PSA: Sleep Apnea

By | October 10, 2010

This is more of a public service post than anything, but I thought I’d share in case there was anyone else out there experiencing some of these symptoms and wondering if they should do a sleep study.

Initially (4 years ago) I went to the doctor because I was experiencing severe headaches in the morning that got better throughout the day. I didn’t really consider the “always tired” aspect as being related. After some tests, a CAT scan which showed normal, the doctor wrote me a script and sent me on my way.

At that point I was so disillusioned from doctors in general I simply wrote it off telling myself it was because I look at a computer screen all day and have poor posture.

Fast forward now to about 4 months ago. The headaches were becoming unbearable and daily. In fact I think I have had the same headache for going on 3 months now in varying degrees. Other issues also arouse in the form of sore throats and my wife telling me she’s seen me choke in the middle of the night.

Back to the doctor. This time it’s back to my wife’s doctor whom she raves about. We ran some blood work, went through the history, and instead of just pushing drugs she comes up with a plan of attack.
First I get sleep pills to help me sleep (by this time I was also so stressed about what was wrong I dreaded sleep), then she says I should see a chiropractor, and she also makes the appointment for the sleep study to see if I have sleep apnea.

Armed with this new strategy I first see the chiropractor. All I have to say about this experience was that it helped with my neck pain, but had no effect on my headaches whatsoever. The lack of results totally stumped him. After about 5 visits I gave up on this avenue. My neck and back felt great though.

Then it was sleep study time. I went into a little room complete with TV and dresser and prepared to get hooked up. The nurse came in and glued about 30 electrodes to my head and body. This process took about half an hour. Once hooked up she went to another room and calibrated everything by having me look up, wiggle my foot, and close my eyes. It was a very odd experience having someone know what your body is doing from another room.

Then sleep, or lack thereof. Over the course of the next 8 hours I woke up 3 times in a panic trying to force myself to go back to sleep so they could get accurate results. This ended up being what most people would say was a horrible night’s sleep, but really it wasn’t much different than a normal night to me. (From what I’m told with sleep apnea during the night you hardly ever attain REM sleep as the choking/breathing issues wake you up just enough to not happen).

In the morning they unhooked me and told me I’d be getting a call in the next week with the results. Roughly 7 days later the doctor called. He said that my suspicions were correct and that I have obstructive sleep apnea. Now I am set to go in again and get hooked to a breathing machine called a CPAP.

There are a few myths out there I would like to dispel in my research along the way.

1. You have to be obese to have sleep apnea. I could stand to lose about 5lbs, but am not obese by any stretch.
2. You have to snore to have sleep apnea. This is not always the case.
3. You have to have headaches to have sleep apnea. Not always the case.
4. 1 in 5 people have some form of sleep apnea and don’t even know it. This is actually true.

Once I get all set up with the CPAP I will post what has and hasn’t worked for me and how it’s going.

Last thing, if you think you have any of the symptoms you should check with your doctor. If your doctor won’t listen with an open mind, get a second opinion.

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