The Sordid Tales of Obstructive
Sleep Apnea (OSA)

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I'm sure the picture to the left doesn't look very glamorous, and I am aware that talking about and showing pictures reflecting obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) just isn't sexy. Marketing people have figured out that sex can sell just about anything - except for this. Well, if they have, I haven't seen it done. Real talk about health is never deemed sexy, but it could save someone's life. I am a pretty private person but I want to share my story. Maybe it will help someone else on their journey with OSA, or prompt them to talk with their doctor.

In November 2011, I went to my doctor for what I thought was a cold or a sinus infection. I figured she would give me some antibiotics and send me on my way. But she didn't. And because of that, I am confident that she saved my life (or at the very least helped improve the quality of my life). She told me that she didn't think I needed a prescription, and "as long as you are sleeping well at night, you should be fine." What she didn't know is that I have rarely slept well my entire life. I go through periods of insomnia, periods of frequent nightmares, and on rare occasion, periods of restful sleep. I knew this wasn't "normal," but I just figured it was something I would have to learn to live with. I usually take it where I can get it. I told her about my history of poor sleep patterns, and she referred me to a sleep center for an overnight sleep study.

If you have never had a sleep study done, it's pretty interesting to say the least. You have to spend the night in this lab with tons of wires attached to your head, face, chest, and legs. Each wire measures something different. Basically they are trying to rule out other causes of your sleep issue, like restless leg syndrome (OAN, is that even real? Blog post for a different day!). Trying to fall asleep when you have sleep issues is hard enough, but try it while someone is watching you all night, and occasionally speaks to you via intercom while you are hooked up to what seems like a million wires!

To make an extremely long story shorter, I was diagnosed with mild/moderate obstructive sleep apnea. My sleep study showed that I was only getting about 80% effective sleep. So no matter how long I slept, it wouldn't be enough. Though I was not excited about this diagnosis, I felt some relief to finally know the root of my sleeping difficulties. That explained why I would wake up in the middle of the night, heart pounding and neck hurting, and why I was always tired. Most nights it felt like I was having a panic attack in the middle of the night. Now, I can take the proper steps to take care of myself, by getting more sleep and usng my cpap (continuous positive airway pressure) machine every night. One year later, things are improving. I am experiencing better rest (dreaming means I'm getting REM Sleep. Yay!). I still struggle with the urge and often succeed in ripping the mask from my face in the middle of the night, but I put it right back on once I have figured out I'm no longer wearing it. Persistence is key. My biggest goal for 2013 is to improve my health (eat better, lose weight) so that I am no longer required to wear a cpap machine every night. 'Cause like I said, it just ain't sexy. And that machine and I have a love/hate relationship. I love that it keeps me breathing at night, yet I hate that I have the need for it. BUt my life is precious, as my dad told me, so sexy or not, I wear my mask. (Not using it would put me at a greater risk for a stroke and other health related issues. Plus, I'd be just plain ol' irritable...and no one wants that!). Studies show that lack of adequate sleep affects your memory, attention span, mood, and your ability to lose weight. So getting a good amount of rest is important for a good quality of life.

According to the Mayo Clinic website (which I consider trustworthy), these are symptoms of OSA: hypersomnia (aka excessive daytime sleepiness), loud snoring, episodes when your or your partner's breathing stops, abrupt awakening with shortness of breath, awaking with a dry mouth and/or a sore throat, morning headaches, insomnia, and attention problems. For more information on OSA and other sleep disorders, please visit: www.sleepdoc.com and www.mayoclinic.com. You can also check out this website that I just discovered at www.sleepapnea.org.  If you have been diagnosed with OSA, use your mask!!! It's a nuisance but it will help! Thanks for reading.. And no, my mask does not look like the one in the pic -- it's way sexier! :)
 


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