On World Sleep Day, read the preface to Henry Nicholls' Sleepyhead: Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night.

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Sleepyhead: Preface

This was not meant to be a self-help book. I certainly never imagined it would help me as it has done. 

When I first began to think about this project, I considered writing a book solely about narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that I have lived with for more than 20 years). My agent and publisher encouraged me to go further, to cover the whole of sleep and many sleep disorders. I understood their thinking. The bigger, broader book might have bigger, broader appeal. It’s probably safe to say that nobody was thinking that embarking on a more wide-ranging project would improve my own sleep.

But it has – immeasurably. By surveying a wide range of sleep pathologies, I have come to see narcolepsy in a very different light, not as an isolated sleep disorder but one with real and important connections to just about every other sleep problem out there. As I’ve learned about bad sleep in all its many forms, so I’ve come to appreciate what good sleep means and how to achieve it. This revelation, I believe, has important implications, not just for those with narcolepsy but for everyone who wants to improve their sleep.


I now have such good sleep, more often than not startled afresh by my new-found ability to function, that this project
has already been worth its while. But authors write to be read and I hope that this book and its message will reach the wider
audience envisaged. In fact, this book is really for anyone who wants to know more about sleep and why it’s so very
important. 

Before we begin, I should just acknowledge that many people with narcolepsy understandably rail against being referred to
as ‘narcoleptic’, as if they are defined by the condition. The same goes for people with insomnia and the ‘insomniac’ label.
I tried hard to avoid these adjectives, but I found it impossible. Forgive me. I use narcoleptic and insomniac here for their
literary expediency and on the understanding that they are shorthand for the more appropriate but clunky terms ‘person
with narcolepsy’ and ‘person with insomnia’ or their unutterable abbreviations pwn and pwi.