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Sleep Apnea: What Is It? And Do I have It?

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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where the person stops breathing several times during sleep.  There are two kinds of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea – The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. 1

Central Sleep Apnea – Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center. 2

My Personal Story

In early 2011, I began feeling tired even when I had just awakened from a night’s sleep.  I felt groggy all day and just didn’t seem like I had adequate rest.  It really became apparent when I couldn’t remember the 25-minute drive to work.  Then it escalated to me actually falling asleep while driving.  This scared me into action.  I contacted my doctor and told him what was going on.  He scheduled an overnight sleep study.

The sleep study consists of two parts.  A machine with sensors monitors the sleep pattern, brain activity, and even restless leg syndrome of the patient.  A doctor (in my case a pulmonary doctor) receives the results:  how many times I stopped breathing and if I ever reached REM.  With these results, the doctor is able to recommend a setting for the CPAP machine.

The second part of the overnight sleep study is the monitoring of the settings recommended by the doctor.  The results are reviewed to confirm the recommended settings.  After confirmation of the settings, a prescription is written for a CPAP machine and  CPAP supplies i.e. filters, hose, and mask.  The CPAP machine is programmed with the required settings specified for the patient.

Acceptance

I struggled in the beginning with having to wear the mask and being hooked up to the machine.  I’ve gone long periods of time without using it.  Only to have my symptoms come back.  I’ve now accepted that this is a part of my life.  If I lose weight, I may or may not be able to lose the CPAP machine.  The most important aspect of this to me now is making sure I get quality sleep so I don’t endanger the lives of my children or other people on the road with me.

Misconceptions

Many people believe this is an overweight person’s problem.  I know a total of four people who use a CPAP machine.  Two of those people are not overweight.

At Risk?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Being male
  • Being overweight
  • Being over age 40
  • Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
  • Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea
  • Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
  • Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems 3

If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, please speak to a medical professional.  Make sure you’re an advocate for your health and ask for a sleep study.

1 2 3 “Sleep Apnea.” Web blog post. Sleep Apnea. WebMD, Web. 26 July 2017.

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25 Comments on "Sleep Apnea: What Is It? And Do I have It?"

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Alice
Guest

Wow I’d never even heard of this before and it sounds scary, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had to go through this! I hope you are coping okay, this is a great post to raise awareness!

Isabel
Guest
I was worried about this for a while but I looked at the symptoms and had someone listen to me while I was asleep and it turned out I was mostly just congested (yuck hehe). I am glad you’re able to cope with the machine a bit more now. I can understand why it was difficult to get used to- my mums partner has one, and he says it is quite noisy at first! By the way, thank you for your comment on my post about my GCSEs- you are so kind, and comments like that mean so much to… Read more »
Monica
Guest

At my job we are always testing for sleep apnea since we deal with public transportation. It’s true, people tent to think it mostly affects older, overweight males. My female coworker at work is always tired and they think it could be sleep apnea.

Evangeline
Guest

My uncle says he slept for the first time in years after getting the machine. Hope it works for you!!

Amanda Abel
Guest

Scary stuff! Glad you were able to find out the problem. My brother in law is on a cpap machine too.

Stacey
Guest

Sometimes I think about being tested, but I don’t feel tired when I’m on breaks from school. I’m a teacher. I think it’s more that I stay up to late when I have to get up early. But maybe I’ll mention it to my doctor sometime.

Melissa
Guest

My husband has sleep apnea! Not medically diagnosed, but the wife (ME) diagnosed! My father also has it and his CPAP machine has helped him immensely! I’m still working on convincing my husband to talk to his Doctor about it, but I know once he gives in (he will, eventually) he’ll wonder why he didn’t listen to me sooner!

Lisa
Guest

My step dad had sleep apnea, I think. I remember having to poke him sometimes to jolt him awake and make sure he would breathe. It was really scary, but he didn’t get any medical help for it. I’m so glad that you are able to get the necessary medical care to make sure you are taken care of!

Cerin
Guest

I’ve heard of this before. I’m glad you were able to get the treatment you need.

Micaeh
Guest

Glad to hear the machine works for you! This affects a lot more people than we think…awareness is def the first step!

Jennifer
Guest

So great that you are bringing awareness to people about this. It can be scary! I am glad you got to the root of your problem and found a solution.

Bola
Guest

Wow! Never heard of this. Thanks for sharing. Hope you get better soon.

Emily
Guest

Thanks for sharing this information. I bet a lot of people have sleep apnea and don’t realize it. I am glad to hear you were able to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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