Excuse me for interrupting but . . .
…Several years ago I was experiencing nightly pain in my arm (not a heart attack) or pounding in my ears (not a brain tumor) or violent shaking of my body (no, not whatever disease is associated with that). The source? My wife, Debbie.
It turned out my snoring was keeping her awake (sound familiar?) and the only ways she could get me to stop were to punch me in my arm (though she claims it was only a light, loving rub), to slap the mattress (as close to my head as possible and this one she doesn’t deny) or violently shake me (again, she still claims these were gentle movements . . . but they were not).
Finally, after the perpetual feeling of exhaustion and eyes that were developing dark bags (these conditions being shared by both Debbie and me), I consulted my doctor, who directed me to a sleep clinic for an evaluation to see if I had sleep apnea.
I was less than thrilled, but after reading about the down sides of sleep apnea (high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, headaches, and the list goes on . . . all scary stuff), I was packing my bag for the sleep clinic (though the truth is, no bag was needed). My fears were unfounded (as is so often the case).
I arrived at the clinic, was shown to a totally non-descript room (hence, no description will be provided), was given a hospital gown (with the option of leaving it open in the front or the back . . . such decisions), and was instructed to make myself comfortable on the bed (the comfort part never happened). Then, electrodes were attached to my chest, abdomen (I knew I should have done more core exercises) and legs. When I asked why the legs, the unsatisfying answer was that it was part of the test – so helpful! I soon drifted off to sleep only to be awoken 45 minutes later to be told there was no need to continue as I definitely was suffering from sleep apnea. I was immediately fitted with a breathing device and back to sleep I went.
The next morning, I was shown the results and if I wasn’t wide awake before, I became so very quickly. My breathing was stopping every minute, my oxygen levels were dipping quite low and my body was struggling for air (which for me means survival). The electrode squiggles showed when my chest was flexing to try to force the air through my closed airway (that’s the way it works), when that failed, my abdomen started to pulse to add force to the lungs and create more pressure on the blocked passage, and when even that failed, my legs gave a kick that startled the rest of my body enough to get the air flowing.
I am exhausted even writing about this.
I was told that I would need to use a CPAP (Continual Positive Air Pressure) machine with a facial mask if I wanted to address the sleep apnea. Now, while I look like Darth Vader when I go to sleep, I am willing to accept that fate to keep my health, and Debbie, in addition to knowing that it is for the greater good, tolerates the look and actually finds the sound of the CPAP machine to be like a white noise device.
So, if you know someone who snores (and be assured that sleep apnea affects both men and women), please get it checked out. Oh, and one final thing, when I told Debbie that my breathing was stopping every minute for an extended period, she shared with me that there were many times when she would watch me at night and wonder if I were going to take another breath, to which I say . . . seriously????