Sleep is a fickle thing

By Stevie E.

Sleep is a fickle thing. Although it is essential to have in life, it can be elusive and fleeting. If anyone knows this, it would have to be my family. Over half my family suffers greatly to some form of sleep disorder. Seeing them in such distress growing up has often worried me, and with limited solutions, I have seen some pretty hilarious “home remedies” to ease their discomfort.

My aunt has always been a snorer. Growing up with a family that snores has allowed me to condition myself to not even hear them at night. As a child, I would often spent the night with my aunt, and even after I reassured her countless times that her snores did not bother me, she was still very insecure about her issue. After years of pushing through the discomfort and tentative ways, she finally consulted a professional. Sleep apnea is a very common and serious sleep disorder that stops a person’s breathing. It is the result of blocked airways, sometimes from the relaxing and falling of the throat tissue. It could also be because of the tongue when it falls back into the back of the throat as well. Symptoms of this disorder cause an increase in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and even depression. Waking up as often as twenty times a night is not unusual for my aunt. It was not uncommon to see my aunt sleeping with straws in her nose, or her tongue being held outside of her mouth with some sort of contraption. However, when all else failed, she found herself with a new CPAP machine.

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and is used to treat people with sleep apnea and other related breathing problems. The first time I saw my aunt with her CPAP mask on as a child, I refused to sleep with her. Thinking back, the long snout like tube reminded me of an elephant type of monster causing me become afraid. However, after receiving an offer to try it on to ease my fear, I couldn’t refuse my curiosity. To say I was “blown away” was about right. I remember my aunt laughing as my cheeks puffed out, and eyes grew big as the air was pushed down my throat and up my nose. Let’s just say I did not keep it on for long, but it helped my aunt, so it would have to stay. As mentioned above, most of my family suffers from some type of sleep disorder. For my aunt, the issue was corrected and put aside; however, for my mother, it was more serious.

Since my mom was a single parent, sleeping with her was an every night thing. As a child however, I never really under stood her sleeping patters, or lack thereof. Falling asleep to her nighttime radio shows was something I quickly got used to. Hearing the drone of political debates, and alien theories were often the thing that lulled me into slumber, unlike my mother who would lie awake all night even as the sun would being to rise. Insomnia effects up to thirty percent of adults today, often leading to a lower quality of life with symptoms like fatigue, poor memory, mood disturbance, and even depression. I experienced in person how sleep and depression go hand in hand. Seeing my mother so sad and tired would cause me great pain. Her body needed rest, but her mind would not let her. When she did sleep, sleeping aids usually were to thank. In fact, up to four percent of adults get sleep with the use of sleep aids. I remember frequently laying with my mother at night discussing things such as our favorite dinosaurs, or about whether penne pasta was better than farfalle.

Growing up as a young adult, I thankfully have not acquired the curse of any sleeping problems. Usually with a cool, clean, and dark room, I am out like a light. Still, I often think about the people who are less fortunate when it comes to sleep. With such few options to turn to, I worry about their quality of life. I wish there was more research being done to understand why such an important and natural thing like sleep can be so hard to acquire. I hope that in the future, with such improvements in technology and mediation, sleep disorders will become a thing of the past.

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