PAUL’S SLEEP APNOEA

Paul, 35, is an Auckland based event producer, a keen basketball player, runner, bread baker, and home brewer. He also suffers from sleep apnoea. He talked to us about how he deals with it.

“I’ve had sleep apnoea symptoms for as long as I can remember. When I got it checked out in September 2012 I found out I stopped breathing on average 9.6 times an hour, each time for longer than 10 seconds. I’d wake up tired every day which affected my concentration at work, driving, and around my friends and family.

I finally decided to get it checked out because my partner wasn’t sleeping as a result of my snoring, and an unhappy wife equals an unhappy life. She was sleep deprived and would constantly wake me up trying to get me to sleep in a different position, like on my side rather than on my back. I needed to make a change, for both of us.

If memory serves me right, I went directly to the Sleep Clinic. Their website was aimed at what I was looking for and provided home-based sleep testing. The testing was done in the comfort of my own bed. The clinic sent out an oximeter, which clipped on to the edge of my finger and measured the amount of oxygen in my blood stream throughout the night as well as my heart rate. I also wore a strap around my chest that measured the expansion of my chest when I gasped for air.

Snoring’s the sound your breathing makes when your airways are obstructed. In severe cases a person’s airways become totally blocked. When this happens you’re no longer taking in oxygen which triggers a few fascinating things. Oxygen levels and heart rate decrease, they almost follow each other, which the oximeter picks up. The body can fight without air for long periods of time, and in my test, a red flag was noted when I wasn’t breathing for 10 seconds or longer. Our bodies combat this by releasing adrenaline to ensure we start breathing again, because it thinks it’s going to die! From here our bodies relax and so the cycle repeats. Despite this sounding very serious, it interests me a great deal, especially in regard to how much sleep individuals need every night.

My father has the same thing. He has a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that he uses every night, he swears by it.

The solution for me is to sleep with a mouth guard that brings my jaw and tongue forward, allowing me to breathe. I wear it every night. This ensures I get a good night’s sleep and my partner does too. She deserves a gold medal for her patience.”