Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More about sleep apnea...

When I created the previous post, I didn't go into too much detail on sleep apnea.  I figured the people who knew about it would want to see the tube buddy, and I didn't want to bore the people who don't know about it.  But I've had a few comments that make me think you might want to know more.

Here's the WAY simplified explanation as I understand it- I'm not a doctor and this is not professional medical advise.  There are 5 stages of sleep.  Stage 5 is the deep restorative sleep where your body slows way down.  You also dream during this stage (REM sleep).  If you have sleep apnea, when you get into stage 2 or 3, you relax, and the back of your throat closes down and you start to have trouble getting air through.  Your brain get's less oxygen and it isn't happy.  It sends signals to your heart and other organs to wake up and keep this sleepy person alive!  The sleeper, who is now snoring loudly and making gross gasping noises, snores themselves awake- or almost awake.  It usually gets the snorer back to about a stage 1 sleep- never actually waking up or remembering it.  And the cycle continues.  So-- by morning, the person wakes up, having been supposedly asleep for 8 hrs or so, feeling like they never went to bed.  That's because they never got into stage 4 or 5 and never got deep, restorative sleep. 

In addition to family strife (who wants to sleep with this person!), an apnea sufferer usually wakes up with a sore throat and can have stuffy sinuses and a headache, muscle aches, and so on.  But the worst part is that it's hard on the heart and internal organs which think you're dying every few minutes and have to work all night to keep you alive.  I used to get up to use the bathroom several times a night.  When my heart raced, it woke my kidneys up, and they woke ME up.  Now- I NEVER get up in the middle of the night.  I dream.  My throat and sinuses are happy.  And my blood pressure has gone down.

The treatment is a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine.  You have to wear a face mask, attached to a machine with a long tube.  The machine sends just the right amount of air through your nose to keep your throat open.  No snoring.  No diminished oxygen to the brain.  It looks weird- and it feels very odd for the first few nights.  But once a chronic sleep apnea patient gets their first few GOOD nights' sleep, there's no going back.  Sure- I wish I didn't have to sleep with a mask on.  But I sleep!  And it's really GOOD sleep.

Fun fact:  If you fly and need a CPAP, you can carry it on board and it is not counted as your one bag or one personal item.  Necessary medical equipment is not counted against you in the new world of air travel.  I got tired of people leering at me as if I was cheating- taking 3 things on an airplane.  So I put a luggage tag on my CPAP case- with a big red cross on it and the words "medical equipment".  That cut down on the nasty looks.

Not all people who snore have sleep apnea.  Not all people who have sleep apnea make the really bad snoring noises.  This is just the most common situation.  Again- I'm not a doctor.  If you want to learn more, there's a lot of information about this on the internet, and I would encourage you to talk to your doctor.

3 comments:

M. Regina said...

Thanks for your explanation, my sister has sleep apnea, and I'll show this post for her.She is a doctor, and I think she doesn't know the CPAP machine. Hugs from Brazil

free indeed said...

I've had my machine going on 9 years now, but I've had the apnea alot longer. I just did not want to wear a mask! Hideous things! But, quality of life just got to be about a zero. Seperate sleeping from hubby; no pillow talk of the day; I'd be so depressed in my own room; waking with horrendous headaches (sinus headaches) where I couldn't open my eyes; falling asleep at the drop of a hat...while reading, watching tv, and embarrassingly when I bowed my head to pray in church!!! Hubby had to elbow me several times in my life....and then once at the wheel..SCARY! Well, now it was worth the bother...life was miserable. My first night on the machine was the first time in many year I slept through the night. I was up at 6, had three loads of laundry on the line and breakfast cooking for the family by 8! Incredible! I don't sleep through the night anymore...I think we need a new mattress, and I ache at being in one position too long....so flop all night long. :( Thanks for this informational post. PS. I don't think it's a law yet, but one they want to put in force....

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