A mum-of-three who suffers from a rare sleeping disorder has told how she has spent £3k in bizarre internet shopping sprees – while fast asleep.
Kelly Knipes, 37, regularly woke up in the mornings to find email receipts for items she unconsciously bought on-line during the night.
One day a delivery lorry turned up outside her home containing a full-sized plastic basketball court she didn’t realise she had bought.
Other items she has purchased while ‘sleep shopping’ include hundreds of pounds worth of Haribo sweets and £58 worth of cookie jars.
She then had to return all the items bought on websites via her smart phone which contained her credit card details in order to avoid going into debt.
Her nocturnal shopping behaviour started seven years ago, after the birth of her first child, when was found to suffer from a condition called parasomnia.
She thinks the disorder was sparked by her sleep apnea – where she stops breathing in her sleep.
This forces her brain to partially wake and makes her sleepwalk and sleep shop.
Kelly said: “I bought a full size basketball court from Ebay, and when it turned up at my house the next day, I just refused delivery.
“I would never actually have to put any credit card details when when I was buying things online because it was all saved on my phone.
“It was all on my phone and everything that is on my phone is accessible by touch.
“I was racking up debt everywhere.”
Kelly, from Basildon, Essex, was known to occasionally sleepwalk as a child but her condition worsened following the birth of her first child Henry in 2006.
She added: “When I was 20 weeks pregnant, I took an overdose in my sleep.
“Because I am diabetic I have to take medicine for it and I overdosed on the metformin.
“I was having a dream that I was speaking to the doctors and I kept saying that I didn’t want to take the medicine anymore – but when I woke up I had taken all the tablets.
“Luckily everything was OK – but I was so worried that social services would get involved.”
At the time she lived in a ground floor flat and she would wake to find doors and windows open after she’d been up in the night.
She didn’t seek help as she feared doctors may question her abilities as a single mum to her son, Henry.
But after marrying husband Jamie, 40, who is deaf, and the birth of their sons Joey and Carson, now four and three, things escalated.
Kelly said: “It was horrible, because I didn’t know what I was going to do in the night.
“I was physically exhausted, I felt so drained every day of my life.
“I didn’t do anything with my kids, I was constantly in hospital because I wasn’t sleeping at night.
“Every other parent was taking their kids out – my kids thought the hospital was there version of the day out.
“I didn’t feel like I could be a mum or a wife.
“I was piling on the weight because I was eating to try and get my sugar levels up.
“It was awful.”
Kelly went to her GP on numerous occasions but was repeatedly told her symptoms were down to her being tired and stressed.
She added: “Because I have three disabled children, everything just kept putting it down to stress of looking after my children.”
It was only when she wrote directly to two consultants pleading for help that one took on her case.
Dr Samuel suggested a trial of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to keep the airway open and the results have been remarkable.
Kelly said that Dr Samuel could prove that she had stopped breathing 122 times when she was sleeping and diagnosed her with obstructive sleep apnea and parasomnia.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep.
She now wears an oxygen mask at night which helps to regulate her breathing which has managed to control both diagnoses.
She said: “When I had the CPAP machine I felt rested and re-energized for the first time in ages.
“It really has given me my life back.
“Since starting CPAP, I have not had any abnormal sleep behaviours, have not shopped online at night, my headaches have ceased and I am not depressed.
“If it wasn’t for Dr Samuel, I don’t know where I would be.”
The help comes after years of searching for a solution including taking part in a sleep study at Royal Brompton Hospital.
Dr Samuel said: “I am delighted that patients such as Kelly can significantly benefit from the treatment we offer in the sleep and ventilation service.
“It is great to see Basildon Hospital making such a difference in the lives of families.”
Kelly added: “All my children have been severely ill at some point in their life and Basildon Hospital has saved them on many occasions, I owe them so much.
“I just want to raise awareness for it because it is not really spoken about, sleeping walking in adults.”
Kelly previously worked as an administrator for a mental health unit but has since had to stop to care for her children.
The basketball court was an ‘In-ground Basketball Unit’ including a net, pole and backboard bought on Ebay for £100.
She also bought tins of paint, books about teaching despite her “not being a teacher”, salt and pepper pots, a Wendy house, fridges and tables.
Kelly said: “I made a lot of Argos reservations which I would wake up and see.
“They would send me a notification saying my order is ready to collect.”
She said by not being able to return a lot of the products, it has racked her a debt of “at least” £3,000.
Kelly said: “I couldn’t refund any food purchases, like the Haribos. Then there were other purchases I made that I just never returned because it was just getting a bit too much, I would just wake up and put them to the side.
“I kept the tins of paint, and the Wendy house because when that arrived and my kids saw it I felt I couldn’t return it.
“I just think over the years, all the money just mounts.”
Kelly says it was driving her into a dark hole every time she would wake up to find she as made another purchase.
She said: “I would get really upset with myself, because I had to give up my work because of my kids, it wasn’t like we had a lot of money.
“We still needed to put food on the plate and I was spending money that we didn’t have and I started borrowing money.”
Every night she says her husband would lock all the doors and hide the keys.
She added: “I wouldn’t be allowed my phone and we put locks on the medicine cupboard so I couldn’t access it.
“We locked the front door and would sometimes put the push chair in front of the door so I wouldn’t be able to easily get to the door.
“He would take my phone out of my bedroom and my parents had also added a chain lock on the door. But I would still find my phone and would use the back door to get out of my house.”
Kelly, who visited five different doctors and four different consultants, said she was officially diagnosed with parasomnia in October 2018 after Dr Samuel at Basildon hospital responded to her.
She had previously been given sleeping medication by doctors but said “it didn’t work”.
Kelly added: “The doctors said it was too specialised for them, they previously offered me sleeping medication. I took the sleeping medication but it didn’t work, it made me feel worse if anything.
“But I want to thank Dr Samuel and Basildon Hospital, that hospital has been fantastic, they saved my life.”
Kelly also explained that despite having two sleep studies, it wasn’t until Dr Samuel was in touch that she was “cured”.
She said: “I had a sleep study in 2014 and they said that I have insomnia and depression nothing was picked up on or treated, they offered me counselling.
“And then I had another sleep study in 2018 and they just said I slept really well.”