Confessions of a Sleep Apnea Patient
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
One of my SparkFriends was just diagnosed with sleep apnea. This blog started as a comment on her blog. I wanted to share my experince with sleep apnea so she would know what to expect. Then I typed so much that I figued I'd post it as blog. I hope others can benefit from my experiences.
About 4 or 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I got a CPAP (the most effective treatment), which basically blows air into your airway to keep it open. When I first got my CPAP, I found it extremely uncomfortable. Even when I tried to use it, I'd unconsciously pull it off while I slept. But I stuck with it, and I got used to it. I also got used to breathing while a machine is constantly blowing air into my nose. It a weird feeling at first. Now I don’t find it uncomfortable anymore. The quality of my sleep has greatly improved. Before I was diagnosed, I was always tired and would doze anywhere: in meetings, at my desk at work, while in the middle of a conversation with my wife (she didn’t appreciate that), even while driving. That last one is what really prompted me to go to see a sleep specialist. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I don’t remember the specific numbers (they tell you how many times you stop breathing and wake up every night and how long you're not breathing each time), but I do remember my doctor said it was one of the worse cases that she’s seen. After I started consistently using the CPAP, I feel much better (when I actually get a full night of sleep, but that’s a different issue). I’m better rested, more alert, and have more energy.
Even so, having to use a CPAP is still an inconvenience. Needing to sleep with a CPAP prevents me from taking naps on the sofa. My wife is refreshed after a nap, but since I don’t have my CPAP a midday nap on the sofa does nothing for me. Also on the occasion that a fall asleep somewhere else (e.g. in the rocking chair in my son’s room while putting him to bed), I’m extremely tired the next day because I slept half the night without my CPAP. There can also be some challenges managing the use of a CPAP and your sex life. Without sharing too much information, it can be another situation where I end up sleeping without my CPAP. (I bring it up because it’s a real situation to be aware of.) There are times when I get frustrated with these inconveniences and consider having the surgery. I probably would have surgery if it was a guaranteed cure, but my doctor said that only about 50% of people see any improvement and less than that are cured.
One of the reasons that I want to lose weight is to improve (or potentially cure) my sleep apnea. Being overweight is definitely a contributing factor to sleep apnea, and having untreated sleep apnea makes it harder to lose weight, so it can be a vicious cycle. Also untreated sleep apnea can contribute to a bunch of cardio-vascular issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, etc. I want to be around for a long time. It’s just another situation where I have to focus on taking care of myself, so that I can be there for the people I love.
Anybody else have sleep apnea? Did you choose CPAP or surgery? Do you have a similar set of experiences? How do you manage?