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.
That’s where things started to go wrong.
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.
Taking the first step.
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!
‘We all have different needs’
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.
10 years later.
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?
‘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'