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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 12:22 GMT
Snoring: dangerous decibels

Some sufferers have operations to ease the condition

The wife of a sleep apnoea sufferer tells BBC News Online how her husband's condition wrecked their sleep - and even put their lives in danger

Pat Watson is a retired nurse, but it took even her some years to realise that her husband Simon's terrible snoring was the symptom of a dangerous condition.

Simon did go to sleep behind the steering wheel when we were going at 70mph on the M1
Pat Watson
Sleep apnoea was robbing him - and her - of hours of sleep a night, and the after-effects were being felt during waking hours.

Now, however, thanks to modern treatment, the dream of a good night's kip has become a reality for both of them.

"He really did snore terribly, with a huge amount of decibels," she told BBC News Online.

"But it used to build up gradually, getting louder and louder, but then he would stop breathing for anything up to 30 seconds.

"This was what woke me up, and I would lie there waiting for him to start breathing again."

The periods of no breathing actually meant Simon was awake, although he didn't realise it, and as it happened up to 300 times a night, his normal sleep patterns were interrupted.

By the following morning, he was ready to drop.

"Whenever he sat down he'd go to sleep. On one occasion, we were hosting a party, and he was standing there with a bottle of wine in each hand, pouring drinks.

"He heard some laughter and turned around to find out what was going on, and was told it was the first time they had ever seen a party host go to sleep standing up."

Hidden dangers

But sleep disorder experts warn that sleep apnoea is more dangerous than drink driving - sufferers go through the day in a haze.

Pat said: "Simon did go to sleep behind the steering wheel when we were going at 70 miles per hour on the M1.

"I noticed that his eyes had glazed over as we were ploughing along."

Eventually, Pat managed to get him referred to a specialist sleep disorder clinic run by Dr John Stradling in Oxford.

He was invited to come into the sleep clinic to spend a night hooked up to electrodes, which measured how often his sleep was interrupted.

He was given a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) which patients wear at night.

It continually forces air under gentle pressure to keep the airway fully open, and his symptoms have been greatly eased.

Pat and Simon went on to found the Sleep Apnoea Trust, which offers support and advice to the growing number of people in the UK who realise they have the condition.

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See also:
15 Dec 99 |  Health
Scientists examine snoring gene
03 Nov 99 |  Health
'Snoring spoils sex lives'
18 Jun 99 |  Health
Step forward in snore war
04 Oct 99 |  Health
Snoring costs partner hours of sleep
18 Mar 99 |  Health
Sleep disorder causes car crashes
21 Apr 99 |  Health
Surgeon hails snoring cure

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