For years Paul Louth’s life was a living hell of permanent exhaustion as his nights were destroyed by a potentially deadly condition.
Mr Louth suffered at the hands of the potentially deadly condition of sleep apnoea.
Tests showed he would stop breathing 54 times an hour - waking up his brain each time and putting a life-threatening strain on his heart and blood pressure.
After five years of nightly treatment hooked up to an oxygen machine, the dad-of-seven’s energy levels returned to normal and sparked a major overhaul of his life. He went on to lose nearly five stone in weight - a contributing factor in sleep apnoea - and has now been discharged from St James’ Hospital’s sleep clinic.
Each night, he would wake constantly, gasping for air, and spend the next day so exhausted he’d fall asleep whenever he sat down.
It was sheer desperation that led him to St James’ Hospital’s sleep clinic where medics discovered he was suffering from the life-threatening - yet worryingly common - condition of sleep apnoea.
Overnight tests showed he would stop breathing 54 times an hour - waking up his brain each time. Doctors said his level of apnoea was so severe his life was at risk as the condition put a heavy strain on his heart and blood pressure. Paul, 47, of Thorne, said the news was a massive shock after spending so long thinking it was normal.
“I was falling asleep all the time but didn’t know why. All the people around me just got used to it too - I would just sit down and fall asleep.
“I used to wake up in the night, choking and couldn’t breathe. And it meant my body wasn’t shutting down properly at night, so my kidneys were still producing urine and I’d be getting up to the toilet four to five times a night. I was really low on energy and would fall asleep eating my cereal. I’d be sitting in a chair, talking to someone and all of a sudden would fall asleep for about 20 to 30 minutes.”
In Leeds, around 25 new cases of sleep apnoea are diagnosed at St James’ sleep clinic every week - but many more are thought to be living with the condition.
Consultant Dr Deep Ghosh told The Yorkshire Post: “Estimations are about four per cent of the adult male population have sleep apnoea but we believe that to be a gross underestimation. A lot of people accept certain things as normal - if they’re snoring, or nodding off on front of the TV.”
Sleep apnoea is caused when muscles in the walls of the throat relax and collapse to cause a total blockage of the airway and oxygen is blocked for 10 seconds or more.
Dr Ghosh said Paul’s level of 54 was particularly high as any reading over 30 is considered severe. He said: “There are implications in terms of long-term impact on cardiovascular system. So there is a high risk of heart attacks, irregular heart beat or stroke.”
Paul’s treatment involved being hooked up every night to a machine called a CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure - to feed compressed air through a mask and prevent the throat from closing.
He said it immediately transformed his life: “It was like a God-send. The first night I used it, I felt 150 per cent better. For the first couple of nights I was only sleeping four hours but felt so invigorated afterwards. After a few nights it settled down and I was sleeping up to eight hours a night- a proper night’s sleep.”
After five years on the machine, Paul’s renewed energy levels sparked a major overhaul of his life. He went on to lose nearly five stone in weight - as obesity is a contributing factor in sleep apnoea. Tests at the end of last year showed he was down to 13 ‘wake-ups’ a night - a ‘mild’ level - and he was discharged at the from the sleep clinic.
His quest for fitness and new-found vigour saw him complete a mammoth 276-mile bike ride across Spain last year for Cancer Research UK. Paul, who runs his own bouncy castle business, said: “I feel fitter every day. I feel like I’m 21 again. Everyone has noticed. I just get out and do a lot more whereas before, just getting off my settee was a struggle.”