Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
My Sleep I think that if you are going to give advice about sleep then you should at least practice what you preach, so below is a brief description of my sleep environment and habits; I sleep in a 6ft (Super King) Vispring Shetland Superb bed (NB I sleep on this Vispring bed not because I have a consultancy with them but because for me it is the most comfortable bed I have experienced, and I have experienced many beds!) The bed is dressed with pure wool, long, continental single duvets and pure cotton bed linen. I use 2 down and feather pillows. I wear cotton pyjamas. I always sleep with a window open. I do not have a TV, computer or a radio in my bedroom. I always read a proper paper book before lights out. I am very much a morning person so if I wake up early I will get up. If I wake in the middle of the night I will usually switch the bedside light on and read for 10-60 minutes. I feel I need 9-9½ hours sleep a night to be at my best. I have a pretty regular routine when I am at home I usually go to bed between 2130-2230 and awake and get up at 0600-0630, even at the weekends. I do snore sometimes usually after alcohol but also because I carry a bit more weight than perhaps I should. I do not exercise in the evening I do not eat too late at night. I do not specifically avoid caffeine in the evening I sometimes, but not often, have a couple of beers or a couple of glasses of wine in the evening. I have paper and pen next to my bed to write down worries/thoughts that occur to me during the night. As a child I did not have any particular sleep problems. My Story -The 1980’s In February 1982 Kraftwerk were number 1 with their double A-side The Model / Computer Love, the first part of Doctor Who: Kinda starring Peter Davison aired and I started my career in sleep working at the Neuroscience Division of the Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine (IAM). Initially I was employed to assist in running scientific studies looking at the effects of aircrew workload, shift work, jet-lag on Air Force personnel but soon got into sleep as a subject for various experiments being performed in the Division. I was only 16 at the time which was below the age I could consent to volunteer for these studies so unbelievably I had to get a note from my Mum saying that it was OK to take part. The IAM had a 3-bedroom sleep laboratory, which was one of the largest in Europe. It was not too long before I started staying up all night recording the sleep of others, in those days sleep was recorded with pen and ink onto paper so someone had to monitor the machines to make sure the ink did not run out, the paper didn’t jam or the pens get stuck. After about six months I started being trained in how to stage, or score, sleep. This was a laborious process each 8-hour sleep record had to be staged by 2 people, each staging separately, their scorings were then compared and any discrepancies would then be discussed between the two stagers. Once agreement had been reached on all 980 scored epoch someone had to enter all this data into our computer (note the singular). While at the IAM I was involved in some of the early jet-lag studies both as a subject and also running studies with British Airways, involving trips to Detroit, Tokyo, Anchorage and Hong Kong. In 1987 came the literal high point of my career when as a young man of 21 I participated in the Birmingham Medical Research Expeditionary Society expedition to the Karakorum Mountains of Pakistan. The Neurosciences Division of the Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine was approached by BMRES record sleep on their expedition. With two colleagues, Pete Smith and Barbara Stone, I was part of a series of experiments investigating the use of hypnotics in the management of sleep at high altitude This study was the first to record so many subjects (8), for such a long time (6 consecutive nights) at such a high altitude (18,500ft). The other studies in this series were a one-week base line study performed at the University of Birmingham, a one-night adaptation to 12,500ft sleeping in the decompression chamber, Altitude Division, IAM, and a two-week efficacy study in the Monta Rosa alpine hut at 11,500ft in the Italian Alps. Traditionally to avoid the possibly fatal complications of ascending to high altitude the idea was to ascend slowly allowing for acclimatisation additionally it was found that taking certain medicines while ascending could help protect against the symptoms. The basic aim of the 1987 expedition was to ascend as quickly as possible to induce Acute Mountain Sickness in ourselves and then take a large, loading, dose of a drug called acetazolamide to see if this would ameliorate or treat the symptoms of AMS. The expedition involved setting up a camp at 5400m just below the summit of gondogoro peak. Everyone on the expedition had a role performing experiments on everyone else, these studies involved amongst other things measuring cognitive function, muscle strength, brain blood flow, body fat, blood oxygen, etc. My role was to record sleep in 8 of the participants each night of the expedition (four of them also had their SaO2 measured each night). I was responsible for the logistics of packing a fully functioning sleep lab into 4 mental flight boxes and was also responsible for the testing all the equipment to ensure that it would work under conditions of extreme cold and low oxygen. The last was because the pulse oximeters we were using required a generator and so we had to make sure that one worked in such rarefied air, this involved a foolhardy and potentially disastrous starting and running of the generator in a hyperbaric chamber. This generator was the bane of mine and Pete’s life because it needed to be refuelled in the middle of the night and it is certainly no fun getting up out of the tent when it was -40oC. The highlight of the trip, literally, was actually climbing gondogoro peak (approx. 5900m) with a view of K2, Laila Peak, etc. The downside was that fact that I developed AMS at a relatively low altitude but still had to climb higher to fulfil my commitments to the team, even though this is the opposite of received medical wisdom. This coupled with the, almost inevitable, gastrointestinal problems resulting from eating the local food on the decent mean that I have not been the same since. However, this said, I am honoured to have been a part of such a world class research study and although my memory tells me I hated every minute of the month-long trip, I would not have missed it for the world. Other achievements while at IAM involved modifying an Oxford Medilog 9000 recorder, which allowed the first successful recording of sleep in the cockpit of a jet airliner and subsequently advising NASA about our solution to the technical problems of such recordings. I was also responsible for the recording of the sleep of Squadron Leader N. Woodward who, had it not been for the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, would have been the first U.K. astronaut. These recordings were required for his class 1 NASA medical. It was during my work at the IAM that I first appeared in the press as a sleep expert doing an interview for Sky News on sleep of military personnel during the first Gulf War. I stayed at the IAM for close to ten years before moving on to the next stage of my sleep career at the Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit of the University of Surrey, but that’s another story. I would like to thank Tony Nicholson, Barbara Stone, Peta Pascoe, Alison Rogers, Nicky Wright, Marilyn Chambers, Katie Bradley, Clare Turner, Pete Smith, Dick Borland, Karen Robertson, Julia Woods, Amanda McGowan, Richard Knight, Sue Mills, Steve Foster, Brodie, Steve, Duncan, Sally, Marie and others whose names I have unfortunately forgotten for providing me with my start in the fascinating world of sleep and for all the training and experiences I enjoyed, and sometimes endured, during my time at IAM. The 1990’s http://entropy8zuper.org/html/archive/www.hpru.com/site_index.html
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2024