At any moment in his life Woodville's Warren Jones could have fallen asleep, never to wake up.

Suffering from chronic sleep apnoea, Mr Jones told the Dannevirke News there was a time when he could have "gone to sleep forever".

Eighteen months ago, a sleep apnoea machine became his lifeline and now the Woodville Lions Club is leading the way, supporting Mr Jones' sleep-disorder project with the establishment of a New Zealand first, the Sleep Health Foundation of New Zealand, to help save the lives of others.

"This builds on the Woodville Lions' wonderful succession with all our projects bigger than our region," Mr Jones said.


"In October last year our Lions club voted to endorse, support and promote the sleep-disorder project, with our president, Peter Bonser, and me tasked with progressing the project to Lions District and ultimately national level."

For Shirley Hull, wife of the Woodville Lions secretary Neal Hull, Mr Jones is inspirational.

"He's been shining the spotlight on this issue and his personal story is the driver of this," she said. "When I first met Warren six years ago, I was really worried about his health. People would say, 'Oh, it's just Warren falling asleep in a meeting'. But that wasn't the case. In fact, I didn't think Warren would be here today.

"But within a few weeks of getting that sleep apnoea machine he was a different man - it just blew me away. "

Mr Jones has spent a year working on putting the project together, recognising his Woodville Lions Club would be the perfect vehicle to get the sleep foundation up and running.

"Warren is a diamond," Mrs Hull said. "He's a driver and that's what every project and organisation needs. He's got a big heart, a passion and it's amazing what he and the Woodville Lions Club are doing in grassroots New Zealand."

Mrs Hull visited the Massey University Sleep/Wake Research Centre in Wellington to learn more about the condition.

"There's a huge recognition what a lack of sleep can have for everyone, from truck drivers to children and now for the Woodville Lions to be leading the way, with a charitable trust in the process of being established, it's amazing," she said.

"Our foundation is modelled on an Australian one and we'll be driving and supporting positive action to provide relief for sufferers of sleep disorders," Mr Jones said.

"You know, a year and a half ago I didn't think I'd be here, but now the Woodville Lions have the ultimate aim to run a national sleep/health awareness week and we're looking to the government, community and anyone else interested in helping. "

Facts of death by sleeping:

* There are potentially more than 2500 COSA-afflicted operators of heavy truck and trailer rigs on our roads, with thousands more in smaller, lighter vehicles.

* New Zealand Police Traffic Safety Division says accident-injury cost to the taxpayer is $600,000 plus and $3,500,000 plus if the accident is fatal.

* Estimated cost of sleep-attributed traffic and workplace accidents to our economy will exceed $2 billion this year.

* Research shows there are probably more than 400,000 New Zealanders whose lives are significantly harmed by diagnosable sleep disorders. Of these, more than half are afflicted with a potentially terminal condition known as chronic obstructive sleep apnoea (COSA).