The physical and financial toll of insomnia
The birth of my first daughter, Sloane, had prepared me well for the many sleepless nights I’d spend with my second daughter, Isla, when she was born 13 months later. However, I never thought, as Isla turned two at the end of March 2023, I’d still only be sleeping two-four hours a night.
Like many people across the UK, I have been in the unrelenting grip of insomnia for the last two years. It seems each case is often very personal with different triggers. Mine, I believe, are linked to some scary complications during Isla’s birth.
I appreciate that for people who have never faced any issues with their sleep, they must think, how hard can it be to simply fall asleep?
As someone who, over the years, has relied upon being able to make things happen through hard work and focus, I have felt helpless that this same determination often feels totally ineffective at bringing me any closer to sleep during those long nights. In fact, it sometimes seemed that the harder I worked to try to rid myself of it, the worse it became.
Insomnia touches every part of a sufferer’s life and is closely related to stress, anxiety and depression. My daughter is now healthy, happy, and sleeping through, yet my brain seems unable to compute this and feels like it has been reprogrammed to keep me awake when everyone else is fast asleep. Tossing and turning for hours on end is standard for insomnia sufferers. Being so familiar with the small hours is now the norm and immensely lonely.
Each sleepless night creates a vicious circle of being less likely to manage workload and stress during the day which then leads to yet another sleepless night.
The most stressful aspect of insomnia for me is the feeling of not being able to do anything ‘well’ as you are constantly operating off a couple of hours of sleep. The stress of having to let the team know I haven’t slept and the mother’s guilt of not having a lot of energy for the kids whilst they are young.
While it is widely known that sleeplessness can take a toll on mental health, there is less awareness about the physical and financial impact of insomnia. The NHS is absolutely fantastic, but unfortunately does not have the resources or funding to help investigate the complex underlying issue of each insomnia case. Therefore, many sufferers, including myself, are often forced to explore expensive therapies such as acupuncture, therapy or purchase various products such as CBD oil, tea and other supplements. Once added up, these solutions become costly, creating additional financial stress and strain for those already struggling with sleeplessness.
However, it has helped me step back and re-evaluate every aspect of my life as a business owner and mother. I’ve changed the way both myself and the team operate by adopting a four-day working week, which has improved output throughout the whole business. The team now operate on a flexible working schedule – so not just for myself, but if anyone needs some time to clear their head, they’re free to do so. I also only schedule calls on a Monday or Thursday, so I no longer have the added pressure of gaining lots of sleep every night.
Today, I can’t say my sleep is perfect, but since learning to prioritise my own health and wellbeing as well as being honest about when I need to take some time to reset, it’s definitely a whole lot better than what it was. I’m also no longer hard on myself when things don’t go as planned and I’ve learned to be honest with those around me when I’m struggling.
If you are a fellow entrepreneur, juggling multiple roles and struggling with the stress of a health issue, you are not in it alone. According to Forbes, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues. My biggest advice is to take care of yourself, prioritise your mental health, be honest with your team and most importantly, don’t give up.