Tuesday 21 August 2018

'I don't know what it's like to have a lie-in'

Bronwyn Ennis suffers from insomnia. Photo: Mark Condren
Bronwyn Ennis suffers from insomnia. Photo: Mark Condren

At 49-years-old, Bronwyn Ennis has suffered from chronic insomnia for over 32 years. On a good night, she sleeps for just under four hours. She explains:

"The other day, I was thinking to myself, 'I wonder what it's like to have a lie-in on a Sunday morning.' I've had insomnia since the age of 17 and I've been told by certain medics that I have to live with it at this stage.

"It started around the time that I was diagnosed with depression, which went on to be diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

"I've been heavily medicated since then and I don't think that helped matters. I've been taking medication to sleep all my life, but it doesn't work.

"I've never gone without a sleeping tablet. I know it sounds stupid, but I would be afraid I wouldn't get any sleep. When you're prescribed something, you're afraid not to take it.

"I've made peace with it at this point. There was a point in my 20s or 30s when I was banging my head off the wall. I would have taken anything they offered me to get to sleep - and I did take a lot of the stuff. I've tried them all. But I just get an hour's sleep and then I wake up, with what feels like a massive hangover.

They say to take [the sleeping tablet] between 10pm and 10.30pm, but it defeats the purpose when you're still awake at 3am.

I've been told, in latter years, not to bring the iPad into the bedroom - don't do this and don't do that. That doesn't work for me. Actually, I've a better chance of nodding off for half an hour if I have the iPad in the bedroom.

"On an ordinary night, I might nod off at 4am and then I'd be awake again at about 7.45am. I started wearing one of those FitBit bracelets and my sleep was coming up as zero hours. After years of insomnia, you start to lose track of the hours completely. It's terrible.

If I leave the windows open in the middle of winter, I tend to sleep better. Years ago, I used to take a shower late at night and then get into bed with my hair wet. It would help me nod off for a few hours. I think insomniacs can function more than they might think they can. I can function up until about 10.45am and then I start to feel ill with the exhaustion. I start shivering and I feel like I'm going to vomit. I then go back and lie down and, after an hour and a half of sleep, I'm back to normal. I don't work anymore. If I was working, I wouldn't be able to go into work. When you're that tired, you become physically sick."

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