Saturday, 19 October 2013

Sleep Aponea

I have thought long and hard for a long time about whether to go public about this, and have decided the time has come to do so.

In the end my hand was forced, as I'm simply not well enough to work nights at the pub at present and after covering it up for several weeks it was clear after last Sunday/ Monday that I could not continue as I am any longer.

Effectively I was so exhausted after working on Sunday night that I had to spend the vast majority of Monday in bed and I have just had the worst week with this condition that I have ever had. And I have not been able to hide it as effectively as before as not only was Claire on a week holiday from work, but Lynda spent the whole week here too as they were working on a cake for a wedding that we attended today, so they witnessed me in a bad way first hand, all week.

If you've been following me closely, you will see that I made mention in my book Fortysomething Father that I have a condition called Sleep Aponea which I mentioned fairly light-heartedly at the time - but that is just the way in which I write. You don't tend to get a lot of moaning and groaning with my writing as generally no-one really wants to hear all that, so I always try and make light of any situation.

At the end of this article I'll give you a link to the Wikipedia entry on the subject which is quite detailed, but I will quote a few lines from it which are relevant to me, and add some comments where relevant.

"Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea in British English; /æpˈnə/) is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour".

"Regardless of type, an individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening.[3] Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years (or even decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance".

I have had girlfriends panic the first time they slept with me as they thought I was dying or dead due to the length of time I stopped breathing. But it goes back further than that - my parents were concerned about it at a very young age and I went into hospital at the age of 5 for an operation - which basically didn't work. It wasn't really a problem until I reached adulthood when the daytime sleepiness began. When I worked at Tesco Head Office in Cheshunt, I used to get exhausted by the long day and drive to the extent I was frequently close to falling asleep at the wheel on the way home. I used to take the A41 home rather than the M40 as it meant I could stop in a layby and either have a quick kip or get out of the car and walk around it several times in the fresh air gulping down lungfulls of fresh air. And this was 20 years ago when I was young and fit.

Other times at work I would go and sleep in the toilet with my head on the cistern. I've written humorous anecdotes on this - there's a whole section in Austerity Dad about hiding in the toilets. But there was a medical reason behind it all.

By the time I had got to working at the Probation Office in Bicester I was no longer capable of getting through a full day at work, but luckily I was only a 2 minute bike ride from home, so I would head off at 1pm, be in bed by 1:05pm and get back up at 1:55pm and cycle back to work.

After I left and became a full time Dad I coped by sleeping when the kids did. If Ollie had an afternoon nap at 1pm, I had one too.

My doctor diagnosed all this years ago, but I've always lived with it until now. I could have done something about it a lot sooner but that's my stubborn nature of resisting anything medical I'm afraid so I suppose I've only myself to blame.

But in recent weeks it has all got a lot worse to the extent that people have been noticing and my behaviour even in a waking state has become noticeable.

"Second, the part of the brain that deals with attention causes difficulty in paying attention, working effectively and processing information when in a waking state.[4] Thirdly, the part of the brain that uses memory and learning is also affected.[4] Due to the disruption in daytime cognitive state, behavioral effects are also present. This includes moodiness, belligerence, as well as a decrease in attentiveness and drive".

It has reached the state where in order to work of an evening I have to spend almost all of the afternoon before I go in bed, and then a large proportion of the following day.

There's definitely an element of moodiness but one thing I must stressed is that I am not "depressed" or have any sort of mental illness (my general eccentricity and somewhat strange sense of humour at times is not a mental illness), my problems are purely physical. I would never lay claim to have a mental illness or any sort of condition because one of my best friends has suffered at the hands of bipolar disorder for many years and I know what a living hell it can be.

In fact, that very friend got married today and the thing on my mind all week was "how am I going to get through the day?" I don't want to be having to think that way when I should have been looking forward to celebrating her wedding day. In the end I decided to go for the day, and not the evening, so I was there from about 1:45pm to 7pm, which was quite a lengthy stint but I got through it and I was among understanding friends who until recently were unaware of how things were.

By 7pm I had no alternative but to come home and go to bed as I would have keeled over otherwise. Throughout the afternoon waves of fatigue washed over me frequently but I managed to keep going and keep the spirits up and enjoy the fun around our table which had a nice group of friends on it. But I have now told my closest friends the situation and they are being very supportive.

I got back up at 10pm and started writing this. In the old days I would have been partying now - a little tipsy and having a great time with everyone. It is hard to imagine that person now - that is what this has done to me, so I am instead sitting here in my pyjamas writing about it. But the wedding has kind of brought things to a head - it has made me determined not to want to live like this any more. Especially now that my writing and various other things are taking off for me - there are all sorts of opportunities for me right now and I don't want to miss the boat on any of them because I am having one of my many naps when the call from Hollywood comes. OK that's a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

I also took the brave and bold step of approaching Aidan and Cathy from the White Hart and admitting I'm just not well enough to work there at present. I didn't want to just quit or make up some lame excuse so I decided to just come clean. They were very understanding and are happy for me to take a leave of absence - I don't know how long for, but Helen has offered to cover for me in the meantime when/ if required. I do know that I have made up my mind to do something about it and have had a referral to spend a whole night wired up to various machines in a special sleep clinic to get a full and proper diagnosis. And a lot of treatments have been developed in the last few years. I don't have to live like this.

Regardless of work related issues - the one thing I am really not happy to miss out on is any time with the children and I don't want them remembering their Dad as someone who spent half his life in bed.

I must also mention my beautiful wife Claire who has been such a tower of strength to me and if I hadn't had her support it would have been easy to just say "f**k it" and give up.

I should also wish Jo & Alex the best for their future and I am glad I was able to be there in body and spirit for at least 50% of the day!

I may not see some of you for a while now, but I will keep writing and when I do go for my my overnight stay in the hospital I will record it all here because anything written in a blog such as this may be helpful to others searching for help with a similar problem.

This is the link to the Wikipedia article:

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