The Mundling Zone

Thoughts, rants, and raves from the desk of Michelle Mundling

Thursday, February 15, 2001

My Struggle with Sleep Apnea

In January 2001, I was diagnosed with having Sleep Apnea. For those of you who do not know what that is, it means that when I am asleep (or unconscious anyway), my breathing shallows to the point that my body does not get enough oxygen. At times during the night, I stop breathing for brief periods of time. Sometimes I remember waking up and gasping for air, at other times I start breathing deeper before I become fully conscious. In either case, I fail to go into the deep sleep my body and brain need to be fully rested the for next day. My mind and body became sleep-deprived and started demanding compensation.

Symptoms of possible sleep apnea include but are not limited to daytime sleepiness or drowsiness, falling asleep with little or no warning or control, difficulty in staying awake or alert during the day, etc. This can be especially dangerous while driving a vehicle or operating any kind of equipment (large or small). If your job requires you to be alert at all times, you could jeopardize your job by falling asleep at the wrong time, and that falling asleep can sneak up on you without warning. I was really bad about falling asleep at my computer while surfing the internet or on the loveseat at home. I was fighting severe drowsiness at work, at home, and in my truck. The final straw was when I blacked out while sitting up, and a friend who saw me had difficulty waking me and bluntly told me so. I didn't even remember being "sleepy." It scared the hell out of me!

I saw my doctor and gave him a list of all the symptoms I was having. He immediately set me up to have a sleep study done at the local hospital. The results of the sleep study detemined that I had Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. What were my results? During the first three hours of the study, I had over 200 awakenings and stopped breathing 80 times. Needless to say, I was shocked and unnerved to hear of the severity of my condition, but it also explained why I was blacking out at the most inopportune times.

I qualified to be prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine, with a nasal mask strapped onto my face every night, delivers pressurized air gently into my lungs so that my body receives enough oxygen so that I can go into deep sleep mode. I'm here to tell you right now, that machine has made a world of difference. I am so much more rested and alert now. That machine and the mask has become my best friends at night. Yes, it took some getting used to, and not everyone can stand sleeping with a mask on no matter how comfortable it is made to be (I have a gel mask, and it's sooooo cushy cushy comfy). I am fortunate that this option worked for me. As an added bonus, I don't snore when I'm wearing the mask.

There are different treatments and options out there; I'm just simply letting you know which option worked for me. If you are experiencing any of the above-listed symptoms, PLEASE talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study to determine if you may have Sleep Apnea or narcolepsy. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that ignoring the symptoms could cost you your life, and possibly the lives of others.

Even if you don't have sleep apnea, don't neglect getting sleep. Your mind and body WILL force sleep out of you if continually neglect getting enough rest.

I recommend these links to other resources about Sleep Apnea.