Of sleep enthusiast Charlie oulton
I now understand that when it comes to sleep - the small things, constantly repeated, get results.
I was a bad snorer as young as 15, but playing a lot of sport and being active meant it never crossed my mind that there could be a problem with my sleep. I continued to plod through life on half power and then got married and started a family - 1 daughter and twin boys. The family furniture business was expanding and we were parenting ourselves with no external support, I was very happy, but utterly exhausted.
I started slipping into bad habits, falling asleep at 9 pm on the sofa and waking up at 1 am. My wife would try to wake me but I was so grumpy and short tempered that she simply took herself to bed.
Despite the exhaustion, I still thought I was OK. Occasionally, I was told that I stopped breathing in my sleep - but I didn't want to believe it as I slept for 8 hours a night and felt great on awakening. By the afternoons I couldn't stay awake. I would fall asleep in meetings and at the dinner table, I couldn't watch a film, was putting on weight, and was becoming a dangerous driver as I simply couldn't keep my eyes open - but still, I continued to ignore the evidence.
Only after the collapse of my marriage, when I was informed by my new partner (a consultant in the NHS) that I stopped breathing in my sleep did I start to believe that I may have a problem.
I reluctantly went to see my GP who referred me to the local sleep clinic for my preliminary appointment. What a miserable experience. I waited in a huge chair, since some apneics are obese. I then completed the Epworth Sleepiness Test (ESS) and was given a kit to wear at home to complete a simple overnight test, that I had to return once I had used it.
About 8 weeks after my visit to the GP, I was invited back to discuss my results. I was told I had severe apnoea (an AHI of 75 and ESS of 18). Even then I didn't want to believe it, the clinician had to turn his screen around and show me the results, it looked like something from a SciFi movie as it showed the peaks and troughs of the Oxygen levels in my blood - akin to results measured by a machine showing levels during an earthquake. He explained that the quality of my sleep was ruined and that it was having a terrible effect on my heart. I still didn't want to face reality - I wasn't broken, I was fine!
The recommended treatment pathway was to use a CPAP machine. I didn't want to do it. Why would I want to look like 'Darth Vader'? My emotions and intelligence see sawed. I am a competent and sensible individual but what would I look like and how would I feel? Not very alluring that's for sure!
The whole process from start to finish was horrible, 6 appointments over 6 months, each time having to take time off work, pay for parking, and feeling inadequate. It works, but it is not a consumer experience as it is designed to be safe and reliable. You are simply another statistic rather than an individual and we all have different needs.
Treatment has been amazing. I lost 32 Kg in weight and now typically go to bed at 10:30 pm and wake at 6:30 am. More importantly, I actually sleep better during this time.
I used to go at 100 miles an hour on 50% battery, but now, 10 years on from starting treatment I go at 80 miles an hour (as I'm older) on 90% battery. Life is now so much easier and enjoyable. I met my new wife, enjoy entertaining and take regular exercise.
If I knew then what I know now I would have started treatment long before I did as I really hadn't appreciated how unpleasant I was to all those that I cared about and how my untreated condition affected them as well as the health implications to me. The moral of the story is: Don't subconsciously drift in to trouble. OSA is a physical condition that seriously affects the quality of your life.
For anyone unsure about whether to take the test that would like to chat about the emotions 1:1 with a 'real' person that understands, as I have been there, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ignorance may feel bliss, but I recommend: get the real data, make an informed choice, and get back in control of your sleep.
You will never have your best life on poor sleep!
Charlie Oulton '2018'