Vancouver Sun

DREAMING OF SLEEP

Insomnia is a real pain

- MIKE BOONE mchlboone@gmail.com

Golden slumbers fill your eyes, Smiles await you when you rise.

The Beatles sang that happy tune in 1969, the last time I had a good night's sleep.

OK, that's an exaggerati­on. But in the many decades since, gold has turned to lead for a 72-yearold man yearning for slumber.

I'm not alone. When I used Facebook to whine about a bad sleep night, the comments were plentiful and sympatheti­c.

Dave Bronstette­r is a retired CBC broadcaste­r whose career included anchoring television news and getting up before the crack of dawn to work as host of a radio morning show.

Like me, he has sleep issues. Because the pandemic limits human contact, I asked Bronstette­r to email me a few reflection­s on the elusive good night's slumber.

“It's common knowledge,” Bronstette­r begins, “half the planet suffers from sleeping problems at least once in a lifetime.

“If you haven't, lucky you.” Bronstette­r recalls a time when he slept like a baby — “long, long ago and far, far away.”

Like most university students, Bronstette­r got by on little sleep and didn't give it a second thought. Nor did he pay a price for late nights.

“Then I had kids,” he writes, “and sleep became less and of lesser quality.”

This happens to every parent, at least every parent who doesn't employ a live-in all-night nanny.

But it only lasts for a while. And as the infants become babies, some semblance of normalcy returns.

Unless you're the host of a radio morning show. Bronstette­r was initially thrilled to reach the pinnacle of broadcasti­ng, the time of day when radio stations typically achieve their highest ratings because people who had a good night's sleep are turning on the dial to get caught up with news, weather, topical interviews and the musings of skilled broadcaste­rs.

Only one problem: the hours, which, Bronstette­r came to realize, “morph into dozens of problems.”

“There's an apocryphal saying everybody in early morning radio knows all too well,” Bronstette­r writes. “Getting up at 5 is early. Getting up at 4 is getting up the night before.”

Bronstette­r would try to get by on three hours of sleep. Then two hours. Then no sleep at all.

“Never underestim­ate insomnia. It's torture, and the world looks darkest in every sense of the word at 3 a.m.”

Bronstette­r lived on coffee and little else. “It was like being hungover all the time without any of the fun.”

He started smoking again after 20 years of abstention. He drank more than he should have, “a great recipe for sleep,” he says ironically.

There ensued severe depression, suicidal thoughts, psychother­apy and conversati­ons with other morning radio hosts who had been through similar experience­s, one of whom asked:

“On Friday, do things get a little foggy and does the clock on your desk start to look like a Dali painting?”

Bronstette­r survived. And even retired for eight years, he still has trouble sleeping.

“But I know when I'm awake at 3, I don't have to get up, let alone be intelligib­le.”

Bronstette­r concluded with some advice: “If you can't sleep, get help.”

To supplement therapy, Bronstette­r stays busy and gets exercise.

“It keeps me from brooding and I can enjoy life: my wife, my kids and my grandchild­ren. I'm much happier in my 60s than I was in my 50s.”

I'm working on being happier in my 70s. I've dwelled on Dave Bronstette­r's sleep issues because my own nocturnal problems are in a state of flux.

As stated at the top, I've had sleep issues for a long time. And I haven't done much to solve the situation. Until now. At the urging of my GP, I've contacted a sleep apnea clinic.

The tests are just beginning, but I suspect I'm going to end up with a sleeping mask gizmo that might alleviate my problems.

I'll let everyone know in a future column.

For now, good night and sleep as tight as you can.

But I know when I'm awake at 3, I don't have to get up, let alone be intelligib­le.

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 ?? GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOT­O ?? Persistent insomnia is a problem for many people, both young and old. And it's a condition that can cause many negative side-effects for its sufferers.
GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOT­O Persistent insomnia is a problem for many people, both young and old. And it's a condition that can cause many negative side-effects for its sufferers.
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