For about eight years now, I’ve been aware that I had an issue with sleeping. I remember my girlfriend waking me up and being very alarmed.
“You stopped breathing!”
Oh, that’s what that is, I thought to myself. I’d been aware that I’d been waking up periodically during the night and vaguely aware that it had something to do with breathing, but now I knew for sure. I had sleep apnea.
Fast forward to this past year when both my sleep apnea, and excessive and loud snoring have made sleeping difficult, both for myself and my wife and partner. Between the snoring and the sleep apnea, I haven’t had a solid, deep night of sleep in a long time and it shows. I’m tired most of the time and not just physically, but mentally. So, after thinking about it and saying I should do something for more than a year now, I finally went in to talk to a doctor about my problem.
I should mention that I’ve found a way to stop a lot of the throat snoring. My NP, who is also a throat snorer, recommended a mouth guard type device that helps create a bit more space in my throat. It works fairly well, though if I lie on my back, I’ll go back to snoring as usual. It also didn’t stop my nose snoring, though my wife says she can sleep through that. With the appliance in place, I’m getting better sleep – I’m not waking myself up from snoring anymore.
I still have the sleep apnea, though. And that means I still have the potential to develop a variety of nasty illnesses and conditions if I leave it untreated – high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, acid reflux/GERD, headaches, mental illness. Oh that last one. I remember when the girls were each babies and we were dealing with sleep deprivation on a grand scale – definitely within a hair’s breadth of depression and mental illness. Post-partum depression is easy to understand when you get no sleep for months on end.
For all these very good reasons, I got a referral to a sleep clinic in town and had a consultation. There was a stack of paper work for me to fill out including a little questionnaire to gauge my sleep issues, along the lines of ‘How likely are you to follow asleep in these circumstances’. I scored a 10+ which put me in the “Yep, you sure do have a sleep issue. Please don’t fall asleep in the waiting room.” Doc asked some questions, I filled him in on my history with sleep issues. I told him about my parents, who are both on CPAP machines to treat their sleep apnea. He took a look at my throat opening and reeled off a medical term that meant narrow throat opening’. It’s hereditary. Sometimes extreme weight gain will bring on sleep apnea, for me, even if I dropped a bunch of weight, I wouldn’t lose the sleep apnea. When I lie down on my back, and fall asleep, the base of my tongue collapses into the back of my throat and cuts it off.
Yep, not much question I’ve got sleep apnea, so I need a CPAP. And to get to that point I need to take a sleep study. He talked a bit about what a lab sleep study entailed. Then he asked about my insurance – which has a high deductible.. Yada yada.. So I’m holding off on all of it for now. Sleep apnea testing and treatment aren’t cheap.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about how I inherited this condition and about Darwinism. My genetic makeup is such that my body is likely to choke me in my sleep. Think on that for a moment. That’s a lovely thing to inherit from your ancestors, don’t you think?
The bummer about this, besides the list of health issues that can arise because of my condition, is how effing tired I am every day. I would take a nap every day if I could manage it. Sometimes I begin to nod off at work – usually in the afternoon, but sometimes in the morning, too. You might suggest that I go to sleep earlier in the evening but if I did that, 1) my sleep quality is such that I’m not sure I’d get more quality rest and 2) I need that time to socialize, hang with my loves, have sex, do creative work, etc. It’s a bad cycle, I know. I stay up until at least 10 at night, I’m up fairly early most days, I’m sleepy throughout the day. I fantasize sometimes about being well rested and what kind of difference that would make in my ability to focus on my relationships and creative work. And feel better.
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