As Roman Kemp shares diagnosis and 'extreme tiredness' – what is sleep apnoea?

Roman Kemp during the NME Awards 2022 at O2 Academy Brixton on March 02, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Roman Kemp's tiredness levels had been 'debilitating'. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Roman Kemp has spoken out about his newly diagnosed health condition sleep apnoea, which means more than just the tiredness that comes with being a Capital FM breakfast host.

"The early starts are part of my routine but I found out the other day that I've developed sleep apnoea," the 29-year-old told OK! magazine.

"I've always thought it's because I've been so extremely tired, but it turns out I do have to go to a specialist. So not only have I been doing Capital for five years but I've been doing it so tired anyway."

Roman Kemp pictured on his first day back at Capital Breakfast, after coming third in 'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!' (Photo by Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty Images)
As well as feeling tired from his early rises, Roman Kemp has developed sleep apnoea, which can be serious. (PA Images via Getty Images)

He also told MailOnline that his tiredness levels had been "debilitating", and when he was told by professionals it was because of his job, he told them "this is different".

"I was talking with people where I thought I was verging on narcolepsy because I was mid-conversation and would be snoring and not realising it, it was very strange," he explained.

He said the doctors told him he must wear an oxygen mask to help with the condition.

"There is absolutely nothing sexy about going back to Roman Kemp's house," he joked.

"They are expecting candles and mood lighting but they're getting a Darth Vader impression into an oxygen tank. My love life will look [like] a niche Channel 5 documentary!"

Having been in his role since 2017, he hopes to have at least a decade on air, before prioritising health in his lifestyle.

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What is sleep apnoea?

Woman snoring with sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea can be serious if not diagnosed and treated. (Getty Images)

Sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep, which happens if your airways become too narrow, with the most common type called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Symptoms mainly happen while you sleep and can include, as listed by the NHS:

  • breathing stopping and starting

  • making gasping, snorting or choking noises

  • waking up a lot

  • loud snoring

However, they can also happen during the day, which can include:

  • feeling very tired

  • finding it hard to concentrate

  • having mood swings

  • having a headache when you wake up

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Getting help for sleep apnoea

Man with doctor
See a doctor if you have symptoms of sleep apnoea to ensure you get any treatment you may need. (Getty Images)

Sleep apnoea can be serious if it goes undiagnosed and untreated.

To get tested for the condition, your GP might refer you to a specialist sleep clinic where you may be given devices that check things like your breathing and heartbeat while you sleep.

You'll also be asked to wear these overnight so doctors can properly check for signs and symptoms. You can usually do this at home, but they might ask you to stay overnight in the clinic.

Based on how often your breathing stops while you sleep (called an AHI score), tests can show you if you have the condition and how serious it is.

An AHI score of five to 14 means it is mild, 15 to 30 means it is moderate and over 30 means it is severe.

Sleep apnoea treatments

Sleep Apnea Oxygen Mask Equipment And CPAP Machine
A CPAP Machine pumps air into a mask you wear while you sleep. (Getty Images)

So, what is the 'oxygen mask' that Roman Kemp uses?

While sleep apnoea does not always need to be treated if it's mild, many people do need to use a device called a CPAP machine.

This gently pumps air into a mask you wear over your mouth or nose while you sleep, according to the NHS. It can help improve your breathing while you sleep by stopping your airways from getting too narrow, improving the quality of your sleep and helping you feel less tired. It can also reduce the risk of problems linked to sleep apnoea (like high blood pressure).

"Using a CPAP machine may feel strange or awkward at first, but try to keep using it. It works best if you use it every night," the national health service's website explains.

"Tell your doctor if you find it uncomfortable or hard to use."

Other less common treatments could include a 'gum shield-like device' that holds your airways open while you sleep (called a mandibular advancement device). Or, in some cases you could have surgery, like removing large tonsils, to help with breathing.

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Sleep apnoea has been linked to obesity, having a large neck, getting older (though young adults and children can have it), a family history, smoking and drinking alcohol, large tonsils or adenoids (small lumps of tissue on the back of the nose) and sleeping on your back.

If your sleep apnoea is mild, lifestyle changes can help, such as sleeping on your side, losing weight if you need to, not smoking, not drinking too much and not taking sleeping pills unless recommended by a doctor (as these can make the condition worse).

See a doctor if you have symptoms of sleep apnoea, especially problems with your breathing while sleeping, making noises while you seep and feeling tired.

You can also use this helpful page on Diagnosis of Sleep Apnoea by the Sleep Apnoea Trust, to listen to audio and check whether you or your partner sound similar when asleep, complete a sleepiness scale survey and a questionnaire to determine your risk.