Insomniac can go full two days without sleep

Photo: Caters/
Photo: Caters/

He sleeps on average 20 minutes a night and frequently goes without sleep for up to two days at a time. But don’t feel sorry for Neil Epstein (54).

He believes his insomniac condition is a blessing as it’s allowed him to live a second life.

"I'd say on average I get about 10 hours sleep a week and I can be awake for 36 hours," the dad-of-four says.

"But that’s probably given me an extra two years of consciousness every decade. For this reason, my insomnia has actually been a positive thing in lots of ways — I’ve never looked at it as a negative."

Neil first started experiencing sleeplessness when he was just six years old but wasn’t formally diagnosed with insomnia until he was 12.

"My mother noticed it when I was about six years old. She thought it was just a phase I was just going through," he remembers.

"Growing up wasn't easy. There wasn't lot a of support for insomnia. I was very short tempered and there were times I’d bang my head against the wall to try and knock myself out."

Neil used to be embarrassed about his condition and it took him months to tell his wife, Julia (52), after they tied the knot.

But he quickly saw the benefit of never getting tired.

When the couple’s kids — Ben (24), Charlotte (23), Sophie (16) and James (13) — were born Neil would regularly take the "night shift" while Julia enjoyed a full night’s rest.

But his unusual condition has more benefits than just being Superdad.

"I’m always there for people when they need to call me at 3am. And it’s allowed me to write my own poetry and music.

"So if anyone ever says to me, 'Oh dear, how sad', I say no, it’s an advantage and it’s been a blessing."

Read more: Sleepless nights? Insomnia may be in your genes

Neil has tried various therapies and treatments for his insomnia, including acupuncture, yoga and cognitive behavioural therapy. Doctors even tried to reset his body clock using medication, but nothing worked.

He now occasionally self-medicates with a low dose of sleeping pills, which gives him an extra hour of sleep a day.

But he says if he never slept properly again he'd be perfectly happy as he’s given up on finding a cure for the condition.

And he believes apart from feeling tired from time to time, he suffers no adverse health effects because of his insomnia.

"I'm just carrying on. This is my life and the way I exist and I've always got a smile on my face.”

Image credit: Supplied

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