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Christopher - Interview 34

Age at interview: 68
Brief Outline: Christopher is married with three children, and is a retired airline consultant. Christopher did retire at one point, but then was asked to return to work for a while, although he is now completely retired. He is now a volunteer at the local hospital. Christopher was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a few years previously and also has severe back problems, but he still likes to keep fit and active and regularly visits the gym.
Background: Married, 3 children, Airline Consultant (retired)

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Christopher feels that generally he sleeps very well, and always has done, apart from a spell of about 18 months more recently when he was in constant pain from a back problem. Since visiting a local pain clinic he has found he is in much less pain and only finds his sleep occasionally disturbed by it.

 
Christopher tends to go to bed between 11 pm and midnight on most days, which he continued to do even when he was getting up to go to work at 6 am. He usually finds it helps to read for about half an hour before going to sleep. He may have to wake up once or twice a night to go to the toilet, and can sometimes then find it takes half an hour to an hour to get back to sleep again, but Christopher isn’t concerned about this. He usually finds that he can’t get back to sleep because he is thinking about the things he needs to get done the next day, but tends not to worry about things in the night.
 
Although Christopher doesn’t believe sleep is a waste of time, he believes he has curtailed the amount of sleep he gets to fit in all the things he likes to do. He particularly did this when he was working full time.
 

Christopher has never had a problem with his sleep, and still considers that he sleeps well, even...

Christopher has never had a problem with his sleep, and still considers that he sleeps well, even...

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What I usually ask people to do for me to begin with is just give me a snapshot of what a typical night’s sleep for you at the moment is?
 
Well I generally go to bed about 11 o’clock to 12 o’clock and I sleep pretty well through unless I have to get up for a wee or something. And sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep after that or it seems I do, but then if I’m not going to work, I sleep through till 8 o’clock. If I go to work I have to set the alarm for half past six and that’s a general pattern. I usually sleep quite well to be honest.
 
And have you always slept well?
 
Yes. I have never really had a real problem sleeping.
 
So you go to bed round about eleven until about eight. That’s about nine hours?
 
I don’t sleep straight away when I go to bed. I usually read for half an hour. A good half an hour.
 
And in the night if you’re awake at all are you awake for any length of period?
 
It seems a long time but I’m sure it’s not. It sometimes seems may be half of an hour to an hour to trying to get back to sleep again. But that is not a general thing, sometimes, in the last week or so I have just gone back to sleep straight away.
 
Do you know what’s waking you up in the night?
 
Usually I have to go for a wee or otherwise apart from that no I don’t. But in general terms I seem to wake up once a night, sometimes twice a night.
 

Christopher occasionally used to worry about his work in the night, but is more relaxed now he is...

Christopher occasionally used to worry about his work in the night, but is more relaxed now he is...

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Yes. I have always been quite lucky in life I think. I have never been a miserable or morose person.
 
Do you think that has an influence then on…?
 
On my sleep.
 
Yes, or a perspective on life?
 
I don’t know what it is. Probably, I’m not a person that, I don’t really have much of a conscience.
 
But your attitude?
 
I don’t worry at night about what I’ve done very often. I did when I was younger I think at work but I think you get possibly either more confident or more blasé as you get older.
 
So that’s interesting. So when you were younger you used to worry about work?
 
I guess you are more ambitious when you are younger as well. And you get more sanguine towards the end. Although I worked in the same job for a long time. It sounds really boring but I loved it, and I never really drove myself once I got this job to anything else. I guess I just sat around and enjoyed my life. I have had a good life I must admit. Not particularly affluent, but comfortable and I guess I’m quite a, you know, satisfied person.
 
So that might link into it, if you had periods when you were worried about your job and those were periods when you slept less well?
 
Yes, but it’s very marginal Sue to be honest. I am not a great worrier in general terms. I am not a moaner. If I have got something to worry about it does keep me awake actually but then I don’t worry about it that long.
 
Because equally you said to me it’s not so much worries that are keeping you awake but the things that might keep awake are things that you might have to do rather than things you worry about?
 
Things I have forgotten like, generally, yes.
 

Christopher, who also has motor neurone disease, suffered so much pain from a back problem that...

Christopher, who also has motor neurone disease, suffered so much pain from a back problem that...

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I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2002 and I was given two to five years to live and its now 2008 and I’m very lucky that the disease has gone into some sort of stabilisation. My legs are greatly affected by it, but luckily from my thighs up it doesn’t seem to have impinged. It did for a while, and one of the symptoms of that is twitching and I had twitching in my arms and my pectoral muscles which worried me to the degree that I was, we were both worried sick, but that seems to have somehow gone into some sort of holding pattern as it were. But my legs twitch at night and also unfortunately my spine is breaking at the bottom on four and five I think it is, the spine, the actual column has opened up and the nerves inside have been exposed to the elements as it were and I have, in the last three years, I have had very, very severe pain in my legs, it was absolutely terrible and it was so bad that I was falling over and things like that, and together with the very weakened muscles in my legs it made walking very difficult. So luckily I went to a pain clinic and they gave me first of all a drug called gabapentin and then they gave me a drug called pregabalin and they’re drugs that control as far as I know control the brain’s perception of pain and at one stage I couldn’t sleep for any length of time at all, the pain in my leg was absolutely terrible. Terrible shooting pains up my legs, which would keep me awake for hour after hour after hour. I’d get up, and this is something I really should have mentioned before, but I used to get up and just put cold ice packs on my legs and I’d do anything to control the pain and then it was like my, you know, my spiritual moment, when this doctor at Windsor at the pain clinic gave me these drugs and its reduced the pain by about I should think 80%, 70-80%. So now generally I get a good night’s sleep, undisturbed sleep, because of my legs, because the pains have been controlled. If I sit on a seat… if we go out to dinner or we have people in for dinner say and I sit on a dining table for four, or five or six hours somehow it impacts on my spine and my legs start playing up again and the drugs don’t control it completely. But I must admit in general terms apart from that I sleep all right, but for a period of around eighteen months, it was truly horrendous.
 
Right so you feel that’s all under control now?
 
Yes. I mean my feet and legs hurt all the time, but not bad enough to keep me awake at night.
 
Is that linked to the Motor Neurone Disease or is that just a separate issue?
 
No it’s a double whammy, it is not fair is it. 
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