Adrian Chiles health: Star diagnosed with ‘violent’ condition that stops you breathing

Adrian Chiles recalls painful cycling accident he had

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The 54-year-old television presenter is best known for his work on ITV Sport and Daybreak, but has recently taken on the challenge to learn how to dance as he is partnered with new Strictly Come Dancing professional Jowita Przystal. Yet the difficulties of ballroom dancing were nothing compared to the sleep apnea that Adrian was diagnosed with when he was filming Pilgrimage: The Road To Istanbul.

The NHS explains that sleep apnea occurs when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep. The most common type is known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and it can be extremely serious.

Unbeknown to most, those who snore loudly and even feel tired after a full night’s sleep might also suffer from sleep apnea.

Noticing that he felt tired all the time, Adrian initially put it down to getting older. He explained to The Guardian that he never slept particularly well, but rarely lies awake all night either.

But this all changed after Adrian’s “night-time antics” were witnessed by comedian, and fellow sleep apnea sufferer, Dom Joly. Already aware of symptoms of the condition, Dom was left “awake half the night” listening to Adrian, and soon diagnosed him with the same condition.

“First there’s lots of snoring,” Adrian recalled being told. “Then it’s like you can’t get your breath, and you’re struggling, gasping and grunting.

“And then your body seems to go into a sort of spasm, quite violent (especially hands), then you finally take a big desperate breath which is very loud, and everything shudders.”

Immediately seeking the opinion of two GPs, the television star was told that he was displaying symptoms of pathognomonic or obstructive sleep apnoea, to which he had no clue as to what it meant.

The Mayo Clinic explains that symptoms of sleep apnea often include the following:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability.

Due to his symptoms, doctors recommended that Adrian try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which gently pumps air into a mask you wear over your mouth and nose whilst sleeping.

Initially horrified at the look of the machine, Adrian was comforted by the doctor who said although it could be “a bit of a nightmare”, it changes people’s lives.

After some convincing by Dom, Adrian sought the help of a sleep specialist, who sent him home with a device which tethered his chest and finger together for two consecutive nights. After results were sent back to the clinic, Adrian was given the official diagnosis.

The sleep specialist revealed that Adrian’s throat muscles were relaxing and closing up, nearly 20 times an hour, meaning the star also stopped breathing 20 times an hour.

This terrifying data was enough to convince the star to start using a CPAP, which detects when the throat closes up. However, heartbreakingly, the star reported that he did not get on well with it.

He said: “I fall asleep quite overwhelmed with serenity. Then at some point, two or three hours later, I awake in a panic, tear the mask off and go back to a troubled sleep.

“And that’s all I have to report at this stage, other than the sad fact that I remain decidedly ‘tatt’ (tired all the time).”

The NHS explains that CPAP machines often feel strange and awkward at first, but perseverance is key, as it works best if used every night.

As well as improving breathing whilst the individual sleeps, the machine also helps improve the quality of sleep the person has, leading to them feeling less tired, and reduces the risk of problems related to sleep apnoea, like high blood pressure.

Other serious complications that can occur due to sleep apnoea include type 2 diabetes, heart problems, liver problems and metabolic syndrome.

Most of these conditions stem from the sudden drop in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnoea, increasing the strain on the cardiovascular system. Due to the risk of these conditions, it is crucial to seek medical advice if you notice you or a partner suffers from the symptoms listed above.

For those who continue to struggle with the CPAP machine, other less common treatments include the following:

  • A gum shield-like device that holds your airways open while you sleep (mandibular advancement device)
  • Surgery to help your breathing, such as removing large tonsils.

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