How I lived for 20 years with 23 hour days – the sleep apnoea curse

For the last 20 years or more I have been living 23 hour days.

Every day I would have an hour of my precious waking time stolen from me. It was the equivalent of 365 hours a year – over 15 days of time annually I could have put to productive use.

The Beatles sung about ‘8 days a week’ to describe a busy life. Yet, despite often being labelled a ‘workaholic’, I was actually living a 6¾-ish week – and I suspect many of us are similarly afflicted.

Curiously, I have been focussing my waking energies through Tubespiration on getting people to make the most of their daily commutes to transform currently perceived as ‘down-time’ time, into valuable creative thinking time.

Yet, I have been experiencing a more costly Time Tax on my life.

I would argue that I have witnessed and experienced the future, a new way ahead to help most of us live better, healthier lives and to avoid the wasted ’23 hour day/15 days-a-year syndrome’.

My mini-celebrity-in-a-micro-niche fame is for recognition in the fields of creativity, PR and brand story-telling. Yet close friends also knew me for another outstanding talent: sleep!

Yes, if there was ever a ‘Sleep Olympics’ I would surely take Gold Medal for Team GB. I could “fall asleep on a sixpence” as my dear old mum used to say.

Get me in front of an audience or working on a campaign and I will be a live ball of 110%plus energy on the task in hand.

Get me in an armchair, or a train journey, and I would soon be visiting the Land of Nod. I was the opposite of an insomniac. While not being a narcoleptic – falling asleep at any moment, I could however, if I so desired, fall asleep at a moment’s notice.

The paradox was that rather than being ‘good at sleep’ I was actually bad at sleep.

I’m proposing that the extra time-in-your-life panacea, to overcome the wasted ’23 hour day/15 days-a-year syndrome’ we need to engage a simple old friend of ours from nature: sleep, or rather, good quality sleep.

This is not about curtailing your natural sleep time, putting your alarm clock on an hour early. Rather, it is about engaging a simple solution to enjoying better quality, deeper sleep, so you enjoy high quality rest and many other spin-off benefits.

Thanks to the encouragement of two close friends, Alan and John, I took the steps to be tested and subsequently diagnosed with a condition called ‘sleep apnoea’. And I’m convinced many of us are on a spectrum where we would benefit from addressing the condition.

‘Sleep apnoea’ occurs if you stop breathing during sleep when the airway collapses and adequate airflow cannot reach the lungs. The brain signals you to wake up and breathe again due to the lack of oxygen in the blood. This cycle can be repeated many hundred times during a sleep, although most may not be aware of it.

Anyone with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Snoring is a good indicator, long with symptoms of daytime sleepiness and feeling tired. has a collar size of 16½”

A criterion of measuring the number of times you stop breathing for more than 4 seconds in an hour. My diagnosis revealed I was registering a score of 25 times an hour, considered to be a moderate to high case of sleep apnoea. (My friend Alan boasted a score of 51).

If you snore, fall asleep easy, feel tired during the day you may well have sleep apnoea. (It’s more often spotted by your partner!)

If you Google ‘sleeping sickness’ you will find references to ‘African trypanosomiasis’ a tropical medical condition. Here in the UK according to the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association there is our more local version of a sleeping sickness, with an estimated 4% of men and 2% of women affected by Obstructive Sleep Apnoea – some 1,800,000 people. Yet only 300,000 are currently diagnosed.

I’m convinced the figure is even higher for those who could benefit from using the treatment I now use for my sleep apnoea, to provide you with extra time where you may not be sleeping or nodding off so frequently, have more energy during your waking hours, along with other attendant health benefits.

Every night I now have to sleep wearing an oxygen-type mask with a small device (to give it its proper name, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine) that pumps air into my air tube. Rather like pumping air through a flat tyre inner tube, the air machine inflates my throat passageways, resulting in significantly less incidents of not breathing for more than 4 seconds.

Sure, on the first night wearing the mask felt odd. And you do become obsessive when you wake up in the morning about checking your ‘sleep score’ registered on your machine which records how many times you stop breathing for more than 4 seconds, the length of sleep, and if the mask was fitted correctly. (I now usually record a 1-2 score compared to a previous 25.) Guess, it’s all part of the increasing digitalization of modern life.

Apart from that, I wouldn’t swap my device for the world. I only wish I had been using it for the last 20 years or more. (Where I have wasted over 300 days of my life!)

Perhaps, a bit too-much-detail here, but I normally used to get up 2 or 3 times a night to visit the bathroom. That now never happens. So, my kidneys must be enjoying a welcome break too.

I was lucky. I had good friends in Alan and John who encouraged me to address the problem. So, I write this in the hope that it will inspire others to stop the wasting of precious waking hours – and help your creativity: rather than just aspiring to live longer, do something to help make your life fuller, addressing the down-time in your current time quota.

OK, you might not be recording a high sleep apnoea score. Yet, even at the lower end of the spectrum, say you were a 5 or 6, you could still benefit from better quality sleep and its attendant benefits.

The great Martin Luther King “had a dream”. Well I “had a sleep”!

I can foresee motorway service stations with ‘Air Points’ for customers replacing their caffeine fix with a blast of air to revitalise and freshen up. Long distance drivers could receive air blasts to ensure their alertness.

One of my favourite quotes is from the science fiction writer William Gibson who observed that “the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

My present, my use of an air mask to address sleep apnoea, is possibly your future. A future of better quality sleep providing you with a healthier life – and more waking time and avoiding your wasted ’23 hour day/15 days-a-year syndrome’ .

I don’t think I’m dreaming: I’m actually wide awake!

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