Looking for your best, most persuasive articles/anecdata on sleep apnea.
January 10, 2013 2:34 AM   Subscribe

A dear friend's husband sounds like he has sleep apnea. His interrupted sleep makes him lethargic and unable to work, meaning his wife works full time and takes care of the four kids, including a special needs child. He is moody, depressed, and has migraines and irritable bowel syndrome. I would like some accessible articles and anecdotes on the risks of untreated apnea; the benefits of treatment; and how treatment is accessed in the NHS (UK).

Things about the health risks e.g. stroke and heart attack, and the benefits of treating apnea are especially welcome.
posted by By The Grace of God to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Assessment for sleep apnoea would be accessed the same as most medical concerns in the UK: via referral from your friend's GP. The NHS has this overview and risks.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:59 AM on January 10, 2013

If you google "msnbc sleep apnea" the results will include lots of easy to read articles about sleep apnea symptoms and links to stroke, cancer, traffic accidents and lowered sex drive. That's where I'd start (where I did start with my own husband).
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:59 AM on January 10, 2013

Also, pretty much every sleep apnea question here at Ask.Me has been answered with a wealth of anecdata and article links. Maybe you could send him a link to "sleep apnea" search results from Ask.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:02 AM on January 10, 2013

My only sleep apnea anecdote involves my best friend from high school's older brother, who (also in the UK) went untreated for a long time. He was also overweight and (I believe) a moderate smoker. One evening a couple years ago he went to bed with his girlfriend and just didn't wake up. The medical conclusion was that he stopped breathing during the night and couldn't start again. His family still hasn't fully recovered from the loss.
posted by fight or flight at 3:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's a killer - Divine, the transgender actor famous for her roles in Roger Waters films, died of an enlarged heart caused by sleep apnia. It can absolutely affect mood, energy, emotional response and cognitive ability.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:32 AM on January 10, 2013

I can't find anything in exciting medical journal form, but what finally got me into the sleep center (for what turned out to be a sleep apnea diagnosis, FWIW) was my doctor dropping his normal bedside manner and telling me straight-out: "You are under 40, so the only way you are going to die in the next 5-10 years is in a car crash. Car crashes happen from the 3 A's: Alcohol, Adolescents, and Apnea. You have no control over adolescents. You can choose not to drink and drive. Failing to treat your apnea is in the same category as choosing to drink and drive--you are literally introducing a significant risk of your own death. Go fix this."
posted by Mayor West at 5:35 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

My husband finally went and had a sleep study when i broke down crying one evening in the middle of making dinner, for no obvious reason. I was so very tired. Every time he stopped breathing at night I got scared, so I would shake him to wake him slightly and get him breathing again. This meant I didn't really sleep either -- I stayed have awake making sure that he was breathing.

He made an appointment and a few weeks later stayed the night at the hospital to get a sleep study done. For the first 4 hours he slept on his own while they monitored him, then they woke him up and put a CPAP machine on him and told him to go back to sleep. They did a bunch of tests on him while he was sleeping, basically monitoring his heart and sleep patterns while they adjusted the pressure of the CPAP. He said that he occasionally woke up during that time, but otherwise slept very well.

Here's the most persuasive bit for me, the part that I tell everyone when the subject of sleep apnea comes up: when he came home the next morning, after sleeping in an unfamiliar place, being woken up and being monitored all night -- he was a totally different person. He was more like his old self. He was happy, interested in talking to me, and funny. The moody, grumpy, depressed guy I'd been living with for recent years was gone. And that was after only 4 hours of sleep on a CPAP machine, under less than ideal circumstances.

He regularly sleeps with a CPAP now. He hasn't lost weight, but he has more energy, is more himself, and is just generally way more interested and involved in the world.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:33 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

If he's not compelled by his own health (and sometimes, depression or sheer exhaustion can make people dramatically undervalue how much they deserve help for stuff like this), remind him to think about other people's health. Every time he gets behind the wheel of the car having not slept the night before, he risks passing out while driving. That endangers passengers in the car, including his wife and children, as well as anyone else on the road.
posted by decathecting at 6:37 AM on January 10, 2013

Husbunny has horrible sleep apnea. He went for over a decade with crippling depression. I hocked and nagged at him to get a sleep study. Sure enough, it was really pronounced.

He's had his CPAP for 6 years now and his life is improved in so many ways I can't even believe it. He has a new job, he's upbeat and funny, he sleeps great and is rested and relaxed, instead of anxious and moody.

I can't understand why someone would resist a sleep study, especially if it's part of a health care system. Just go, what do you have to lose?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:18 AM on January 10, 2013

My 52 year old dad went to sleep on December 28, 2001, without wearing his CPAP mask.

He didn't wake up.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:14 AM on January 10, 2013

My recent sleep study indicated that my obstructive apnea was causing my brain to surface out of restful sleep 98 times/hour, roughly every 40 seconds. Once they got me on CPAP, I had a "REM Rebound" where my REM sleep periods were longer than what's normal, because I had been deprived of them. The morning of my study, once they had me on the machine, I slept like a log. It was wonderful.

My APAP Machine (A is for Adjustable-- it has a brain that varies the pressure, instead of its prior CPAP, Constant pressure setting) is awesome, and if I would just bother to get a full night's sleep, I could count on beig fully alert all day. On weekends, when I have a nice sleep-in, well, it's a huge change from before, when afternoon naps were the order of the day, pre-APAP. The CPAP machine is very quiet, and looks like a clock-radio. It has a reservoir of water so it can humidify the air I breathe-- no more winter nosebleeds!

I do have more energy, I don't doze off after sitting for 30 minutes, I definitely don't nod off at work like I used to. I wake up refreshed, something I can't even remember doing. I can't speak for its effects on migraines, depression, or IBS; I'm fortunate to be unafflicted by those.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2013

Do an AskMe search on "sleep apnea" and you will find dozens of links and testimonials.

I am going to add one more possible consequence: Your friend will say to herself, "I am a single mother in all but name, with a husband who contributes NOTHING to either our income or our household. I want a divorce." And Husband finds himself single and owing child support. And with dismal prospects for remarrying, because being unemployed and unable to pitch in around the house won't make him very attractive to most women.

How much does the husband value his marriage?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2013

Obstructive apnic here, and ex-sleep tech to boot. Without my BiPAP, I would snore so badly, I would wake up some mornings and feel my tonsils so swollen they would be sitting on the back of my tongue. I am SO lucky in a prior job that I had a boss with sleep issues as I would doze off while doing certain IT tasks like OS installation or Active Directory account creation. I also had some serious temper management issues in addition.

Coincidentally, I am pretty much the multiple threat of apnea - Heavy, a smoker, small airway, large tongue for my mouth, and I am pretty much lacking a neck to boot.
posted by Samizdata at 1:41 PM on January 10, 2013

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