feel that you or your staff member need to have an informed conversation with your physician, do reach out or pass the link on to your staff, they can thank me later. It’s a free-of-charge document. Get a copy yourself to see what all the fuzz is about. 

We can have a conversation about your corporate needs, too. 

Whatever you do, however, don’t let anyone give up on sleep. And I hope that you or your boss will ask the same question my friend asked me.