Meet Paul Ashbury - the Norfolk man who risked his life every time he went to sleep

PUBLISHED: 16:46 28 November 2012

Paul Ashford, who found he had a  potentially fatal condition when he took part on a TV programme about snoring. Picture: Oz Owen

Paul Ashford, who found he had a potentially fatal condition when he took part on a TV programme about snoring. Picture: Oz Owen

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It’s given couples headaches since we lived in caves. But snoring can also be a sign of something more serious, as lorry driver Paul Ashbury found out when he took part in a TV programme about Britain’s worst sleepers.

Mr Ashbury, 46, from King’s Reach, King’s Lynn, took part in the BBC’s two-part series Goodnight Britain, which investigated the nation’s sleeping habits.

Mr Ashbury decided to take part in the show after his partner Clare Sutton, 43, recorded him snoring.

The first episode is screened on BBC One tonight. The second will be aired at the same time tomorrow.

“We got an email from the BBC asking about sleeping problems and instantly red flags went off for Clare,” said Mr Ashbury.

“Obviously I was snoring pretty loud, I thought it wasn’t anything too serious.”

As experts Dr Kirstie Anderson and Dr Jason Ellis investigated further into Mr Ashbury’s disruptive snoring they discovered that he suffers from the potentially fatal sleep disorder sleep apnoea.

“I was really shocked and surprised to tell you the truth,” Mr Ashbury said.

“I was worried, not just for myself but other road users too. If it was serious enough I could be stopped from driving.”

Sleep apnoea is a disorder in which breathing stops for an abnormal amount of time during sleep.

During an episode of sleep apnoea a person comes out of deep sleep and can even wake up in order to restore normal breathing.

It was found that Mr Ashbury’s breathing stopped for up to 26 seconds at a time and caused him to wake up to 50 times in a night.

This can lead to sufferers feeling tired and leave them unable to concentrate.

Sleep apnoea is caused by the muscles and soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing inwards during sleep blocking the oxygen pathways.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea include snoring, grogginess during the day, mood swings, gasping for breath at night and headaches in the morning.

Severe sleep apnoea can increase blood pressure as well as raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Treatments for sleep apnoea include quitting smoking, losing weight, surgery and soft-palate implants.

One of the more common treatments is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), this treatment involves using breathing apparatus to assist breathing during sleep.

A mask is placed over the nose which delivers a continuous supply of compressed air, this prevents the airway in the throat from closing.

The experts on the Goodnight Britain prescribed CPAP treatment for Mr Ashbury and it has helped improve his sleep dramatically.

Mr Ashbury said: “The treatments going really well, it has made a real difference to my home life.

“Before I got the treatment I’d be asleep within 10 minutes of getting in from work, now I can stay up till 10 or 11pm. Now I wake up feeling right as rain.”

The CPAP mask is equipped with a SD card so that Mr Ashbury’s sleep and breathing can be monitored in case his condition changes.

“It checks everything, when I go to the toilet or even roll over in bed, it’s a bit like having big brother watching me.”

It is estimated that around 4pc of men suffer from sleep apnoea and that up to 60pc of people over the age of 65 have some form of the disorder.

Many people are unaware that they have the disorder as usually a person will have no memory of breathlessness or waking up during the night.

Mr Ashbury has since gone on to get his HGV Class 2 licence and has lost more than a stone in weight.

Speaking of being on the show Mr Ashbury said: “The whole overall experience I’d do it again, definitely.”

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