Insomniac who moved to remote island to get a decent kip beats 20-year condition

A cured insomniac who moved to a remote island and lived in a tent surrounded by whales to try and get a good night's sleep has revealed all the lengths he went to for a decent kip.

Joe Pannell was just 14 when he first realised he was struggling to nod off.

He admits he had a "pretty hard time" after moving from a state-run secondary in Essex to a private school in Devon – which triggered his sleepless nights.

Unfortunately, the problem continued to plague Joe for more than two decades after – despite his best efforts.

The writer and businessman says tried every kind of cure to try and overcome the problem – but "nothing worked".

Eventually, therapy showed him that he was approaching the situation from the wrong angle – and his behaviour needed to change.

Now 'cured', Joe, 37, is speaking out to try and help other who may be suffering with the same problems.

He said: "Meditation, acupuncture, hot baths, eating kiwi fruit, sleeping on the floor, not exercising late, not going out in the evenings – I tried everything.

"I slept outside by the chicken shed on an air mattress multiple times – and even moved to a remote island – the San Juans – to live in a teepee surrounded by orcas.

"But nothing worked. I became obsessed with the idea that it was my lifestyle that was preventing me from sleeping."

Joe, who now lives near Bideford, says his sleep struggles impacted every part of his life – including work and relationships.

He said: "Slowly but surely my insomnia chipped away at my confidence and self-esteem and eroded who I was as a person.

"I was obsessed with the idea that the longer I spent in bed, the more I would sleep. I was depressed, divorced and jobless."

Unable to pay his mortgage, Joe lived in a van for almost a year in 2019.

But, while at rock bottom, he discovered CBTi – a cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia that has a high success rate.

He said: "It was a treatment I had actually heard of 10 years before I had the confidence to try it, but I dismissed it because I thought it would be yet another thing that wouldn't work for me.

"This is the anxiety and doubt that comes with insomnia."

He discovered that his insomnia boils down to two conditions: an unregulated sleep drive, and hyperarousal – the anxiety, worry, and stress that accompanies not being able to sleep.

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By addressing both of these issues through behaviour changes, Joe says he stopped desperately trying to fall asleep – and started trying to stay awake instead.

Remarkably, it worked and 20 years of sleep-deprived misery came to an end.

He has now written a book, You Can Sleep Too, and he offers one-to-one sleep consultancy via his business SleepRep.

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