Sleep Deprivation

Ever heard of sleep apnoea? The most common form of this is known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). It is a chronic condition which causes poor quality sleep and results in excessive tiredness during waking hours. OSA can affect people of any age and of either sex, but it is most common in middle-aged, somewhat overweight men, especially those who use alcohol. During inhalation, the airway will collapse causing pauses in breathing for about 30 seconds, then the person usually startles awake with a loud snort and begins to breathe again, gradually falling back to sleep. OSA has the potential to have serious negative effects on a person’s quality of life and many people go undiagnosed. In order to confirm the diagnosis, it usually requires an overnight stay in a specialized sleep laboratory where sleep is monitored and measurements are taken while the person sleeps.

In Dublin, there is only one sleep apnoea clinic available to patients in the public hospital system and this is based in St. Vincent’s Hospital. There is a delay of at least two years for an appointment to see a specialist in this clinic and if sleep apnoea is suspected, the patient is referred on to the specialized sleep laboratory at the hospital to be monitored overnight. Again there is a long waiting list for an overnight bed in this unit. At present the sleep apnoea unit in St. Vincent’s Hospital is undergoing renovation and the old casualty unit at the hospital is being used as a temporary sleep laboratory.

A recent radio programme exposed major flaws in this temporary accommodation. The conditions sound horrendous. Firstly, the one toilet in the unit, is filthy and unfit for purpose. The unit is used as a pain management clinic during the day and by evening time, it’s unsuitable as a sleep environment. The windows cannot be opened due to noise outside in the corridor and patients complain that they cannot get to sleep due to the heat and lack of air. It is a shared unit for men and women, with little or no privacy. It makes no sense whatsoever to call it a sleep laboratory if the conditions are so bad that patients cannot sleep. And remember, these are patients who have been waiting for years to be monitored. Frankly, this is sleep deprivation of a different kind and it could even be called obstructive.

Just another example of bureaucracy gone mad, while patients continue to suffer.

You can listen to a podcast of the programme by using the link below.

6 Responses to Sleep Deprivation

  1. Grannymar says:

    Jack frightened the life out of me on a regular basis all through our marriage with the long pauses in his breathing during sleep. We never saw it as a problem and thankfully he never suffered lack of sleep.

    Steph I think you need to have a Disgrace Award, to be presented to a below par hospital each week never mind each month.

  2. Steph says:

    Good idea! Grannymar

    I don’t think I’d have any problem finding a weekly recipient for this award!

  3. Baino says:

    My best friend’s mother suffers from it and was tested at one of the local hospitals which has a unit. I believe there are four units in Sydney alone at four major public hospitals plus a variety of private clinics. Me . . I just don’t sleep!

  4. Steph says:

    Baino – if you saw this unit, you’d really laugh. I’ve done time there (when it was an A&E department) and it’s a hole of a place. I don’t know if it’s changed but when I was there, the one toilet was in the sluice room with only a small curtain separating the two areas while the nurses came in and out. It was like a bad joke. I’d like to see some of management spend a night in that hell hole.

    I snore like a trooper whenever I’ve an infection in my head but it’s not ME it wakes! 😉

  5. John Meehan says:

    check this little nugget :

    Cowen to Sleep Better – Diagnosis of Obscure Fianna Failer with Apnoea Last Year

    “HIS TIRED, EVEN exhausted demeanour is frequently commented upon,
    though it now emerges that the Taoiseach suffers from sleep apnea –
    where soft tissue blocks the airway at night, depriving the sufferer
    of deep sleep.

    Cowen has had the condition for years, but it was only diagnosed in
    late autumn. Once diagnosed it can be fixed relatively easily by a
    simple apparatus that keeps the airway open during the night. Cowen
    has used the device, and has looked rested on some days, but it is far
    from clear if he does so every night.”

    No jokes about BIFFO’s Please –

    We are dealing with serious OFFALY Matters

    Compare the number of registered sleep apnoea sufferers getting treatment in the Republic of Ireland –

    I understand it is under 10,000 –

    – with reliable scientific studies calculating the likely number of people who have this condition living under the jurisdiction of Dail Eireann –

    I am reliably told it is about 100,000 –

    which means aeround 90,000 have the condition and are untreated.

    The implications are serious – not only for the sufferere.

    For more information visit the websirte of the Irish Sleep Apnoea Trust :


    I have sleep apnoea, and the treatment has transformed my life

  6. Steph says:

    John M – Hello and welcome!

    Well-spotted on the Cowen sleep issue. Why am I not in the least bit surprised to hear that he suffers from sleep apnoea? He fits the bill perfectly. When you listen to Cowen giving an interview or speaking in the Dáil, he audibly gasps for air and I’ve often wondered if perhaps asthma was his problem.

    Glad to hear you got the treatment you needed. Thanks for supplying the two links – both excellent! 🙂

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