The following interview was conducted on 8 February, 2012.
In my early 20s I was a technician in the Australian Air Force. I was fit, looked the picture of health yet struggled with extreme daytime sleepiness. I was the butt of many jokes. I really had no awareness of whether it was affecting my health at all.
I was slim (below average weight) but always sleepy and was known for my legendary ability to drop-off as soon as I boarded a plane. I snored very loudly and this was always commented on.
In 1989 I joined Qantas and moved into an office-based role, which came with new challenges. My previous work had been largely manual, as an air force mechanical engineer. Now I was desk-bound, attending meetings, driving long distances to and from work.
I was regularly falling asleep in meetings. It was embarrassing and it must have affected my productivity and health for sure, but there was so little information about sleep disorders. I was fit and healthy so rarely saw a doctor.
Following several car accidents — one involving my wife Sue in the car at 11am in the morning on a 15 minute trip back from her parents — was quite serious. I nodded off and careered off the road. It was a pretty awful accident caused by me falling asleep at the wheel. By now I was scared and sought answers.
I did do a sleep test at a local hospital but it was an awful experience as I was covered in wires. I got so little sleep due to constant wake-ups by the techs that the results turned out to be inconclusive.
Following another test at a specialist sleep lab I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep apnoea by a physician and put on positive airway pressure treatment. The doctor advised that in many cases this form of treatment alleviates the effects of the condition. Within two weeks I marvelled at how my life had changed. I recall sitting through a particularly boring meeting and it dawned on me that I wasn’t the least bit tired.
I did struggle in the beginning with adjusting to the mask and treatment, but soon became compliant. I am very passionate about sleep apnoea. I share my story with many people and encourage them to seek professional advice or if a doctor has prescribed treatment, to follow the doctor’s direction and stick with it.
I am a completely different person today and believe I have an important role to play in sharing my story about undiagnosed sleep apnoea in drivers and road safety.
Disclaimer: Each member story relates to an account of an individual in response to sleep apnoea. Their response is genuine, typical, documented and accurate at the time of the interview. However, each individual’s response does not provide any indication, warranty or guarantee that other people will have the same or a similar experience. Also note that responses to treatment can, and do, vary and not every response is the same.