Sleep Apnea

According to the Sleep Foundation:

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. Another form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common than central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, or simply sleep apnea, can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of drowsy driving.

I was first tested for sleep apnea when I was in graduate school in Bowling Green, Ohio. I snored very loudly and also had very bad morning drowsiness. This brought me into the sleep lab, which is a bit of a challenging experience. You are hooked up to countless wires and then expected to sleep a good night’s sleep while they monitor you through one way glass. I had a heck of a time getting asleep, but apparently I was asleep enough to receive a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea [OSA]. I wasn’t surprised and fully expected to be told I had OSA. I then had to go back a second time where they hooked me up to a C-PAP machine to find the correct pressure to make sure that I was breathing safely throughout the night. It kind of sucked having to go to the sleep lab for two full nights. But I came up with a C-PAP that was calibrated to the correct pressure and was ready to use.

To say that it was difficult to get used to is an extreme understatement. The mask is uncomfortable and makes you feel claustrophobic. The air can escape outside the sides meaning constant adjustment due to leakage of the air. t can feel way too tight. I didn’t like it but I used it for a few years. Then I just stopped using it for a few years.

When I came back to NH, I started experiencing very bad morning sleepiness again and decided I need to get another C-PAP machine. Although my parents were in a whole other room with the door closed, they could still hear me snoring down the hall. In 2012 I went to Portsmouth NH and went through the same process with being hooked up to endless wires and expected to sleep. One positive change I can report is that they were able to do both the OSA test and the C-PAP test on ONE night. They did the OSA test for half the night and the C-PAP machine for the other half. This cut down the testing in the sleep lab from two nights to one, which I was very grateful for.

Since 2012, I have been faithfully using the C-PAP during the night. On Occasion I pull it off when I am barely awake or I don’t use it when I am taking a nap. But otherwise I use it and find that I sleep better and feel much less sleepiness in the morning.

A C-PAP mask is not a cute look but it is necessary for one’s health. I know there are many people who don’t know that they have OSA and suffer needlessly from it. While the C-PAP is inconvenient and somewhat uncomfortable it is still better than not using anything given the serious symptoms of OSA.