Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sleep apnea

Ever slept for five hours and not felt rested? How about seven? Nine?

No way, right? Once you get right around the amount of uninterrupted sleep your body needs - seven to nine hours is about right - there's no chance you cannot feel rested. Right?

Not exactly. For most people I would venture to say this is true. But for me, this is not true. At all.

Last night I slept from about 10:45 p.m. until the alarm went off at 5 a.m.

(Not-so-quick side story: we have the alarm set to go off on some random soft-music-playing radio station and lately that station has been playing the Star Spangled Banner so this morning when I heard the anthem I was so confused, I thought I was watching an old TV show in the middle of the night and the anthem was playing, like in the movie Poltergeist)

Anyway that's, what?, a little more than six hours of sleep. Not great but more than twice of the time I slept on Monday (I got in a whopping three hours of sleep on Monday night... actually, it was Tuesday morning at 2 a.m. to be precise when I finally went off to bed, and woke up three hours later).

So I've been a bit sleep-deprived I suppose. And my sleep apnea does not help things.

I just got back from the gym and I'm glad I went, but I really had to fight through sleep in order to go. Now, when I saw my pulmonologist, I told him about being tired and running and he said that if you are sleepy, you can work out fine because once you start exercising your sleep center is repressed or something like that but if you are physically tired it's different. So I was sleepy tired and once I was on the bike and then the treadmill I was fine. But now that I'm back home, all I want to do is lie down. I can't because I have to blog, I mean, I have to go get my daughters from school.

I really need some coffee, anyway that's what my mind keeps saying. I'm tired, want coffee, want to lie down, have been like that since about 8 a.m.

Hello, my name is Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea keeps me from getting into a deep sleep. So, let's say sleep is like a swimming pool. Your body needs to get down deep in the deep end to get fully rested and stay there. So if it lingers about seven feet deep in the deep end, that's perfect. Now, sometimes you are kind of just floating around under the surface and that's when you can easily come up for air. But that's when you're first falling asleep. After a while, your body gets down into some deep sleep, down in the seven-foot-deep part of the pool.

Because of my sleep apnea, I don't ever get down into the seven-foot-deep part of the pool. The most I get is maybe a foot or two below the surface. So I'm always near the surface, never allowing my body to get fully rested. And it doesn't matter if I'm in the pool for 7-9 hours, or 12 for that matter, because I'm never going to get full deep rest anyway.

See, my windpipe closes in on itself. And every time this happens, I get jarred awake. Well, not really awake, but that's when I come up close to the surface. My head's still underwater but my hair is sticking out of the pool. Then I start to sink back down underneath when BAM! up I come close to the surface. Whenever my windpipe closes in on itself, I get jarred out of sleep even though I won't remember any of it.

How often does this happen? Well, since I don't have your average run-of-the-mill regular boring old sleep apnea but rather the deluxe model Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea it happens about once a minute, 60 times and hour, hundreds of times a night.

Could you imagine someone jamming you on the side of your body once a minute, 60 times an hour, hundreds of times a night? How could you possibly get any rest?

I have my sleep study five days away now. I'm looking forward to it and will share the data with everyone. Yesterday I got another piece of the puzzle, which I think is equally as important. I got a new mask. See, to combat sleep apnea, you wear a CPAP, a continuous positive airway pressure machine that constantly blows air down your throat. This keeps the windpipe open and allows your body to sink down to the bottom of the deep end of the pool. It sounds complicated and even uncomfortable but the body adapts. It took me a couple of nights to get used to it.

But my mask was giving me problems before, and my body has changed since I first started using my CPAP. I got the first part down with a new mask. It's the Mirage Activa Nasal Mask; basically it's a mask in the true sense of the word. It has straps along the back, a forehead pad that keeps the mask close to my face, cushioning and padding that keeps the plastic from tearing my face up, and a tube that comes out of the mask that blows air from the machine down my throat.

Sounds like a pleasant night of sleep, doesn't it? (If you ask nicely, I might post a picture of me and my mask)

I'll take that though any of the day of the week to sleepwalking through mornings and afternoons.

Now where's the friggin coffee?


Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

Ugh, that sounds horrible. I'm sleep-deprived because of the baby, but at least I know it won't last. I really feel for you!

Willoughby said...

How did you discover you had sleep apnea in the beginning? I'm curious because my husband wakes up a lot during the night. I'm wondering if he may have it.

L.B. said...

Snoring. And being tired. If you snore a lot and are tired throughout the day, that's a good indicator. And tired like to the point where you fall asleep watching TV at 2 p.m. or 11 a.m.

Like right now, I was in the living room and was dozing in the recliner for about 40 minutes. When i wear my CPAP I don't do that.

Now, I don't snore much anymore so that's not necessarily a giveaway but that was one of the things that told me I had a problem. My snoring got progressively worse, to the point that my wife and I slept in separate beds for several years, from 2000 until 2005, to be honest. She'd been telling me for a long time to go see a doctor.

I had a sleep study done and diagnosed the problem. I think something around eight percent of men have sleep apnea, so it's not that uncommon. If he snores and is sleepy tired in the mornings and afternoons, he may have sleep apnea.