Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.
Right off the bat I want to say I am NOT a doctor and this post is a heads up to consult your doctor.
Does This Sound Familiar?
- Loud and chronic snoring.
- Choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep.
- Long pauses in breathing.
- Daytime sleepiness, no matter how much time you spend in bed.
You might be totally unaware of these events. But your partner lives with them. If they’re complaining, that’s a warning flag.
Live Alone? Any of these ring a bell?
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Restless or fitful sleep
- Insomnia or nighttime awakenings
- Going to the bathroom frequently during the night
- Waking up feeling out of breath
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness, irritability, or depression
- Have you stopped dreaming?
In the spirit of total disclosure, I have to say I’ve been recently diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. With 20/20 hindsight I ignored the warnings for decades. I instinctively developed coping mechanisms and an unhealthy dose of denial. I was convinced that you don’t call in sick just because you had a hard time sleeping last night. I was proud that I spent the 80’s on Night Shift with the Air Force. Twelve hour shifts, seven days a week as a Radio Shack manager was part of the job.
Is This You?
- Are you obese?
- Are you diabetic or been diagnosed as pre-diabetic?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Are you a man?
- Are you middle aged?
- Do people think you’re an asshole?
As your body is deprived of oxygen and restful sleep these other disorders present themselves. Women and children can develop SA, but if you’re an old fat dude you’re in the danger group.
How Bad Can This Get?
Sleep Apnea is a sleeping monster (no pun intended, sort of). It can make holding a job difficult or impossible. If you’re divorced you might want to ask the ex if she noticed SA behaviors. If she’ll still talk to you. If she thinks you’re an asshole. Bazinga! Being bitchy and irritable becomes a life style.
I had a big wake up call recently. A close friend was diagnosed with SA and had been bugging me to take a look at it. I was having more episodes of unconsciousness. I “slept” through an entire movie in the theater. He told me that it was my body in emergency mode. That it was shutting down at any chance it could get. It was the final stages of SA that would end with a heart attack or stroke.
My son the RN filled in the why for me.
- Your heart races all the time to pump what oxygen you have in your blood to where it needs to be and eventually says “fuck it” and stops.
- Your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen and slows allowing blood clots to form and then it’s a race between a clot causing a stroke or the heart muscle dies from lack of oxygen.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ME
Back in 2008 I vacationed with my adult kids. They were worried about me and set me up to see if Dad was a big fat liar. My sister-in-law the RN came down from North Carolina and decided to “sleep with Dad in the living room”. I had the couch and she was on the Lazy Boy. Watching me sleep. At breakfast she told me I probably had sleep apnea and I gave her the big “sure, whatever”.
As the years wound out my daughter (now 13) got into the habit of checking my pulse when she caught me napping. I ignored that. When my DOCTOR told me to schedule a sleep study. I IGNORED HER!! Why? Because the thought of being on a gurney and trying to sleep while everyone watched was not my idea of fun.
WHAT I WISHED ANYONE WOULD HAVE TOLD ME
This is the point of this post. Maybe someone will read it and be motivated to seek help.
I got my sleep study last week. If someone would’ve told me it would be at a facility set up like a high class whore house or nice motel I would have gone earlier.
When the attendant wired me up with all the sensors I had the thought that “this is probably what it feels like to get strapped to the electric chair”. In reality, it wasn’t so bad. I jumped into bed and they plugged me in and tucked me in. With a sincere “night, night” they turned off the lights and closed the door.
I started watching “Person of Interest”. It was 10pm.
I fell asleep in seven minutes. I stopped breathing five times in those seven minutes. Read that again and let it soak in. What drove me to a doctor was an episode of “Deadliest Catch” wherein one of the fishermen, a 20 something healthy guy DIED SUDDENLY OF SLEEP APNEA. He stopped breathing while asleep and didn’t start breathing again…ever.
My doctor wisely scheduled me for a “Split Study”. The ground rules were that if I stopped breathing more than 30 times they’d intervene with a CPAC mask. This happened at 2am. The time I usually wake up at home. What a coincidence. Because it was determined that I was a mouth breather, I got a really cool aviation style mask.
I slept until 5am. Really slept. For the first time in decades. When I woke up all my “Gulf War Syndrome” symptoms were GONE.
- No tingly feelings in my hands.
- No numbness in my legs.
- No head ache.
- No muscle weakness.
- No muscle aches.
- I peed like a human being.
Most importantly. I woke up refreshed and alive. Not groggy. I didn’t need a coffee. My mind seemed to have shuttered open and my thought processes weren’t mush. I even seemed to see better.
That was after three hours on the mask. By the next day all the symptoms came back. I want the mask right now. My wife will have to sleep Darth Vader but I will live. I might even get my job back.
Many,many thanks to the people who Love me and nice folks at
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