I have finally given in.
After years of pain and discomfort (Carol’s pain and discomfort, not mine) I was finally convinced by my bed co-inhabitant to seek the help SHE needed! The dreaded CPAP …
OK … Sleep Apnea is not really a funny issue, unless you try to make it one. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious issue. For most people it can manifest in a number of ways that most people might assume result from just a poor night’s sleep. Sleepiness during the day, irritability, morning headaches, even frequent bedtime trips to the bathroom are some of the innocuous signs that something is messing with your sleep.
But it can be much, much more dangerous, as sleep apnea is also capable of triggering strokes and cardiac arrest. In the worst cases, it can even cause death!
Interestingly enough, my symptoms included one not listed in most information on the condition. I would constantly be jarred awake by sharp, stabbing pains in my ribs.
Carol has Gary Dornhoefer elbows!
And those occurrences are perhaps the biggest reason to seek treatment. No one looks forward to the constant … uh … verbal encouragements of one’s wife … Constant, persistent, never-ending encouragements to get something done. Yet I was remarkably resilient in resisting those provocations!
I was NOT going to be wearing one of those obnoxious, intrusive facemasks and try to sleep while connected by tubes to a loud screeching machine! Not me …
And so Life and wife have a way of “encouraging” compromises.
The Light came on for me when I noticed an increased difficulty in staying sufficiently alert during the day, despite my daily lunchtime catnap habit. The Light became a glaring accusation once I found myself nodding off driving home from work.
The first step in resolving a problem is recognizing you have one … or actually listening to the one constantly, persistently trying to convince you that you have one.
So what I learned was both interesting and frightening. My at-home testing revealed that I was experiencing an apnea episode, where breathing is obstructed by the throat’s soft palate, 7-8 times an HOUR! And that – I was assured – was not nearly as bad as the worst cases, which can occur up to 30 times or more an hour!
The really scary part is that you can actually stop breathing. Carol would tell me of listening to me stop breathing for seemingly long stretches and then convulsing in fits of guttural hacking. Of course I challenged her to show me.
Sleep apnea tends to occur in adults who are overweight (check … but only slightly!). But it can occur in anyone, at any age … even children can develop it. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and the one for which I am being treated. Central Sleep Apnea is neurological in nature, where the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Although I have no data to back this up, I was also told that a high percentage of men with necks requiring shirt collars sized 17 and up are more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, a large percentage of unwitting sufferers with partners possessing sharp pointy elbows are more likely to seek treatment, if – for no other reason – than ending that constant, persistent spousal “encouragement”.
What most surprised me was the effectiveness and relative unobtrusive nature of CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) treatments. The machine I was provided (ResMed AirSense 10 … roughly $190. co-pay from my healthcare plan) is much quieter than I expected, having heard nightmare about noisy contraptions rivaling window air conditioners in ruling the nighttime environment. The masks used to provide the CPAP benefit come in three styles ranging from full mouth and nose cover to simple nasal pillows (the ones I use) that nestle snuggly against the nostrils. No need to be limited to full, intrusive face masks!
After three months of use, I have to admit I am sleeping better; maintaining wakefulness longer; and making fewer trips to the bathroom at night.
Now everyone is happier, and my bruised ribs are finally healing!