My doctor has the same sign on the back of each patient room door. I must have looked at the sign but not really seen it for more than ten years.
Do you snore?
Do you snore loudly?
Has anyone ever said that you gasp or stop breathing while you sleep?
Do you experience any of these problems?
- Daytime sleepiness
- Unrefreshing sleep
Do you have any of these other symptoms?
- Nocturia (waking up through the night to use the bathroom)
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Decreased sexual desire
Do you have any of these physical features?
- Obesity-Body Mass Index (BMI) 30 or higher
- Large neck size-17 inches or more for men, 16 or more for women
- Enlarged tongue or tonsils
- Recessed jaw
- Nasal polyps or deviated septum
These questions were irrelevant to me ten years ago. The only thing I could say yes to on this list was that I snored a little, or my family said so. Maybe that’s why I overlooked the sign at the doctor’s office for so many years. Symptoms crept up on me slowly overtime until almost all the symptoms were part of everyday life for me.
I had all but three things going on. How could I have missed it? How could my doctor have missed it?
“What’s got you in to see me today?” my doctor asked.
“I am still getting the headaches and dizzy spells, and now my husband is scared,” I said, “He said I stopped breathing for a while last night and woke up screaming and gasping for air. Until then we thought I was having nightmares.”
My doctor’s jaw dropped, “How long has this been happening?”
“I’ve been waking up screaming, with my heart racing, from what I thought were nightmares for months now,” I said. “Sometimes three or four times a night.”
He looked at his computer, scrolled through what must be years of notes, “This explains a lot.” He noted.
“I googled my symptoms last night, and it sounds like I have sleep apnea.” I said
“I think you do too,” he said. “We need to get you in for a sleep study and get an official diagnosis so we get you feeling better.
“The articles I read say I can get better if I lose weight, but I can go hard with exercise and diet for 3 months and will not drop a single pound.” I started crying. “It’s so frustrating! I know what to do, but I don’t get anywhere, I just feel worse and worse, more and more tired, until I say f*** it and just give up.”
He let me cry for a few minutes. “You can’t lose weight if you’re not sleeping, Sylvia,” He said. “I’m sure the last thing you feel like doing is working out when you wake up in the morning drained, with headaches, dizzy spells and muscle aches. Your brain isn’t getting oxygen in your sleep, and all the things your body is supposed to be doing while you sleep are not happening because your brain starts losing oxygen and has to focus on waking you up every few minutes. We’re going to get you fixed up. Don’t worry.”
He gave me hope. It seems so many of my problems from energy, ability to lose weight, live healthier, productivity, memory and focus issues could improve if I just sleep.
Between the discussion with my doctor, google and the sleep study center, I learned that the body can stop breathing 5-30 times per minute. When the body stops breathing, the brain is not oxygen, oxygen and blood flow to other parts of the body decreases, and over time it causes brain damage, heart failure, high blood pressure and even contributes to higher risks of diabetes, cancer and sudden death.
Getting sleep has never been more of a priority for me than now.
Sleep studies cost $2,000 to $3,000 and I wondered how I would pay for it. Maybe I could get money out of my 401K. They say never touch retirement savings, but I’ve read that people die in their sleep from apnea, so to me, this was a good reason to go into the savings. Luckily, I didn’t have to. Many insurance companies cover sleep studies. Mine covered 100%, but since I had to meet my deductible, I was on my own with purchasing the sleep apnea equipment (A-PAP, C-PAP machines) that would help me sleep.
After a bit of stress on costs it turns out the companies that distribute these machines work out payment plans. Instead of paying the full cost of $1k-$1.5k, I paid $250.00 to get my machine, and then was scheduled to make small monthly payments.
We were on the way to getting my sleep right. Getting me right.