By: Jane N
When I was little, my father suffered from sleep apnea. Or, I suppose I suffered more than he did. He got to sleep through the effects. I remember lying awake in my bedroom, which I shared with my little brother, watching the shadows on the walls dance to the disturbing song that flowed from my parents’ bedroom across the hall. From that room came monstrous snoring, more than just the lazy rumbling sort, but thunderclaps that, to my little imagination, seemed to shake the whole house. As each thunderclap echoed in the hallway that connected the two bedrooms, I would glance at the clock desperately trying to slow time down. But the time would roll on, and eventually a full-night’s sleep seemed impossible.
It wasn’t just the echoing snores that would keep me awake, but the periods of their absence. In between every rumbling breath came a sharp silence, like the valley of the tallest mountain. These silences however, stretched over a span of seconds. Seconds of chilling silence with the glaring absence of steady breaths. Often these silences were accompanied by slight gasps that sounded like he was being choked. I would hold my breath when these pauses occurred, the only sound my beating heart, and although i knew he would breath again, I always seemed to forget. Hearing your father gasp for air, then fall silent, is scary for a little girl. These momentous snores and silent pauses became the lullaby I would struggle to fall asleep to.
This snoring didn’t sound normal. I always wondered what caused this extreme snoring and irregular breathing. Was it a disease? I then learned that my father had Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form of sleep apnea. This form of this disorder is caused by the collapse of throat tissue during sleep, which blocks off the airways, accounting for the irregular breathing and intensified snoring.
My family and I always wanted to help my father, to eliminate the disorder so that we could stop worrying. With research, we discovered Continuous Positive Airway Pressure treatment, also known as CPAP. CPAP is a treatment in which the person with sleep apnea wears a face mask over their nose and mouth while sleeping. This mask is hooked up to a machine that provides a continuous flow of air that keeps airways open and breathing steady. We met with a doctor, who advised us to use CPAP treatment. Within days, my father was no longer shaking the house with his snoring. There were no more gasps, or periods without breath. The CPAP machine, which overtook my father’s night table, purred softly all night, working endlessly to give me father and my family a peaceful night’s rest.
Today, my father no longer needs the CPAP treatment, and I suppose his sleep apnea has been left in the past, whether it is from weight loss, a change in sleeping position, or some other lifestyle change. Today, he snores softly, too softly to echo against walls or shake the house. Sleep apnea has become only a memory of my childhood, and the resultant sleepless nights have become a mere memory.