Sleeping difficulties: Insomniac diagnosed with suspected apnoea
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Having starred in countless films, television shows and stage shows 65-year-old Cattrall is perhaps most known for her role as Samantha Jones in Sex and the City. Having sacrificed a lot of her personal life for her career, Cattrall opened up about a “battle” she was having against insomnia, a battle that became so big she was forced to drop out of a lead role in a production of Linda, which was planned to be playing on a major London stage.
Explaining more about the reasons behind her pulling out, Cattrall spoke openly saying that she was following not only the advice of her doctors, but also for the sake of her sanity.
“The whole story is more complex than being a disease of the week, than someone saying: ‘I have this battle,’” she was reported saying back in 2016.
“It was like a three-ton gorilla sitting on my chest. He was neither attacking me nor particularly demanding of my attention. He seemed self-absorbed, oblivious. I didn’t understand the debilitating consequence of having no sleep.
“It becomes a tsunami. I was in a void.”
Describing the crippling effects the sleep disorder had on her with such strong words, the star went on to say that letting go of the role on a WestEnd stage was the “hardest part,” but she needed to do more important work.
She added: “I realised the work that I really needed to do was more important than the play – it was work or my sanity.”
“I hadn’t slept for 48 hours and had to wait six hours to get my 18-year-old cat through customs,” she continued, recalling one specific event when she was trying to return to the USA.
“When the customs officer said: ‘So, how much is your cat worth?’ I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically.”
Having first started in 2015, Cattrall had endured years of insomnia before finally deciding that she could “only take so much” and needed some help.
Insomnia is defined by the NHS as having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. It is a common problem with approximately one in every three people suffering.
Occasional episodes of insomnia may come and go without causing any serious problems, but for some people it can last for months or even years at a time.
For those who suffer from persistent insomnia, the effects of little to no sleep can begin to impact on their every-day lives. For example, it can limit what you’re able to do during the day, affect your mood, and lead to relationship problems with friends, family and colleagues.
Although there are no official guidelines on how much sleep an individual must have a night, the “average” amount is considered to be seven to nine hours. An individual is most likely suffering from insomnia if they experience the following:
- Find it difficult to fall asleep
- Lie awake for long periods at night
- Wake up several times during the night
- Wake up early in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep
- Not feeling refreshed when you get up
- Find it hard to nap during the day, despite feeling tired
- Feel tired and irritable during the day and have difficulty concentrating.
What is important is whether you feel you get enough sleep, and whether your sleep is good quality. Generally, good quality sleep is defined by an individual falling asleep within 30 minutes or less, sleeping through the night and falling back to sleep within 20 minutes if they do wake up.
Sleepless nights can be triggered by a variety of things, but insomnia is most often associated with stress or anxiety, heart problems, long-term pain, shift work, drinking alcohol or a side effect of certain medications.
In order to tackle her insomnia, Cattrall sought the help of therapy, specifically cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Speaking about her experience and how it has helped her, the actress added: “It’s like putting on a pair of sneakers and going into your past to get a new perspective. And I was gentle with myself. So last Christmas wasn’t about friends and relations; it was a monastic experience of trying to delve.”
CBT aims to help individuals change their thoughts and behaviours that keep them from sleeping. This works effectively instead of prescribed sleeping pills which individuals may become dependent on.
Each night Cattrall listened to DVDs provided to her by her doctor which walked her through relaxation exercises. The star’s doctor also gave her strict sleep rules that she was adamant about following: “No naps. Banishment of electronics in the bedroom. No clocks. Only sleep or sex in bed – not necessarily in that order,” she explained.
It was reported that if she did wake up in the middle of the night, she was instructed to wait in bed for what felt like 20 minutes trying to fall back asleep. If sleep didn’t come, she would get up, go to another room and read the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. And then she would read it again. And again, until she felt sleepy and she would try going back to bed.
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