Tom Bradby health: ITV presenter addresses health battle that forced him to take leave

This Morning: Insomniac describes her crippling condition

Tom Brady was political editor for ITV News for 10 years before taking up his current post as the main anchor of News at Ten. The broadcasting veteran may be undaunted by unconventional hours but a couple of years ago, his health took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse while working the late shift. Tom recalled lying on the floor of the ITV newsroom having what he thought was a heart attack as a result of his struggles with sleep, which forced him to take five months off work.

The journalist recounted the events that led up to the incident at a panel event about insomnia at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

The News at Ten host said his insomnia developed very quickly and left him dependent on sleeping tablets and anti-depressants.

“I was trying to do the News At Ten – when you don’t really know what’s happening and you’ve never had a mental health crisis before, you have no idea what one really is and you never imagined it would happen to you,” he said.

“And here I am in my corner office of the ITV newsroom on the floor, with my feet in the air, having what I think is a heart attack.”

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He added: “I can tell my body is pumping with adrenaline and weirdly what I did was the right thing which was to run up and down the stairs to drain it off and then lie down to calm myself down.”

Tom eventually discovered the underlying cause of his sleep struggles – the death of his parents.

Identifying the root cause enabled Tom to overcome his insomnia, he revealed.

By speaking out about his insomnia, the journalist hoped to normalise and advance the discussion around mental health.

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What is insomnia?

“Insomnia means you regularly have problems sleeping. It usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits,” explains the NHS.

Telltale signs include:

  • Finding it hard to go to sleep
  • Waking up several times during the night
  • Lying awake at night
  • Waking up early and cannot go back to sleep
  • Still feeling tired after waking up
  • Finding it hard to nap during the day even though you’re tired
  • Feeling tired and irritable during the day
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate during the day because you’re tired.

As the NHS points out, you can have these symptoms for months, sometimes years.

According to the health body, there are many different causes of insomnia but stress, anxiety or depression are common contributors.

How to treat insomnia

Treatment for insomnia mainly consists of therapy techniques and medicine.

According to Bupa, if you’ve been having trouble sleeping for several weeks or more, your GP may suggest referring you to psychological services to try behavioural therapy.

One of the most popular behavioural therapies is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which can help you to recognise and deal with any negative thoughts and habits around your sleep.

Other therapies include:

  • Stimulus-control therapy can help you to re-associate your bed and bedroom with going to sleep and to create a regular sleep routine.
  • Relaxation therapy can help you relax your muscles and clear your mind of distracting thoughts.
  • Sleep-restriction therapy limits the amount of time you spend in bed to the time when you actually go to sleep. You can then gradually increase the time you spend in bed as your sleep improves.

As Bupa explains, doctors only recommend medicines for insomnia (sleeping pills) as a last resort, if you’re unable to function during the day because of insomnia.

“These medicines are often associated with side-effects such as making you feel sleepy the next day,” says the health body.

It adds: “They also become gradually less effective the longer you take them, and you can become dependent on them if you take them for a long time.”

The main types of sleeping tablets include the following.

  • Antihistamines, which you can buy over-the-counter from your pharmacy without a prescription. Examples are Nytol, Phenergan and Sominex. These aren’t suitable if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain health conditions. If you’re in any doubt, check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking them.
  • Hypnotic medicines, which your GP may prescribe for a limited time if your insomnia is having a really severe effect on your day-to-day life. Examples include benzodiazepines, such as temazepam or loprazolam, and non-benzodiazepine ‘z-drugs’, such as zopiclone, zaleplon or zolpidem.
  • Melatonin, which your doctor may prescribe for up to 13 weeks, if you’re over 55 and are having ongoing problems with insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces, which helps to control your sleep pattern. It’s worth bearing in mind that it can cause some side-effects like headaches and joint pain.

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