By Stacye B,
I woke up this morning thinking to myself, “I can’t go another night with this guy snoring in my ear.” He gets great sleep and rest, while I’m driving my day on caffeine because he refuses to take the doctor’s advice. James has been told many times by his personal care physician (PCP) that he suffers from sleep apnea. He asked Dr. George what is sleep apnea, what are some signs and symptoms, and how is it treated?
Dr. George explained that sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. He further explained that sleep apnea can be divided into the following three categories: (1) obstructive sleep apnea which is the most common form that occurs when throat muscles relax; (2) central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing; and (3) complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, sometimes making the type of sleep apnea more difficult to determine. The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include: loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea; episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person; abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea; awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat; and morning headaches.
When Dr. George started discussing possible treatments, my eyes lit up like a bright red bulb on Christmas. Boy did I get excited because I knew there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel for me. I thought, “I can finally get a good night’s rest,” after all, we’ve only been going through this for five years. Dr. George explained how there are devices available that can help open a blocked airway. Dr. George was adamant that the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) would bring joyous changes to our lives if he would try it. As he explained, my husband may benefit from a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep. With CPAP, the air pressure is somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, and is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring. Dr. George also stated, “Although CPAP is the most common and reliable method of treating sleep apnea, some people find it cumbersome or uncomfortable. Some people give up on CPAP, but with some practice, most people learn to adjust the tension of the straps to obtain a comfortable and secure fit.” My husband stopped at the last statement and hasn’t been back. How selfish of him; I guess he will revisit this issue when he’s tired of sleeping alone.