I’ve been asked recently why this site hasn’t seen many updates of late, so I’ll try to explain! – Serious and long-winded post alert!
I don’t believe in posting one’s life stories on the internet and get regularly annoyed by those who post on social media the in’s and out’s of their illnesses, checking into hospitals etc. I’ll make an exception in this case for the benefit of those who do regularly read this site!
Over the last few years I’ve struggled at times with stress and depression, that meant that on occasions, switching off from work was somewhat difficult. Having a distraction, such as model trains, proved very useful in channelling my energies into something enjoyable. That included regular updates on this site as I had numerous projects on the go at any one time and an endless source of things to write about. Something for me to look back and reflect upon for many years to come. Difficulty getting to sleep of an evening also meant that I would frequently spend time late in the evening writing up our exploits before feeling suitably tired enough to retire to bed.
Then during the last year or so I’ve become more and more tired, reaching the point of being permanently in a state of exhaustion. As time went on, I found myself prioritising my energy for my day job, ensuring that I could get through each working day. As my energy levels continued to drop, I no longer had the energy, will or enthusiasm for many things outside of work. Basically all I really wanted to do was sleep. Preparing for Warley kept me occupied and then at the start of 2018, the struggle became even harder. Even attending exhibitions became very tiresome.
My wife had commented that I appeared to stop breathing in my sleep, often gasping for breath and snoring loudly. Something that had been going on for several years really. After a check with the GP and a suggestion that my tonsils were to blame, I waited for a hospital appointment to check them, where they decided they were fine. At that point I never really followed this up. Only when during the early part of the year, when I finally realised that my energy levels were now so low that I could barely be bothered to get out of bed, wash and shave, that I plucked up the courage to go and see a GP again. You see I don’t do GPs or hospitals – too many sick people in there!
After a referral to a sleep clinic, we suspected that I was suffering from a common condition known as sleep apnea, and to confirm the diagnosis I would require monitoring for an evening. This happened back in February and I spent the night (in my own bed thankfully) with a pipe up my nose, two straps around my midriff, a wrist monitor and a finger monitor, to monitor the quality of my sleep. Not easy getting to sleep with that little lot attached but I somehow managed it and we got some results within a few days.
Before leaving the hospital with the kit, I was shown the sleep pattern graphs, firstly of a normal night’s sleep and then of someone with a chronic sleep apnea diagnosis, which I was told was the far extreme. The graph showed that the patient never got beyond the second sleep stage, so never achieved a full night’s sleep. The brain goes into self-defence mode and wakes you, not to the point of physically being awake but enough to restart the breathing. Untreated, patients are at risk of premature strokes, heart problems etc. For me the effects were not only the exhaustion, the depression, low mood, snappy temper and most frustrating, I started having severe issues with short-term memory recall. My memory was always sharp and this was a huge frustration. Something that I’m assured will repair itself once I start sleeping properly!
The follow-up phone call stunned me a little when I was told that I was considered to have a chronic condition, that my breathing was stopping approximately 42 times per hour and my snoring was in excess of 80 decibels. The most effective, if unattractive treatment would be to use a CPAP machine, which would feed positive air through a face mask which I would have to wear each night for a minimum of four hours.
So I was relieved to get a proper diagnosis but still had a further four month wait to get my hands on the CPAP kit. Those four months proved to be the most difficult, as the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep each night began to really take its toll.
During 2017 I also took on the responsibility of administering my local model railway club’s facebook and website, then took on another website for another group, then another, then another. Suddenly I had five websites to webmaster and zero enthusiasm for any of them, switching to a must-do environment where only essential updates got done. All I wanted to do after finishing work was lie down and nap. Watching tv, playing on the ipad, even having a conversation with the wife, I nodded off during all of these things. At Abbey Hill, I had to go and nap each day!
So why have I got this? – When I attended the group session to collect the CPAP equipment, I was by far the youngest and slimmest person in the room! At 45 years of age, 6 ft tall and 15 stone I’m not exactly obese either but my collar size is just over 17 inches, which puts me at risk. Exercise alone can cure this but trying to exercise when all you want to do is sleep, that’s not easy to do!
So I’ve now been using the CPAP treatment for just over three weeks. Not easy to get on with at first, the original face mask turned out to be too small, plus I’m a lot more claustrophobic than I ever realised. The machine automatically sends data each morning about the quality of my sleep and this is turned into an overall score out of 100. After a very shaky start I’m now getting high 90s and occasional 100 scores each night. Some people using this treatment say the effects are instant, while that hasn’t been the case for me, I am now a lot more awake and alert and slowly but surely, my desires for activities outside of work, including my trains, is improving!
So why am I bothering to write all this? – Well frankly it’s something that I can refer to in years to come but also, let’s face it, most people who read this site are over a certain age, may not be terribly fit and could be carrying some extra baggage. If you feel tired every day, if your other half is moaning about your snoring, or tells you that you stop breathing at night, go and see your GP – it may not be the most attractive treatment but a. it works, b. it’s non-evasive, c. the difference it will make to your well-being is huge!
Normal service will resume on this page as the projects resume, although to be fair there’s not much layout wise to do at the moment, there are a few exhibition updates at least.
Watch this space…