I May Have Sleep Apnea

A few weeks ago, my wife went to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor as she had seen something on TV about cleaning out your ears with some kind of solution that you get from the pharmacy. Inspired, she jaunted off to the local CVS and got the goods and fired it off into her ears. Promptly after applying this magical elyxir she couldn’t hear jack out of one ear.

She goes for an appointment at the ENT, where they find that some dissolved wax was stuck to her ear drum. They pulled out a mini shop vac and sucked off the offending matter and all is well. Then my wife asked a fateful (for me) question: “Can I still wear ear plugs?”. Which is answered with a question from the doc, “why do you wear ear plugs?”. The answer of course, is because I snore when I sleep. Not your normal honking through your nose snoring, but more like I take a breath then hold my breath then suddenly fire it out. The wife says it sounds like I stop breathing and make a ruccus starting up again. Well that’s all it took for the doc, “It sounds to me like your husband is the one that should be here, not you”.

I am then informed I have an appointment. So off I go to see the doc. She is a very nice lady who jams some tubes in my nose and ears. She asks me a bunch of questions like:

 – Do you wake up often at night?
 – Do you sometimes wake up gasping for air?
 – Do you feel tired even after a full nights sleep?
 – Do you sweat a lot while sleeping?
 – Do you feel that you can only breath through one side of your nose sometimes?
 – If I left you in this room with the lights turned down, would you fall asleep?

She asked some other questions, some I answered yes to, others no. She told me that after looking at my sinuses that I have some swelling on one side that I should use a nasal spray for, but more importantly that she is sending me to a sleep center to have an overnight sleep study done. Meh!

She tells me to expect a call from the sleep center in the next day or two and that they’ll set me up. She reassured me that they are very nice and are very good.

Now, I’m not completely clueless. I’ve suspected sleep apnea ever since my wife started complaining about the snoring and described the sounds of me choking and not breathing. I have NOT been snoring my entire life. It actually only started two or three years ago which also just happens to coincide with me not going to the gym anymore and putting on a good amount of weight. I am fairly convinced that if this does come back as sleep apnea, the simple answer is that I need to get my husky butt back into the gym and get into shape.

I’ve kind of already decided that if they want to give me drugs or anything else, I will probably refuse and just go on a serious diet and excercise routine first. I don’t want to treat the symptom, I want to treat the cause!

The next day I get a call from Joan at the sleep center. She tells me that she’ll be collecting all my info over the phone and then tells me in general what to expect. I decide I may as well get this over with so I schedule the appointment for two days later. Joan told me to be there by 8:30pm and that I’ll be woken up by about 6:00am the next morning (lovely… I am soooo NOT a morning person).

I spend the next day doing a bit of research on the web and find that a common (but disturbing) possibility of treatment for sleep apnea is a air mask that is placed over your nose when you sleep. It is supposed to have just enough air pressure pushing through your sinuses to keep your throat open while you sleep (as opposed to periodically closing which is what makes you stop breathing).

I also had a bit of a wakeup call while researching sleep apnea. It is very tough on your heart. It can strain your heart and cause all kinds of problems including high blood pressure. This was a bit shocking as my father died young (early fifties) of a heart attack. He also was a snorer. I wonder now if it was more than just the usual diet and excercise deficiencies that contributed to his death.

Fast forward to the day of the appointment. I wake up in the morning and despite them telling me to swear off caffeine for the day, I decide to have my morning cup at work anyway. I do drink plenty of water for the rest of the day and avoid soda so that I won’t have trouble sleeping. I dozed a bit on the way home riding public transit (boring book) and worried if that would mess anything up.

I got home, packed my bag (shorts and a t shirt to sleep in), kissed my wife goodnight and headed off to the center.

When I got there, I was greeted by Velda who brought me into the reception area. She handed me a stack of forms to fill out and took care of the formalities. She immediately brought me back to my room. I was worried at first as it just looked like a normal doctor’s exam room with the examination table. Now I’m over six feet tall and 300lbs. I could not imagine trying to stay on that tiny table and somehow get to sleep. Luckily, I soon discovered that they have a full sized bed that folds out of the wall. Similar to the ones you see in the old “I love Lucy” episodes that someone always gets folded up into the wall with.

Velda told me to fill out my forms then head into the bathroom to change into my sleeping clothes. She did warn me that it is a shared bathroom with the adjoining room and that I should lock both doors while I’m in there.

The forms were pretty straight forward but sometimes asked the kinds of questions that force you into one of their answers even if it’s not quite accurate. This bothers me because if the question said something like, “How likely are you to fall asleep watching TV?” The choices are “very likely, somewhat likely, never”. Well, taken in context with the other questions they ask you, it implies that they mean how likely are you to fall asleep when watching TV at all. But the choices they give you don’t let you explain “only at midnight after a long day and only like once a month”. I don’t want them using those answers as justification for a diagnosis that they need to cut my nose off or something… (Yes, I’m exaggerating).

So I get changed and call Velda back in the room. She comes in with her box of wires that look like colorful spaghetti. She has me sit in a chair with my back to her and explains all the wires as she’s hooking me up. She pulls out a can of some kind of paste and sticks the sensors all over my head, neck, forehead, chin, chest and legs. She tapes a pulse/ox sensor to my finger, then puts three straps around my chest, midsection and stomach. She takes the ends of all of these wires and plugs them into a relatively small box with a carrying strap on it that is then connected to some kind of jack on the bed. Just when I think she’s done, she pulls out a tube and sticks it up both nostrils… wait! we’re not done yet, she pulls out another tube and sticks that one in both nostrils… Oh joy!

wiring harness similar to the one I was strapped into.

Velda tells me that if I need to get up for the bathroom, etc. that I can hit an intercom button and call her and she’ll come and untether me from the bed.

She then pulls out the bed and tucks me in (which is odd to me). She hands me the tv remote and tells me they have cable tv (yay!) and that I can go to sleep whenever I want. She says that she will call me via the intercom from the control room to calibrate the sensors.

A few minutes later, she pops on and takes me through a series of calibration tests: “look up till I say… Look down… Grind your teeth… move your legs… She then wishes me a good night.

I watch a bit of TV and then decide to go to sleep. I quickly realize that it’s hot in the room and getting hotter. I hit the intercom and ask if they can lower the temperature for me. She says it’s controlled by the building and they can’t adjust it… Well hell, I wonder if being hot and sweaty will affect the results.

I get as comfortable as I can and fall asleep. It is far from ideal comfort with a nest of wires on me and tubes in my nose. I am sleeping lightly when my neighbor in the adjoining room decides to go to the bathroom and slams the door on the way out – BANG!

crap.

I roll over and try to fall asleep again (sweating and hot). I drift off for about an hour then wake up with another toilet visit from my neighbor – BANG!

crap

I fall asleep yet again and am woken up after a while when I realize that I need to pee this time. Veldo comes and disconnects me from the bed and puts the wiring box around my neck. I go to the bathroom and decide we need a little revenge… Yep, I’m evil and pointedly slam the door behind me and mumble “up yers!” as I make my way back to my bed.

I go back to sleep and after what seems like a painfully short amount of time Velda comes into the room and wakes me up saying, “ok, time to wake up. You’re all done.”. I feel miserable and am destroyed. Six am never felt so brutal.

Velda pulls all the sensors off of me, I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth and change. I suddenly look in the mirror and realize that Velda has left me covered with the paste from the sensors all over my face and in my hair! I do the best I can cleaning the goop off of me, change and get ready to leave. Velda tells me I need to fill out one more form asking questions about my sleep that night.

I do and leave. I climb into my car and am confused when I look at the clock in the car and it says 5:15am. What the hell? They kicked me out a full hour early. I am pissed. I’m driving home feeling like I’m half drunk and thinking that if I get into an accident I will sue them. Luckily I got home uneventfully and make coffee for the wife. I can’t go to bed as I have to go to the fertility doctor and then to work in a couple of hours.

I am now waiting for the results of the study to be sent to the ENT doctor that referred me. I’ll put a link to the update as soon as I get the news. In the mean time, here are some books on sleep apnea.

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