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19th April 2015

Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be a pipe dream

Nobody is at their best after a bad night’s sleep, so imagine how you would feel if you never slept well. Like, never ever. Pretty desperate, huh? This was the reality for Stuart Lamont before he got treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a disorder that can cause sufferers to feel constantly headachy and groggy, among other symptoms.

According to a new sleep study released in support of World Sleep Day last month, a significant percentage of the global population is estimated to endure disrupted sleep, and OSA is one of the most common of sleep disorders. Though it often goes undiagnosed, OSA is believed to affect about a million people in England alone. Considering 61% of Brits say they need 7-9 hours of sleep a night to feel their most productive, that’s a lot of frustrated people!

OSA sufferers like Stuart can stop breathing as much as 50-60 times per hour, for up to a minute or more each time, because their airway collapses while they sleep.1 With these constant night-time interruptions, it’s no wonder that Stuart was walking around in a daze most of the time and often needed to catch up on sleep during the day. Between the stress of worrying about her husband all night long and his incessant snoring that could wake the likes of Rip Van Winkle, Stuart’s wife Sue wasn’t getting her beauty sleep, either.

“Quite frequently I would stir during the night and think ‘Is he still breathing?’ And he wasn’t. So I’d have to give him a nudge and make him wake up just to be sure that he was alive. I can’t remember how many times a night it might have been. Quite a few. So yes, very worrying,” she remembers.

Stuart started using a special machine to help him breathe more easily while asleep, but he really struggled with it at first. Though continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are the most effective and widely used nonsurgical treatment for OSA sufferers, the mask or nasal prongs that patients have to wear can seriously put them off. “He didn’t get on with it very well at all,” says Sue. “He didn’t like wearing the mask. He didn’t like the idea that I would see him wearing it. He just felt very uncomfortable.” So he didn’t always wear it and both of them suffered.

The couple’s lives changed, however, when Stuart’s CPAP machine got hooked up to a wireless monitoring modem that allowed medical staff to remotely manage his therapy from the hospital. “The modem was the reason I started using the CPAP because before that I thought I could get away with not using it. I thought ‘they won’t know’, but they do now. But not in a bad way, because I’m still here!”

Stuart is hugely comforted knowing that medical staff are always keeping an eye on his sleep and picking up any irregular activity. He quips that he’s being watched over, “but in a nice way”. In his view, another real benefit is avoiding the hassle of frequent hospital appointments. “I haven’t seen the clinician for five weeks [since the modem was hooked up],” he emphasises. Most importantly, his quality of life has dramatically improved. Among other things, he’s got more energy and doesn’t sleep as much during the day.

Of course Stuart’s also thrilled about the knock-on effect for Sue. “As far as my wife is concerned, she feels comfort knowing that she doesn’t need to check that I am breathing or nudge me. Now that it also stops me snoring means that she can get a great night’s sleep!”

Think you may have an underlying sleep disorder? Find out if you could be at risk by taking the sleep apnoea symptoms quiz .

1.British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association, Snoring and sleep apnoea: is it all in your genes?, February 2015