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Why I Produced Sleep-Safe
Anti-Suffocation Pillows
By Don Alderton
a Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

After I qualified as a pharmacist, and my wife as a health visitor
- a trained nurse who visits people in their homes to assist or advise the chronically ill and parents with very young children -
I developed Sleep-Safe pillows because our son's seizures made us desperately concerned about his safety while he slept.
During the convulsions his breathing became spasmodic and laboured, for brief periods he would cease breathing entirely and he would contort terribly. On several occasions we found him forcefully wedged into his pillow, and we feared very much that if he became tightly entrapped during a sleep seizure he would suffer brain injury or even die due to lack of oxygen. We could minimise sheets and blankets, but all standard domestic pillows seemed fundamentally unsafe.

The benefits of Sleep-Safe anti-suffocation pillows go beyond helping to prevent the death or injury of the person who is actually affected by seizures:

Sleep-Safe pillows can help to break the cycle of fear which results in disturbed sleep patterns, anxiety, depression, and which often leads to a profound deterioration in the quality of life for the entire family.

In the UK, each year, epilepsy alone results in about 1,100 deaths and 44,000 emergency hospital admissions, and most of these are sudden and unexpected and occur usually at night. 1, 2

Each emergency admission lasts about 4 days, and in most cases no imaging, neurophysiological or neuropsychological procedures take place. Many emergency admissions may be `panic responses' due to deep anxiety about brain injury that may have resulted. 3

Sleep-safe are not just for people with epilepsy, but also for the management of seizures caused by most conditions that disrupt the normal functioning of the brain. These include the ongoing effects of congenital and developmental conditions such as Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder, also acquired brain injury following falls, vehicle accidents and assaults and the aftermath of meningitis, stroke and brain tumour.

So, Sleep-Safe help to reduce greatly the “carer anxiety” of sleep seizures -the fear of the consequences of suffocation - putting carers and patients back in control of their lives by relieving a significant cause of family stress. As a result, management of the underlying medical condition can become much less demanding.

1. National Sentinel Clinical Audit of Epilepsy-Related Death, Epilepsy Bereaved, HMSO 2002
2. Langan Y, Nashef L, Sander JW. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: a series of witnessed deaths J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2000; 68:211-213
3.  Hospital Episode Statistics, HES Online 2015

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Brief Biographies
Don and Chris Alderton

Don Alderton has worked in health care since 1963, and served fourteen years in hospitals and field medical units of the Royal Army Medical Corps. After three years service in the Trucial Oman Scouts, a  Bedouin Arab force in the Trucial States, he left the army to go to university and then to qualify as a pharmacist. He has managed and owned a number of pharmacies and has worked as the medical devices registration specialist for a leading surgical equipment manufacturer.

His experience in medical device regulation makes him well qualified to ensure that Sleep-Safe Anti-Suffocation pillows conform to the essential requirements of UK legislation and the relevant EU Directives.

He is registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and his vocation as a pharmacist ensures that he keeps well up todate with health care issues. He gives presentations to interested groups on `The Actions and Uses of Drugs', covering a variety of topics.

For six years Don was Secretary of the Chester Branch of Arthritis Care (400+ members) with overall responsibility for co-coordinating the group activities including hydrotherapy, holidays and branch meetings. During that time he negotiated a substantial 3-year National Lottery grant which enabled the introduction of new local initiatives aimed at reducing the problems of social isolation stemming from disability and low income.

Chris Alderton MA is a health visitor and psychotherapist and she and her colleague Kath Bennett offer a variety of mindfulness based courses through Mindful Choices.

Health and social work is increasingly carried out in a multi-agency environment where professionals communicate with a range of colleagues from different disciplines - including medical and nursing staff, social services and housing - in order to deliver the best support and care for their patients, service users and clients.

All the training modules are underpinned by the principle of promoting a sense of personal empowerment which enables health and social care professionals to resolve some of the key issues affecting their practice.

Don and Chris have two grown up children.