Sleep and Snore No More
By Wayne Patterson
Fifteen years ago when a bad cold refused to succumb to my homemade remedy of moonshine, honey and lemon juice I was forced to visit one of the places I avoid like a vampire avoids garlic. In this case not the office of my lawyer or dentist but that of my family doctor. As usual I had waited too late and was immediately placed in the hospital with pneumonia. This lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Bell's Palsy, both consisting of a virus that paralyzes the nerves. What followed was a two-year recovery period during which I was treated with a steroid called predizone. I watched myself being transformed into my father; an overweight couch potato who considered watching the Friday night fights exercise.
Worse, I was receiving complaints about my snoring from my significant other. Since I had always snored I treated these complaints like a man and ignored them. Like the bad cold they refused to go away and I often heard references to "freight train" and "locomotive". Finally in desperation she moved into the other bedroom. Since this was her fault I continued to refuse to believe that my snoring was a serious problem. At that time our area was still very rural with farm to market roads and poorly marked railroad crossings. One late summer evening I pulled into the path of an oncoming train and literally met the locomotive. An intelligent reader would now assume that I realized I needed help and would again visit my family doctor. However you must realize that my wife was dealing with the ultimate alpha male who will drive around for two hours before stopping for gas. Not to ask for directions but to get gas. It is amazing how a full tank of gas can help your sense of direction.
About three months later I woke up with another vehicle halfway through the passenger side door of my car. Since I could not remember the accident I finally agreed to a physical. This was the first time I heard the term "sleep apnea". My family doctor referred me to a sleep clinic for testing. I was placed on a table and connected to a battery of wires. After spending a restless night I was shown a video with full audio. How my wife could bear that horrible noise as long as she did is unbelievable. The doctor said that the passageway in my throat was closing and that I was "waking up" every few minutes to breathe. Since this was a subconscious action, I did not realize that I was actually sleeping the average of three hours per night and suffering from sleep deprivation.
While I was continuing to blame my fatigue on my earlier illness the actual cause was Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The doctor recommended the nightly use of a CPAP machine. This consists of a small air compressor with a facial mask much like the oxygen mask in an airplane. It supplies a constant pressure airflow that keeps the passages in the throat open allowing the patient an uninterrupted nights sleep. The mask is uncomfortable at first but quickly becomes a normal part of your nightly routine. The health benefits of a good nights sleep are immeasurable. The fatigue is gone and my wife has returned to the bedroom. The gentle whirring of the machine actually assists us in settling down. While I have not lost the weight, I do exercise regularly, have a red belt in Tae Kwon Do and hope to have my black belt within a year. Not bad for the oldest guy in the class.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone including teenagers. However it is most common in overweight males over forty. A casual conversation at Sunday School caused a friend to seek medical help and possibly saved him from encounters similar to mine. The Sleep Apnea Association calls it one of the most undiagnosed medical problems in America. If you know someone that may suffer from sleep apnea please encourage him or her to consult with their physician. For more information visit Sleep Apnea.Org
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