A FATHER who was once the most sleep deprived person in the UK is warning others about the dangers of skipping snoozing.

Phillip Skeates, from Moredon, hit the headlines in 2008 when doctors diagnosed him with the worst case of sleep apnoea in the country – surviving on just 14 minutes sleep a night.

Sleep apnoea caused the 46-year-old’s airways to close up to 90 times an hour, after which he would briefly wake up without regaining consciousness before the process would begin again.

The father-of-three was unaware of the condition for two decades and only sought medical advice when his wife Lisa complained about his loud snoring, which is a common side effect of the condition.

Phillip weighed in on the sleep debate after esteemed Oxford University neuroscientist Russell Foster said that early risers who survive on little sleep have such severe brain impairment, they may as well be drunk.

The former lorry driver said: “I wouldn’t agree that sleep deprivation is the same as being drunk. That’s completely different, that’s a whole new level of impairment but people aren’t able survive on that little sleep.

“I’ve had friends and spoken to people who think it’s great they need less sleep and can survive on caffeine and energy drinks to get them through.

“I can categorically say that is not the case, you’re severely mentally impaired regardless of what you drink or eat.

“I would go to sleep at 9pm and wake up at 8am, then I’d literally be falling asleep in my chair, I was exhausted all the time.

Phillip, who had two car accidents due to nodding off behind the wheel, said the sleep disorder threatened his marriage and his family life.

“It was terrifying, I spun my car and I didn’t know what was happening, I could’ve been killed. I was short-tempered due to being so tired and my family received all of that. It could have ended my marriage.

“My message is, don’t miss out on proper rest because it can have fatal consequences.”

Following his diagnosis, Phillip was referred him to the Great Western Hospital’s Sleep Service for treatment and the hospital installed a continuous positive airway pressure machine at his home.

It forces air into the lungs through an oxygen mask while he sleeps.

And it means Phillip manages a blissful five to six hours nightly.

“People think it doesn’t matter, I’m proof that it does.

“This machine changed my life – it gave me life back,” he said.

Dr Anthony Kerry, consultant physician at the Great Western Hospital, said: “Too little sleep can lead to poor levels of concentration, fatigue and irresistible drowsiness and falling asleep.

“There is evidence that sleepiness and fatigue are responsible for about 20 percent of driving accidents.

“Many of these sleep-related accidents are due to lifestyle issues, such as driving without sleep, and often happen at times when levels of concentration are low such as in the afternoon and at night.”