We often refer to insomnia as simply not being able to fall asleep.
In reality, it’s much, much more serious than that. Just ask former Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall. She told Radio Times that her insomnia was “a gorilla sitting on my chest” and forced her to pull out of her London performances in 2015.
“I didn’t understand the debilitating consequence of having no sleep. It becomes a tsunami. I was in a void,” she said. “Letting go of all that was the hardest part but I realized the work that I really needed to do was more important than the play — it was work on my sanity.”
It caused her severe mental anguish, too.
“Coming back to the US [from England], I hadn’t slept for 48 hours and had to wait six hours to get my 18-year-old cat through customs,” she said. “When the customs officer said, ‘So, how much is your cat worth?’ I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically.”
Her experiences are not unlike those of the estimated 70 million Americans who also suffer from insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia can be caused by dozens of things, ranging from neurological disorders to even sinus allergies. Left untreated, it can cause a variety of health problems from the lack of sleep — including heart disease and even death.
Cattrall sought help from a cognitive therapist, which is a common treatment. According to the American College of Physicians, a mixture of cognitive therapy and sleep tutorials have been shown to be the best treatment, though over-the-counter and prescription medication can also help.
“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,” Cattrall said of her treatment. Even so, she wasn’t immune to criticism for pulling out of such a high-profile job.
“I have my own voice on social media, where I can say: if you’re interested in what really happened, the whole story is more complex than being a disease of the week, than someone saying, ‘I have this battle,'” she said.