Insomnia destroyed my marriage

One woman’s account of how sleepless nights robbed her of a husband

Most of us know the pain of one sleepless night and the crippling tiredness it leaves the next day.

But for a  quarter of the population, insomnia is a daily struggle. Bridget Davidson, a 36-year-old florist from Cambridge, spent seven years lying awake in bed next to her sleeping husband.

Here, she tells LORRAINE FISHER how insomnia ruined her marriage . . .

Restless nights: Bridget Davidson spent seven years lying awake next to her sleeping husband... and it cost her their marriageRestless nights: Bridget Davidson spent seven years lying awake next to her sleeping husband… and it cost her their marriage

Walking around the house from room to room, I ran my hand over every single wall that had once been mine.

My mind raced back through myriad memories — one, in particular, of my husband John and I picking up the keys to our new home and moving endless boxes into each empty room, then collapsing, exhausted, into our bed on our very first night.

Now, as John asked if I was ready to go so we could lock up for the last time, tears ran down my cheeks. I was saying goodbye to the house — and the marriage — I’d once adored.

Most marriages end because of betrayals,  hurt and anger on either side, but after seven years together, ours had ended because of sheer exhaustion.

John had told me that I had changed beyond recognition, that I was no longer the carefree, happy woman he’d met more than a decade earlier. And, harsh though it was to hear, I could only agree.

I had become a walking shadow of my former self — constantly depressed, irritable, snappy and negative about everything, from a night out with friends to applying for a new job.

Passion killer: The exhaustion from Bridget's insomnia destroyed the physical side of her relationshipPassion killer: The exhaustion from Bridget’s insomnia destroyed the physical side of her relationship

Looking back, I know why. When I say the relationship was exhausted it is true, because for the previous seven years I’d been suffering from crippling insomnia — and now it hadn’t just stolen my night-times, it had stolen my husband, too.

When I met John at a party back in 1994, I was 19 and he was 23. I fell in love with his positive, happy attitude. He was understanding, romantic and utterly supportive.

John had a great job as a building contractor and when we moved into our own three-bedroom terrace home and I landed a job as a fashion editor on a women’s magazine, we appeared to be the couple who had it all.

But my job came with a lot of pressure. As a fashion editor, it was my responsibility to organise photo-shoots and I struggled to cope with the stress of deadlines, as well as commuting regularly from our home in Peterborough to London.

I’d always slept well, but suddenly, as John lay asleep next to me each night, my brain would be whirring through the list of things I had to do the next day. I’d watch the clock ticking 1am, 2am, 3am — without so much as dozing off.

John would jump out of bed in the morning, refreshed after a night’s sleep; I’d slump into the bathroom, exhausted at the thought of the day ahead.

My husband was wonderfully understanding. ‘Poor you,’ he’d say, wrapping me in his arms. Night, after night, after sleepless night.

At first I put it down to work stress, then down to the fact that my mother suffered with interrupted sleep — I assumed I took after her.

With hindsight, I realise that the sensible thing to have done would have been to seek professional help from a doctor or therapist.

But the strange thing is, I didn’t realise I had insomnia. Within months, I’d got used to existing in a fog of constant tiredness. Insomnia became my new normality.

I started to resent the man who lay asleep beside me. His gentle snores became the soundtrack to my nocturnal hours.

Each night John and I would go to bed together, yet while he would be asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow, I’d lay beside him, the stress of not being able to float off into blissful unconsciousness eating away at me.

If I was lucky I’d get a couple of hours’ sleep until about 2am, then I’d be wide awake, a thousand thoughts rushing through my head and chasing away my dreams. But if I was coping physically, then emotionally I was falling apart.

I started to resent the man who lay asleep beside me. His gentle snores became the soundtrack to my nocturnal hours. It was hard to bear.

John tried to help. Often, he’d bring me home articles he’d found in magazines about insomnia, suggesting things I could try.

But because I thought there was nothing that could be done, I never followed any of the advice. Instead, each night as I got into bed, I simply prayed that sleep would come.

One night out of seven it did; the rest of the time, I lay awake longing for the sweet release of sleep that never materialised. And little by little, it began to eat away at me.

I started getting furious with John over the smallest things.

Tiredness can kill... a marriage: For Bridget Davidson, insomnia affected her emotions and her looksTiredness can kill… a marriage: For Bridget Davidson, insomnia affected her emotions and her looks

After yet another sleepless night, I’d snap at him for not loading the dishwasher. Why had he left cups in the sink? I knew it was unfair. I knew he deserved sleep. But surely I did too?

Yet, incredibly, I didn’t put this deep-seated anger down to my insomnia. Instead, I accepted that I had become a moody, irritable wife — and, as much as I knew it was driving my husband away, I couldn’t stop. Whatever he suggested — a nice walk or a drink in the pub — I’d find some reason not to do it.

The overwhelming tiredness had consumed me — it literally stopped me from being able to see the damage I was doing to my marriage.

And it wasn’t just John who was suffering. One day at the bank, I swore at the cashier when she refused me an overdraft.

My lack of sleep also began to take its toll on my looks. In the mirror, I got used to seeing dark rings around my eyes and had bad skin break-outs. While make-up could cover the blemishes on my face, it couldn’t hide the cracks in my marriage.

Even though John and I shared a bed, we lived separate lives in it. We stopped making love — and that only widened the gap between us.

Remedy: Many who suffer from insomnia turn to sleeping tablets instead of looking at the cause of the problemRemedy: Many who suffer from insomnia turn to sleeping tablets instead of looking at the cause of the problem

I knew John was going off me, but I was just too tired to care. Unable to see that the problem was within me, I suggested marriage counselling. But what John came out with there opened my sleep-deprived eyes to the truth.

He confessed that I had become impossible to live with. ‘You’ve changed beyond all recognition,’ he said, telling me I wasn’t the same woman he’d married.

Worse still, just before Christmas 2006 John asked for a separation. I was blindsided. It never crossed my mind that my nocturnal life would cause an irreparable divide.

If I thought life without sleep was painful, life without John was worse. I hit rock bottom.
We moved out of our lovely house and I said goodbye to the life I’d known. I found myself, aged 31, with no husband, no friends, no money and living in a shared flat.
I spent my nights staring into the darkness and by day my anxiety gave way to crippling panic attacks.

My GP prescribed anti-depressants, not knowing about my sleepless nights. I knew then that I needed to face up to the fact that insomnia had robbed me of my marriage and, at this rate, could take the rest of my life with it.

The solution, when it came, was a revelation. After my divorce was finalised in 2009, my friend, Emma — a hypnotherapist — insisted she could help me. She believed my insomnia was down to deeply-instilled anxieties that had developed into a behavioural pattern and if, through hypnotherapy, she could get me into a deeply relaxed state, she’d be able to convince my subconscious mind that it could sleep well.

This technique, she told me, had been proved time and again to help insomniacs.
I was sceptical at first, but after a couple of sessions it began to help. I started sleeping seven or eight hours at a time. It felt like a miracle.

Waking up feeling refreshed rather than miserable and groggy was life-changing. It was only then that I realised just how badly sleeplessness had affected me.
Emma turned my life around.

Today, I’m much happier and back to the positive person I was in my 20s. I’ve moved to Cambridge, retrained as a florist —  a job that I love — and am in a new relationship with a man who adores me. Life is good again.

I’m not completely cured; I still have the odd night when I toss and turn — particularly if I’m stressed about something.

But if it lasts more than a few days, I go back for another session of hypnotherapy.
Luckily, I’m still friends with John. But it saddens me that I let insomnia ruin my life and take from me the man I once loved.