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Never Trust a Sleep Doctor

October 10, 2009

It took Dr Ebrahim of the London Sleep Centre  exactly two minutes to tell me I might well have narcolepsy – even though I never drop off to sleep compulsively. That I have vivid dreams when I doze is apparently the key to that diagnosis. That, and the fact that I’ve bothered to go on a sleep clinic. Don’t stop there though: I have a “chronic” (or is it an “acute”) sleep problem – clearly – and I should certainly (“I would like you to”) attend his sleep lab for a night of monitoring. How much is that, I ask? £2,000. For a night? “And the day, too”. Never mind the fact that strapping wires to an adrenaline-riddled insomniac and telling them to sleep so they can be measured, labelled, diagnosed and condemned MIGHT not reveal the most representative night. For even insomniacs like me do sleep, or at least, relax, from time to time. Just not when a pompous doctor ( Dr Ebrahim asked, yawning, what my father did for a living. I answered by telling him what my mother does) is telling me to justify my £2,000.

What sleep doctors evidently don’t take account of is that clever people with sleeping problems have already – by the time they meet his ilk-  taken time to look up plenty about sleep disorders and remedies. They don’t need negative labels and “cut out the alcohol and pay £2000 to hit the sleep lab” and – when you try to explain some psychological reasons you might struggle to sleep – to be told ” save that for the therapist.”

Rather than “you have narcolepsy” and “what does your father do” I was rather hoping for more “try reading until your feel your eyes closing” and “remember that you will survive even without sleep” or something constructive.

My conclusion: if you have a sleep problem, the last person you should see is a sleep doctor. And if you’re a sleep doctor, the last person you should see is an insomniac.

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