Sleep Apnea

Author Gabrielle G.

As a child I used to giggle to myself while listening to my uncle “call home the pigs” with his loud, earth quaking snores. I could almost pinpoint when the next big snarl would come from behind his room door while he slept throughout the day. I even knew when the sudden series of broken wind followed by short muffling sounds would occur. Sometimes, when watching T.V. I’d rudely bang on the door and tell him to stop because I couldn’t hear my show. I didn’t know that he couldn’t help it, nor did I know that this was a serious sleep disorder that could affect his wellbeing. It wasn’t until I was older and saw more of my loved ones around me experience that very same sleep pattern that I realized the severity of this disorder. My mother, her sister and several of her brothers all have sleep apnea and all use a CPAP machine during the night.

When I realized that this was not just a funny orchestra of snores, I started to read into what exactly sleep apnea was. I was shocked to learn that the reason behind the awkward sounds during the night was because they constantly stopped breathing and that they were actually trying to breathe again when the sudden short breaths followed. I even began to look into my mom’s history of sleep apnea which she and her doctors believe stem from doing several tours in the Army and having to sleep in uncomfortable positions with a mask attached to her face. When we went to the doctor, she had to stay overnight so that could conduct a sleep test on her. This really put things into perspective and caused me to worry even more as I thought we were going for a regular checkup; however, when she begins to explain to them about her restlessness and waking up multiple times, they felt this was needed. It frightened me so much to learn that after having the sleep test done, she stopped breathing about 70 times during the night—70 times! I do not suffer from sleep apnea but there have been times when I have woken abruptly from my sleep gasping for air that I can’t seem obtain. I wake up in a panic and feel like I am going to suffocate. I can only imagine what it is like to have that feeling 70 times during the night.

Once I learned that my mom had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, I decided to look into what the potential causes are and what type of people can develop this disorder. Surprisingly, the mayo clinic references that African-Americans, like myself, under the age of 35 are likely to develop sleep apnea. It also adds that people who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea though it may also present itself in thin people as well. I never for once took into consideration what exactly was going on with my relatives when they laid down to rest. Now that I understand how serious this disorder is, I am glad that there are solutions to help make sure people are not suffering down the road with complications due to not knowing the signs and symptoms. The CPAP machine has made all the difference to my mom, and I can tell that she is able to get a good night’s rest now that she is able to sleep comfortably throughout the night. She sleeps so quietly now that I have to get up sometimes to make sure she is still there!

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