The Challenge of Life With Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Have you heard of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, but aren’t really sure what it’s all about? This article will help you understand it better. And although the following story is fictional, the events are taken from real life experiences. It’s about a fellow I’ll call Ron, who has Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA.

This is his story.

Ron’s Story

“Honey, you’re gonna be late for work!! Hurry up!”  Once again, Ron drags himself out of bed, his head throbbing. ‘Why do I always wake up with these @#$% headaches?’ he wonders as he staggers to the bathroom in a daze.

Ron, a fairly overweight 54 year old, works down at the local factory. He’s on several medications for both high blood pressure and diabetes. And just like this morning, he usually wakes with a headache.

Sue, his wife, has been concerned about Ron for some time. His loud snoring eventually led them to sleep in separate bedrooms so that she can get some sleep. But it’s those anxious moments when he stops breathing that are especially alarming to Sue. She’s told Ron about these things, but he doesn’t believe her and says he’s just fine.

But Sue also notices that he’s just not himself lately. He easily becomes irritable, and she suspects he might be depressed.

Looking at himself in the mirror he groans ‘you can do this’. Although that little pep talk really doesn’t do much, it’s still better than nothing. Splashing some water on his face, he mentally prepares for the day. As he lumbers down the steps, he smells his favorite coffee waiting for him.

Coffee. “That’s what I need”. Just the thought lifts his mood a bit.

Slamming down his breakfast, he fills his mug with more Java and heads off to work. His headache is gone by the time he pulls into the parking lot, and the coffee is kicking in. But, he knows this level of wakefulness won’t last long. For some reason, this reminds him of a conversation he had with a co-worker. They had mentioned something about obstructive sleep apnea. But Ron just shrugged it off.

He drinks some more coffee at his morning break and has an energy drink with his noon meal. But by the afternoon, he’s struggling to stay awake. He got some more coffee, but it’s not doing much good at this point. Finally, after fighting sleep all afternoon, it’s time to clock out for the day.  He feels like he weighs a ton as he walks out to his truck. ‘I just wanna lay down’, he thinks to himself, blinking the sleep from his eyes.

But he has to drive home yet. Good thing he doesn’t have far to go. He climbs into his pickup and pulls out of the parking lot…The loud screech of car tires startles him, as he realizes he had just pulled out in front of someone. Ron’s not very alert at this point.

In fact, most of his drives home are performed with numerous battles to stay awake. There are even times he doesn’t remember parts of the drive home. ‘Funny I haven’t killed someone yet’, Ron thinks as he fights the strong urge to just close his eyes and drift off to sleep.

Does Ron Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

He hasn’t told his wife about those near accidents, and how he struggles to stay awake. He just doesn’t want her to worry. ‘Besides’, Ron says to himself, ‘I’ve done o.k. all this time.’ And actually, when he thinks about it, there are some days where he doesn’t feel bad at all. But Sue is all too aware. And she’s quite concerned. In fact, she finally convinces Ron to at least talk with his Dr. “You snore and sometimes you actually stop breathing. That scares me.” She says.

“O.K.”, Ron replied, “I’ll talk to him at my next check up”.

Ron visits his Doctor

Sue accompanies Ron to his next annual physical. And there she tells his Doctor all about Ron’s sleep habits. The Doctor asks Ron some pointed questions, which includes a sleep questionnaire. This assesses’s his level of sleepiness throughout the day. Ron’s answers are alarming. They show he’s bordering on dangerously sleepy.

Additionally, when his Doctor points out that obstructive sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and lead to sudden death, Ron takes notice. He remembers how loud his dad would snore. And he passed away from a massive heart attack when he was only 50. Ron figures he’s already beating the odds.

His Doctor also explained how obstructive sleep apnea can cause numerous trips to the bathroom.

“What happens is this” Ron’s Dr. began. “Obstructive sleep apnea causes stress . And this stress makes your body think there’s extra fluid around your heart. So it flushes out what fluid is there. Hence the extra trips to the bathroom”.

Between his Dr. and his wife, Ron is beginning to see the seriousness of what he’s facing. So when his Dr. orders a sleep study, he actually feels some relief.

Ron has a Sleep Study

Ron’s sleep study shows that he stops breathing around 30 times an hour. He’s placed on a CPAP machine at a pressure of 9 CmH20.  It takes Ron a couple weeks to really start getting used to the machine, but he’s glad he didn’t give up. Now, he can’t believe how much better he actually feels. And no more waking up with a headache.Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Also, his blood pressure is coming down, so Ron’s Dr. decreased his blood pressure meds. His blood sugar number look better too! Not only that, but his wife notices that he’s in a much better mood lately. And they’re back sleeping in the same bed.

Conclusion

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea something that you struggle with? Is there anything about Ron’s story that sounds familiar? If so, I’d recommend you talk with your Doctor. Or maybe you know someone that’s suffering from this disorder. If so, you could possibly save a life. Seriously.

Till next time…Blessings.

The Things That I do put Most People to Sleep

I just want to let my hair down (LOL, I don’t have that much!), and share some things on a more personal level. But I’ll also not sugar coat anything about the reality of sleep apnea. So, yeah, this’s a friendly chat; but friends don’t let friends die before their time. (I know, I have to ruin everything don’t I?)

I Have Sleep Super Powers

As I sit down at the controls I take a look at my monitors. Both screens show nice crisp signals, so I ease Sleepback a bit and keep an eye on things; waiting for my patients to fall asleep, and some real activity to begin. How’s that for being different? It’s not until my patients are asleep that things really start to happen.

Yet, a sense of peace comes over me as I watch the monitors, and everything gets kinda surreal, like I’m in another world; or on another planet.

Sitting here, I began to think back on things; and take some amusement in the fact that, among my many talents, I’m a CPAP Ninja!  That’s right! I have the ability to go into my patient’s room and start them on CPAP without rousing them!

Some will wake in the morning wondering when I came in and put the mask on. But actually, it’s not that I’m really that good, these patients are just that sleep deprived.

Common comments I get are, “It must be pretty boring watching people sleep”; and, “How do you stay awake all night?”

Those remarks used to really bother me, because, here I am literally saving people’s lives, and all I get is ‘it must be so boring, how can you stay awake?’ And yet, it just shows me how little people understand about what happens, or doesn’t happen but should, while they sleep.

Then I find myself going back in time and recalling all the patients  I’ve helped; and the knowledge that, yes, I really am actually saving people’s lives.

That’s a Dumb Question!

One guy comes to mind. I have my patients fill out some paperwork before the study starts. I’m in the control room, which is right outside the patient’s rooms, when this guy calls out, “What kind of question is this?” I went to his door and asked: “What do you mean?”

“This question”, he says, ” ‘Has today been unusual in any respect?’ Really,” he said looking up at me a bit sarcastically,  “I’m having a !@#$ sleep study, and you’re wondering if today’s been different in any way?”

I’m not sure if he’s serious or just joking, so I simply respond with “I guess the question should be reworded to read, ‘Up until now, has the day been unusual in any respect?”

Just the Facts Ma’am

The patients that have sleep studies come from all walks of life, and all ages. From infants, all the way to those towards the end of their lives. However, the ‘average’ patient is an obese middle aged male.

And yes, sleep apnea can run in families. This is because you inherit the physical characteristics that make sleep apnea more likely; such as a short thick neck; and being overweight. Among other characteristics.

Also, it’s estimated that 1 out of 5 Americans have mild sleep apnea. Although, by the time people are seen in the sleep lab, those numbers are significantly higher. For example, the average number of people placed on treatment during a sleep study is 50%-75% or more. Additionally, as many as 80% of people with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.

However, this disorder is more common in men than women; or is it? Check out my article that addresses this:

http://sleepguyblog.com/bias-diagnosis-sleep-disorders-women/

Sleep Well and Prosper

So many people think that treating sleep disorders is only about sleeping better. I hear people say they don’t even know why they’re at the sleep lab because they don’t have any problem sleeping.

For example, I have patient’s, come to the lab and do their version of sleep. Many times, these same people tell me they sleep just fine and don’t know why they’re here.

And yet that same person might have high blood pressure, or other heart issues, or be diabetic. When I explain how their heart condition or diabetes might just be caused by sleep apnea they start thinking. Unless, of course, they’re in denial; and there’s a lot of that out there.

Maybe they really believe they’re sleeping well. Maybe they know something’s wrong, but just don’t want to see a Doctor. Seems that most people seen in the sleep lab are there because someone else noticed a problem.

Usually, it’s a spouse or significant other that has the complaint. That’s because they’re the ones kept awake by loud snoring, or ‘all that thrashing about’ during the night. Many couples no longer sleep in the same bed, or even the same room for this very reason!

Then, there are patients who hope that sleep apnea is the problem, and CPAP is the answer. However, they don’t ‘qualify’ for treatment. Then, when I get them up in the morning, and they realize they don’t have the mask on, they quietly go about finishing the morning paperwork; leaving the lab in silence.

I feel sorry for those people really; here’s one more thing that isn’t their problem. It’s unfortunate because not knowing can be worse than knowing. I guess I can’t be Superman to everyone.

 Closing Thoughts on Sleep

So what do you think? Because although more and more people are hearing about sleep apnea, there’s still much work to be done in the way of educating the general population about this outright deadly, but easily treatable, disorder.

Please don’t let denial kill you or someone you love.

Therefore, carefully consider your life or that of the one you love; and if you have any questions or concerns, leave a comment. Who knows, you might just share something that could help someone else.

I’ll also do my best to answer any questions, and/or respond to your comments. Thank you.

Till next time…Blessings.