Sleep Apnea (Part One)

My last post was about my peeking out of denial about my being overweight. Little did I know that there was a bad actor lurking in the shadows that had been affecting my life at least since I was a pre-teen.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? It seemed dramatic to me but like all things that affect my psyche, I was somewhat relieved that there was an answer.

It started with a trip to the dentist. I was asked if I was experiencing any problems as they always do. I haltingly began to list the things that were occurring especially at night like pains in my jaw, soreness in my teeth and gums, headaches… And as I always tend to do started coming up with self diagnoses like TMJ etc. The dentist listened thoughtfully and when I was finished, he ordered me to have a sleep study to diagnose for sleep apnea. He didn’t even give me the option of waiting one day, he told me to call my doctor that day for an appointment. I was puzzled as was my husband and primary care physician as to “why the dentist?’

Dr. Whitman, the dentist, later informed me that most people with sleep apnea have had a tonsilectomy and/or adenoid removal bringing about sinus issues. Both surgeries were very common with my generation. If a kid had a sore throat, out with the tonsils they don’t need them. However, mine were very bad as a result of waiting too long to have the surgery.

My husband wasn’t surprised that I might have sleep apnea because everyone knows I have a tendency to snore loudly and even sometimes snort when I am awake. He has always believed that my ADD was caused by sleep deprivation.

Dr. Washburn, my new pulmonologist was convinced as a result of my answering a few questions and a brief examination of my throat that I had sleep apnea and had for most of my life. In fact, he said he wold bet his next paycheck.  I insisted that I was sleeping well since our move to Colorado and he explained that I was not getting quality sleep. He listed effects of sleep deprivation as follows:

  • Weight gain
  • Snoring
  • Snorting
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Aches and pains
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Emotional Sensitivity
  • Bursts of Unexplained Anger
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Inability to Concentrate and/or focus
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Sleepiness while driving, reading, and in general
  • Lack of interest in sex

He said that sleep deprivation can affect every area of your life. I had to admit that I had all of the above. He informed me that rather than my weight causing sleep apnea, the sleep apnea was most likely the cause of my weight gain. Well, I don’t know if I would go that far but both my primary care physician and Dr. Washburn said that I would probably continue to have problems losing weight until I got the apnea under control.

I told Dr. Washburn that the first thing I said every morning was, “I’m so tired.” and that my husband assured me that I couldn’t be tired because I just woke up. Dr. Washburn’s response was, “Of course you are tired, you aren’t getting the rest your body requires.”

I have had sleep studies done in the past but because I had difficulty sleeping, it wasn’t an accurate test. I was diagnosed with upper airway obstruction based on limited data.  I had difficulty sleeping enough for an accurate result and Blue Cross wouldn’t pay because “it wasn’t bad enough” to qualify. I was offered a discount but I declined based on cost and inconvenience.

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