There is nothing more embarrassing than waking yourself up with a loud snore. A full night’s sleep became a thing of the past and was replaced with morning headaches and fatigue. I was tired all day long and getting through a ten hour work day was getting to be a chore.
I decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor. I was finally asking for help. My doctor listened to all my symptoms and complaints and looked up from her lap top computer and said that I had sleep apnea and wanted to make an appointment for a sleep study as soon as possible. My doctor explained that sleep apnea was a serious medical condition that was characterized by snoring and day time sleepiness. People who had sleep apnea complained of being sleepy and tired. They would snore and stop breathing in their sleep. Frequently, the spouse wakes up because of the snoring. My husband would wake me up and ask me to roll on my side.
The sleep study was an overnight stay at the hospital in a special area where you were placed in a room that looked very much like a bedroom. They mailed a list of requirements one week before your sleep study appointment. You were to be at the hospital by 6 p.m. and bring either pajama top and bottom or a sweat pant and a loose top. You could bring toiletries and bring your own pillow.
I was admitted to the Sleep Study area of the hospital and was taken to my bedroom. The nurse came in and explained that I would be given time to relax by reading or watching television. You could also bring in light snack food and bottled water. About 8 p.m. the nurse came into my room and told me she had to prepare me for my sleep studies. She placed electrode patches on various places on my scalp, face, arms and legs. Then long wires were attached to these electrodes and finally connected to a small bedside monitor. She also let me practice with a breathing device which was placed over my nose. This device was attached to long plastic tube which was connected to a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine that was placed at my bedside. The nurse explained that the CPAP machine would flow pressurized air through my nose and keep my airway open when I laid down to sleep. I would also be monitored by a camera all night and a call light was placed at my bedside, as getting out of bed was difficult due to the wires that were attached to your arms and legs.
Falling asleep wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. But I drifted off to sleep after a few episodes of tossing and turning. At about 12midnight, I was awakened by the nurse and given the nose piece to put on. This nose piece was held in place with a elastic strap placed over my head by my ears. Falling back asleep with this device attached to my nose was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I had to concentrate on keeping my mouth closed because as soon as I started to fall asleep my mouth breathing habit would take over and I would wake up with the air rushing out through my mouth. After a few episodes of mouth breathing, the nurse returned to my room and placed a chinstrap that kept my mouth from opening. I struggled with that chinstrap and needless to say it was a long night. In the morning the nurse gave me some information about my oxygen level without the breathing device. The normal oxygen level is 90-100%. I was at 65% oxygen level and that is not a good level.
Within a week of the Sleep Study I was using the CPAP machine every night and after one month of changing nose pieces I found that I could not tolerate the CPAP machine. I was placed on oxygen with the nasal cannula tubing which did not require the pressurized oxygen.
I also learned that sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that could lead to other problems such as heart problems. The risk factors related to snoring are heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and increased tiredness and sleep apnea.
Do not be afraid to let your doctor know about your abnormal sleeping habits. It could help prevent future health problems and give you a good night’s rest and peace of mind.