How a CPAP machine changed my life
Gary lives with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a breathing problem that happens when you sleep. He shares his journey of OSA and how getting a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine changed his life.
I started to show signs of OSA in my 30s. I remember feeling overwhelmingly tired, constantly yawning and even falling asleep when cutting the grass. At the time I was working 7 days a week, so I put it down to being overworked. However, it did raise some concerns and I was tested for Lyme disease and farmer’s lung – both coming back negative. So, I just carried on as normal.
But the problems really started in 2014. I was very fatigued, had bladder problems and my weight was going up and up – at my heaviest I weighed over 19 stone. Snoring was also a huge problem for me.
My symptoms were worsening and badly impacting my wellbeing. The fatigue was overwhelming.
In the summer 2015 things went downhill fast. I was falling asleep at work, at home – even getting my hair cut! Plus, my wife had noticed I stopped breathing, with pauses up to and over 30 seconds, while I was sleeping.
My symptoms were worsening and badly impacting my wellbeing. The fatigue was overwhelming. I was up at all hours, going backwards and forwards to the toilet, or awake because of what I thought was insomnia. My wife was also kept awake: when I did manage to sleep, she would watch me so she could nudge me when I stopped breathing. Daily life became increasingly difficult, and at the age of 50 I began to think my life was over.
Getting the diagnosis was a positive step
Thankfully, in November 2016 my GP arranged me to have a sleep test and I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
I saw my diagnosis as a positive step. Now I knew what was wrong, I could take steps to deal with it and hopefully improve my symptoms. Three days after diagnosis I was given a CPAP machine. I count myself lucky as I took to it with few problems. I slept like a baby and as if by magic, the snoring stopped! I had a few teething problems with leaks and learnt very quickly how to minimise them. My compliance is 100% over 3 years and I've only missed one night, which was for the retest after my weight loss.
After one week of using the CPAP machine, I became aware of just how much OSA has been affecting me.
After a week of using the CPAP machine, I became aware of just how much OSA has been affecting me. I was already feeling huge benefits and considered the machine a life changer and probably a life saver as well!
Losing weight was life-changing
Deciding I wanted to improve my quality of life even further. I contacted a personal trainer, and for 6 months worked really hard to lose weight. By the time of my next appointment, my sleep nurse was visibly shocked by my appearance and my OSA had gone from almost severe to mild!
I work out twice a day, at home and at the gym. There’s no way I could’ve done this pre-diagnosis. And without CPAP therapy, I would be too exhausted. I started on a crosstrainer and kettlebells doing HIIT workouts before I went to work. At the beginning, I’d still have to battle through the fatigue and was only able to do a few minutes. I gradually built on it, and now 2-hour sessions are normal for me.
I have other medical problems that limit some movements, but none of these stop me from my goal to simply be better than I was, not where I was!
Although I’ve still got OSA, it no longer affects my daily life. My fitness regime is a very important part of managing my diagnosis and has given me another direction in life. It’s been hard work but worth every ounce of effort.