Tired of sleep­less nights, Mark Setch­field went to Switzer­land to try and find a so­lu­tion to his chronic in­som­nia

Friday - - Contents -

Art ed­i­tor Mark Setch­field checks into a posh sleep clinic in Mon­treux but the treat­ment process gives him sleep­less nights.

Sleep, or rather the lack of it, has had a toll on my per­sonal and PRO­FES­SIONAL life. I’ve turned up to of­fice hav­ing had lit­tle or no sleep at all

YYou’d read a book to cel­e­brate World Book Day and prob­a­bly get your heart checked up on World Heart Day. So how would you cel­e­brate World Sleep Day? By get­ting a good night’s sleep? While that does sound like an ex­cel­lent idea, ac­cord­ing to the Sleep Manag­ment In­sti­tute, a stag­ger­ing 30-50 per cent of peo­ple suf­fer from in­som­nia and sleep-re­lated is­sues. And that in­cludes me. Over the years I’ve tried ev­ery­thing to get a ‘good night’s sleep’ – from count­ing sheep and down­ing herbal reme­dies to in­vest­ing in ex­pen­sive pil­lows, bed­sheets and black­out cur­tains.

Sleep, or rather the lack of it, has had a toll on my per­sonal and pro­fes­sional life. I’ve turned up to of­fice hav­ing had lit­tle or no sleep at all, mak­ing con­cen­tra­tion dif­fi­cult.

I have said many times that if money could buy sleep, I’d be in­vest­ing in it heav­ily.

To that end, I’ve been trawl­ing the net for sleep solutions and have come across sleep apps, sleep di­ets… and sleep clin­ics.

So it was a pleas­ant sur­prise when I was as­signed a trip to Switzer­land to ex­pe­ri­ence a week-long sleep pro­gramme, at one of the lead­ing des­ti­na­tions for sleep solutions – the award-win­ning Clin­ique La Prairie (CPL) in Mon­treux.

More famed for its In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val, Mon­treux is a small Swiss town on the edge of Lake Geneva, with a stun­ning moun­tain back­drop.

The clinic was es­tab­lished in 1931 by Pro­fes­sor Paul Niehans, who pi­o­neered the idea of in­ject­ing pa­tients with tis­sue cells from lamb foe­tuses to stim­u­late cell re­ju­ve­na­tion, boost the im­mune sys­tem and slow down the age­ing process.

With its hefty price tag, the clinic is pop­u­lar with the rich and fa­mous. Ac­quired by Swiss en­tre­pre­neur Ar­min Mat­tli in the 1980s, he went on to de­velop the clinic, where a med­i­cal team of over 50 spe­cial­ists con­tinue to do re­search. The orig­i­nal clinic build­ing, a for­mer board­ing school, is now part of a mas­sive $50 mil­lion dol­lar Swissstyle build­ing com­plex, de­signed by Jac­ques Richter and Ig­na­cio Dahl Rocha, ar­chi­tects of the beau­ti­ful Nés­tle HQ build­ing in nearby Vevey. It’s con­nected via un­der­ground tun­nels, which has sparked many rumours of celebri­ties stay­ing at the clinic be­ing able to move from treat­ment to treat­ment in to­tal pri­vacy. The pro­grammes in­clude bet­ter mo­bil­ity, re­vi­tal­iza­tion and the new­est, sleep ther­apy – this was the one for me.

My dreams of sort­ing out my sleep is­sues started at Geneva Air­port, where I was met by one of CLP’s chauf­feurs. I’d had a long flight from Dubai and was ex­hausted.

Af­ter a 45-minute jour­ney past picturesque Lake Geneva to Mon­treux, I found the team ready to wel­come me to CPL.

Check-in done, I made my way to my room, which I hoped would be the venue for the best week’s sleep I’d ever had. Head­ing to bed ear­lier than usual, around 9.30pm, I was hop­ing to be fresh and wide-eyed for my first day. I drew the cur­tains, put my iPhone on silent, pulled back the sheets and lay down hop­ing this would be a good night.

That would only be a dream. At 4am I was still wide-eyed, star­ing at the ceil­ing. At 6am I de­cided I’d laid down enough and got up and caught up on the news. Was it be­cause of the strange sur­round­ings? A new place? A new bed?

I pe­rused my sched­ule, which had been slipped un­der the door. Sadly no break­fast yet, as I needed to get my body sta­tis­tics done on an empty stom­ach.

At 8am there was a soft knock on the door. Dr Françoise Ul­rich-Holden wheeled in a trol­ley stacked with mon­i­tors – my blood was taken, blood pres­sure and weight mea­sured.

My next visit was from the clinic’s di­eti­cian. Veron­ica talked me through what she had planned for me that week – food was also part of the sleep treat­ment. I ex­plained that I’d been fol­low­ing a healthy diet, with no take­aways or fast food. She told me that a Miche­lin-star chef would be pre­par­ing my 1,500-calo­rie be­spoke pro­gramme for the week, which I was in­stantly ex­cited about. I have never had a Miche­lin-star chef cook for me, so I was look­ing for­ward to her menu pro­posal.

Check­ing the timesheet, I could see this was go­ing to be a hec­tic day, with back-to­back ap­point­ments un­til 7pm.

Tests done, I had a light break­fast of ce­real and muffins on the ter­race over­look­ing land­scaped gar­dens with a stun­ning moun­tain back­drop – chilly but it was a change from the sear­ing heat of Dubai.

I then headed down to the med­i­cal cen­tre for my next round of tests. First stop was the gym, where I was met by per­sonal trainer Alex; he car­ried out a breath­ing anal­y­sis, BMI and heart rate. He didn’t seem at all alarmed by the read­ings as I rushed off to my next ap­point­ment at the aes­thetic and cos­metic surgery depart­ment: Let’s not for­get this is a pri­vate Swiss clinic. The cos­metic con­sul­tant asked if there were any pro­ce­dures I wanted while at CLP. I men­tioned I was un­happy with my frown lines.

‘Don’t frown then,’ she sug­gested as we both burst out in laugh­ter.

My next ap­point­ment was lunch – I was look­ing for­ward to this. I was shown to my ta­ble, which would be my per­sonal ta­ble for ev­ery meal that week.

TThe restau­rant was mod­ern in decor but not too fussy, and floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows al­lowed amaz­ing views of the moun­tains. My set three-course meal started with warm as­para­gus soup with lemon and thyme; the pre­sen­ta­tion was that of a five-star ho­tel. Next, fric­as­sée of ten­der chicken with ‘cher­moula’ mari­nade used in Al­ge­rian, Libyan, Mo­roc­can and Tu­nisian cook­ing, fol­lowed by pan-fried baby ba­nana and pas­sion fruit. Ver­dict: How can this be a ‘con­trolled meal plan’? It was ut­terly de­li­cious.

LLater that af­ter­noon I headed out of the com­pound to see the beauty that is Lake Geneva.

My fi­nal meet­ing for the day was one I hadn’t an­tic­i­pated. To dis­cover the rea­son for my bad sleep pat­tern, a tech­ni­cian at­tached 12 elec­trodes to my head, hooked up re­motely to a mon­i­tor and told me that I could en­joy the rest of the day.

Back in my room, I took a look at my­self in the mir­ror; I looked like a man with elec­tric dread­locks. Not want­ing to scare other din­ers, I opted for room ser­vice. It was tricky tuck­ing into my din­ner while be­ing en­twined in ca­bles.

Ap­par­ently, while I’m ‘sleep­ing’ the mon­i­tor records my brain­waves and eye move­ment, right from stage one, when the sleep is light­est, through to stage four, which is the heav­i­est, when the brain­waves are the slow­est.

That night I’m not sure I reached stage two, toss­ing and turn­ing all night try­ing not stran­gle my­self – pos­si­bly the worst night’s sleep I’d had for ages. The next morn­ing, the nurse came to my room to re­move my elec­tric dread­locks and re­lieved of the mass of wires, I en­joyed break­fast on the ter­race.

At my first meet­ing with Dr Sleep – aka Dr Olivier Staneczek, the spe­cial­ist in in­ter­nal medicine and respirol­ogy – we dis­cussed my progress so far, and he sug­gested another night of be­ing mon­i­tored. To get more re­sults, he ex­plained the pro­posed treat­ment would fol­low my heart, breath­ing, rapid eye move­ment, and give a de­tailed ac­count of my sleep cy­cle.

So af­ter the day’s tests and ap­point­ments, I re­turned to my room to get wired up. This time, elec­trodes were at­tached to my head, back and stom­ach, pipes were taped to my nose to mon­i­tor breath­ing and the mon­i­tor strapped around my belly. I looked like some­thing straight out of a sci-fi movie. As I climbed into bed, it was ap­par­ent this wasn’t go­ing to be easy or com­fort­able. I pre­fer sleep­ing on my tummy, but with all this equip­ment strapped to me, it was quite im­pos­si­ble. It felt like I had fallen asleep on the TV re­mote.

Over the next few days at the clinic, I un­der­went hyp­no­sis, in which I was asked ques­tions about my sleep pat­terns. I was also told to think of a place and time when I was to­tally re­laxed. It took me some time, but fi­nally, I re­mem­bered my time in Goa in the late 1990s. I was on ly­ing on a beach in Colva, lis­ten­ing to my CD walk­man, the wa­ter lap­ping my toes and my mind clear of the pres­sures of life. Sheer bliss.

Dr Fa­tima San­tos calmly talked me back to that place by telling me to relax, un­wind and feel the feel­ing I had then. I felt calm; her voice be­came less au­di­ble, and I think for a mo­ment I was there, on the beach. Mo­ments later I awoke feel­ing like I had been asleep for hours, and it felt like a re­ally good sleep. ‘That was awe­some’ I said.

She then told me to prac­tice some breath­ing ex­er­cises. It felt odd be­ing taught how to breathe, but as Dr Fa­tima ex­plained, these are all ways of re­lax­ing and pro­mot­ing sleep.

‘Give me another four’ shouted Emile, my per­sonal trainer. I gave him four more. It’s my third gym ses­sion as part of the pro­gramme, and the only dif­fer­ence from my reg­u­lar gym at home is that here I am work­ing out in the fresh moun­tain air.

I had reg­u­lar check-ups dur­ing the week – my blood pres­sure was mon­i­tored daily. I was by this stage get­ting into a rou­tine: Break­fast, gym, re­lax­ation mas­sages, walks around the lake and, of course, sump­tu­ous three-course

I had HYP­NO­SIS, in which I was asked ques­tions about my sleep PAT­TERNS. I was also told to think of a place and time when I was RE­LAXED

meals. My fi­nal day at the clinic was a tad nerve-rack­ing; the re­sults were in.

I waited out­side Dr Staneczek’s of­fice ready for di­ag­no­sis. ‘Mark, please come in and take a seat,’ he said.

He then asked if I had en­joyed the sleep pro­gramme and if I had slept. I ex­plained that I did have a few sleep­less nights but the ther­apy and re­lax­ation con­sul­ta­tions were help­ing.

He then opened my file and be­gan ex­plain­ing the re­sults of my var­i­ous tests.

Show­ing me the sleep re­sults he said ‘Mark, this is the area that con­cerns me. Last night your sleep was very bro­ken. The re­sults have demon­strated that you had stopped breath­ing.’ ‘I stopped breath­ing?’ I asked in shock. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘64 times’.

Dr Staneczek ex­plained that my is­sue was sleep apnoea – some­thing I had heard of, but I didn’t un­der­stand the symp­toms. He told me that my tongue lies too far back and blocks my res­pi­ra­tory pas­sage, caus­ing me to stop breath­ing and pre­vents me from sleep­ing. ‘Can this be treated?’ I asked. He of­fered three op­tions. Op­tion one, break my jaw­bone and in­crease the cav­ity that my tongue rests in, which he thought was an ex­treme mea­sure. I agreed.

The sec­ond op­tion – make my tongue thin­ner by sur­gi­cally re­mov­ing the skin from each side. I did not like the prospect.

The last op­tion, he said, was to have a brace fit­ted that would keep my wind­pipe open but this can be un­com­fort­able. I was shocked at the re­sults but equally re­lieved that af­ter years of sleep­less nights I fi­nally found the cause, and ways to treat the is­sue.

I’m tired of dis­cussing my lack of sleep. Fi­nally, I have con­crete ev­i­dence that I do have a con­di­tion. So what’s next? Hav­ing been pulled, pricked, stretched, mon­i­tored and taught how to breathe, I re­turned to Dubai with solutions to my sleep prob­lems.

I’ve ramped up my ex­er­cise rou­tine; con­tin­ued breath­ing ex­er­cises, my caf­feine con­sump­tion is at a min­i­mum, phone on night mode and my diet, al­beit non-Miche­lin star, is on track. I bid you good­night and hope you sleep well.

The some­what un­usual din­ner at­tire dur­ing my week of sleep ther­apy: I set­tled for tak­ing my Miche­lin-star food in my room – be­fore bed

The clinic on the shores of Lake Geneva may have a med­i­cal fo­cus, but the food plans and ambiance are that of a high-end ho­tel

Lux­ury and well­ness at the clinic, a favourite of celebri­ties and lu­mi­nar­ies, from Churchill to David Bowie to Cher

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