Tell me about Sleep Apnea
June 20, 2004 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Sleep Apnea... some, ooh, let's say about 5% of the population has it. I'm starting to think I might, too: not feeling rested in the morning, snoring at night, breathing stops irregularly, etcetera. Anyone got personal experiences, stories, or advice to offer? I'm not running to the doctor yet... unless y'all scare me into it!

footnote: the continuous feeling of "tired" could also be a side-effect of Celexa, my anti-depressant. The not-breathing, on the other hand, probably isn't...
posted by five fresh fish to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Man alive the sleep study was pure hell.

You show up, they glue crap all over you and then they expect you to sleep NOW! But of course you can't and at the hospital I went to *cough*EvanstonNorthwestern*cough* they get mighty pissed. It's a shock to them when you can't instantly fall asleep. When I finally got to sleep I got woken up by sirens. The ER was right under the room so I got to hear the various sirens from many an ambulance that night. Around 5 a.m. I couldn't sleep anymore so they booted me out.

The doc said I had severe apnea. I got a bipap and with no results after a few weeks I called the doc so he could adjust the pressures. He never returned my calls. Ever. I called the company that supplied the machine and had them take it back.

I'd like to try somewhere else but I dread the sleep study more than anything in the whole damn world. I just can't bring myself to do it again. I know it probably wont be as bad as the first but I'm afraid that it will be!
posted by @homer at 6:15 PM on June 20, 2004

fff: Do go to the doctor. While many people live with untreated apnea for a long time, it's a serious health risk, and it can kill you.

@homer: The doctor never returned your calls? That's really weird. You should get another opinion, maybe. And even if this sleep study is also bad, it's only one night.
posted by litlnemo at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2004

My stepfather also had a horrible time with Sleep Apnea before the doctor had him in for surgery. They removed tissue from his soft palate and throat. He was miserable for a few weeks, but was very happy after healing. Besides losing 30 pounds from eating only pureed foods, he said he had never slept better in his life.

I was thinking about asking a similar question for myself. On the not-breathing part - do you wake up coughing? Have trouble getting air into the lungs? I have been experiencing these symptoms off and on for a few years and thought it might be related to apnea. Or is that more like asthma?
posted by dual_action at 7:08 PM on June 20, 2004

I believe I had it - maybe a mild version, but I woke up fairly often just not breathing. It's one of the many things that went away on Atkins.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:16 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: I don't wake up coughing or gasping. My wiff, who I've just now fetched over here, says:

"You go to sleep and you're fine for a while, and then you start to snore, and there is a real strained, struggling quality to your breathing when you're snoring, and there are a few times I've actually heard you stop breathing for a few seconds at a time, repeatedly."

I have nights where I toss and turn endlessly, but I think everyone does.

I'm not overweight, I don't have trouble eating. I don't have other respiratory problems. I am on the closer side to forty than thirty. Don't get a lot of headaches, don't have high blood pressure.

But I'm always tired. And even while awake, I do find that there are times I quit breathing, which just has to be plain wrong.

Could just as easily be the meds, except for that stopping-breathing and snoring bit.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:30 PM on June 20, 2004

My vote after that last post is to go in yesterday. That just freaks me out.
posted by stoneegg21 at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2004

I agree with stoneegg. From the way it's been described to me, many people wake up, but not consciously; they don't recall waking up during the night when they get up in the morning.

And even if we're all wrong, I'd much rather have you visit and find out it's nothing (or a different sleep disorder diagnosis) than just forget about it. Do you have health insurance?
posted by gramcracker at 8:03 PM on June 20, 2004

posted by Fupped Duck at 8:11 PM on June 20, 2004

I have sleep apnea. I finally made the decision to go in after I began to nod off during the day, even after sleeping for 9 or 10 hours. Apparently, with apnea, one never enters the REM state and is therefore never fully rested. While at the sleep center, they had me try a CPAP machine (a facemask that straps onto your head and provides enough air pressure to keep your air passage open) and I slept like I had never slept before. It was probably one of the best things I did, because the full sleep gives me much more energy during the day to do things that I need to do, like lose 50 pounds. The doctor says that losing weight may alleviate the apnea.

In retrospect, the sleep center experience was not the most fun experience (more odd than uncomfortable) but the benefits outweigh the night of testing. I guess with me it was to the point where I had to do something, or keep being miserable. If you seriously think you have a problem, I'd really reccommend going in for a sleep study...
posted by sharksandwich at 8:22 PM on June 20, 2004 [2 favorites]

I don't know much about these things, but I've heard people with sleep apnea sleeping before. It's horrifying. Have wiff record it. I have the sense that if anyone heard themselves making those awful suffocating noises for any length of time they'd run to the sleep clinic. At least you're asleep when all of that nasty racket is going on- she has to listen to what sounds like someone loudly dying all night. So, yeah, make a tape, and take note during waking hours how often you find yourself breathing through your mouth rather than your nose. I think these two self-diagnostic aids should give you a better idea whether a hospital campout is called for.

My personal anecdotal evidence suggests that Celexa, while making one logy during the day, doesn't cause sleeplessness. So although it could be responsible for the lethargy, it's less likely to be the cause of your waking not feeling rested. This paragraph is making me tired
posted by obloquy at 8:50 PM on June 20, 2004

My mom has sleep apnea to where she has to wear a machine that counts her breathing patterns at night. She is ok with it, and if you dont see a doctor and it gets worse it is extremely hard on your heart over time. You do have a heart, fff?
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: Do you have health insurance?

I have Canada. It's even better than health insurance. :-)

I'm so surprised everyone's freaked out. I... well, I had no idea this was something more than just annoying.

My wife just said I sound kind of like Darth Vader. I'll admit that that doesn't sound healthy.

I will be bringing this up with my GP. It had never occurred to me until today that I might have a breathing problem!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: And do I have a heart? Of course!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: Hey... recording it would be a great excuse for buying an MP3 player/recorder...

Damn, I love AskMe.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 PM on June 20, 2004

So your just cold blooded. I see.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:48 PM on June 20, 2004

Take it to email, keyser.

Thanks for asking this question, fff. I too find myself very tired most of the time, with some snoring and other symptoms that have been mentioned. I guess I should get off my ass and go check out the sleep clinic like my wife asks . . .
posted by ashbury at 9:58 PM on June 20, 2004

Better on video than only audio recording.

My LATE partner had apnea. He died suddenly at age 46 of a heart attack. I did not know apnea then, but knew he was falling asleep on the sofa far too early in the evening.

Snoring is only snoring. I have my own sleep disorder, I wiggle, often extremely vigorously. My late partner rather liked that (weird). He snored. BUT I would wake up because suddenly, the snoring would stop and then no sound of breathing at all.

Visually, you could see he was trying to breath. His whole body would get into the effort of trying to suck in air. Then suddenly he would explode with a majorly loud snort of indrawn air. The steady snore would resume, and I would fall back to sleep.

When your airway collapses, your diaphram still trys to pump air in. All this effort drives the blood pressure sky-high within your pullmonary (lung) blood vessels. That's not very good.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200. GO directly to your GP and get signed up for a sleep study.

(the above description of apnea is probably a rather advanced sort, and describes symptoms of a man in mid-40's, within a year of his death)
posted by Goofyy at 9:59 PM on June 20, 2004

Response by poster: I'm pretty sure that if I have apnea, it's really mild.

Keysor, silly, it was a joke about the alias. Five Fresh Fish, y'see. Hence the link to the diagram of a Fish's circulatory system. I was disappointed to find that they do not have multiple hearts. (But not surprised; I didn't recall finding multiple hearts last time I gutted a fish.)

I don't remember: do we have a reason to be pissed off at each other?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:17 PM on June 20, 2004

No we don't. Maybe it sounded harder than I was trying for. Your link explained why a lot of fish are cold blooded.
posted by Keyser Soze at 10:40 PM on June 20, 2004

Here's what a sleep study looks like (self link). Uncomfortable, ask about advice before going in for one.

I'm about 35, maybe 30 lbs over ideal body weight (less now) but not what you'd call obese. Family history of snoring on the richter scale. Doc says 'moderate' sleep apnea, with 'severe' being the next step.

The CPAP machine was no cake walk, but when they turned it on it was a sleep-epiphany. As I was falling asleep I definitely remember feeling as if I had my first real breath in a long, long time.

I'm not sure how this will turn out in the long run, CPAP is a steep price to pay for some one as young as myself. But, if it means I'm less sleepy, cranky, moody, depressed, and generally crapped out then it'll be worth it .
posted by daver at 10:59 PM on June 20, 2004

My husband has sleep apnea. It could have killed him.

Fish, get it fixed not just for you but for your wife. It is horrifying in the extreme to listen to your husband stop breathing, then make all sorts of ungodly noises to breath again. And his snoring could be heard outside the house.

Once my hubby got his cpap machine, it was like having a whole other spouse.

Please, please, please, if any of you even suspect you might have this, go get checked! You don't want to have a heart attack or a stroke-I am convinced that if my husband hadn't finally got checked, I would be a widow now.
posted by konolia at 4:20 AM on June 21, 2004

Hey dual_action, a quick reply to your question above --

It could be asthma; many people find their asthma flares up at night because bedrooms are often asthma triggers with dust, mites, feather pillows, etc. You should think about getting it checked out, though.
posted by litlnemo at 4:31 AM on June 21, 2004

As someone who has sleep apnea, and who got set up with a bi-pap machine about 5 or 6 months ago, I cannot _tell_ you what a difference it makes. (And after doing a lot of research on it, how apparently threatening the condition really is, even in moderate forms.)

I had all the same symptoms you do--snoring, interrupted breathing, wife who couldn't sleep either (and who was concerned). More obviously, I was practically becoming a narcoleptic...not only was I constantly nodding off at my desk, etc., I had taken to basically not driving more than a short distance, because I was constantly tired. (I was also getting up 3-4 times a night, minimum, to go to the bathroom. I thought it was just my prostate getting older, but it's apparently a typical symptom.)

The ENT I finally went to had my wife tape my sleep, and scheduled me for a sleep test immediately.

The sleep study wasn't all that hard, honestly, although a calm, polite staff definitely helped I'm sure. I had a test that monitored me "solo" for 3-4 hours, and then with a machine that raised the pressure until my apnea stopped. After just 3 hours on the machine, I woke having had the best sleep in months.

Once I got a machine at home, our lives all changed dramatically. Not only was I getting a better sleep, and therefore more active, better at getting things done around the house, etc., but my wife sleeps a lot better as well. We've now taken several long family car trips where I've driven most or all of a long leg, with no problems at all. (My wife loves to drive, but so do I, and it wasn't fair to just expect her to do it all the time.) More importantly, my blood pressure has gone down, I'm exercising more, and I'm much more active with my kids. Do it, do it, do it, do it.
posted by LairBob at 5:03 AM on June 21, 2004

Response by poster: I'm really quite sure it's not as bad as y'all are imagining. The wife does sleep, I don't wake the neighbours, I'm not having choking spasms in bed. It's mild. I won't be dying this week.

I wonder about the asthma thing. I sleep on a feather pillow, under a feather duvet, over a comforter that's over the waterbed. The bedrooms windows face a relatively busy road (relative for this town) and plenty of grit does find its way into the house.

Maybe my nasal passages are swelling like watermelons.

We're going to be moving soon. One of our first purchases for the new home will be a HEPA filter for the bedroom.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 AM on June 21, 2004

As another with sleep apnea, I can only say "GO NOW". As with the others who have had it treated, it is a life-changing experience. Daver said he "remember[s] feeling as if I had my first real breath in a long, long time." That is the best description I have ever heard.

Headaches, high blood pressure, falling asleep at random times, all just disappeared once I got my C-PAP machine.

The sleep study is weird but tolerable. It's like sleeping in a weird hotel with an exploded computer on your head, but if you do have apnea, a dark quiet room will most likely make you go to sleep anyway.

And FWIW, in a lot of states (not sure about Canada) if you do have untreated sleep apnea, your doc may have your driver's license involuntarily removed.

fff, on preview: Talk to your doc anyway. It's one of those things you don't screw around with.
posted by karmaville at 9:48 AM on June 21, 2004

FFF, if you're not getting rest, it doesn't matter whether you're doing it quietly or noisily--if you basically feel like you are constantly fatigued, and you and your wife have both noticed that you have obstructed breathing, then you should think seriously about getting tested. It's not necessarily weight-related, either. It can be your tonsils, or allergies, or any number of other physiological causes. (My 4-yr old son had apnea because of his huge tonsils, and getting them removed made a huge difference for him, too. It's been a big year for my family all sleeping better.)

Aside from the more subtle health dangers (which are not limited to hypertension), if you are constantly fatigued, then you are basically denying you and your family an important element of someone they love. Not to be alarmist, but you are meaningfully increasing the risk in your lives as you walk (and drive) through the world in a diminished capacity. (It's not the 11:00AM drive after a cup of coffee that's risky--it's when you stay at your friend's house a little later than you expected, and you're driving home at 11:00PM, and you realize that you're really tired.)

Again, this is from someone who's been through it--if you're not feeling up to par, there are ways to address it, and important reasons not to let it just go on.
posted by LairBob at 9:49 AM on June 21, 2004

Just in case you didn't get the message, fff, here's another recent apnea diagnosee telling you: go have 'em test you. While I sympathize with @homer's horrible experience, I can only say I have fairly strong claustrophobia and even I was able to do it, albeit at a different Chicago-area hospital (*cough*St.Joe'sSleepCenterROCKS*cough*). Seriously, fff, even if you are convinced you have a "mild case," you'll be absolutely amazed when you discover what a real night's sleep can do for you...
posted by JollyWanker at 9:58 AM on June 21, 2004

fff, the way your wife describes your sleeping habits sounds exactly like the way my wife describes mine, and I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

If you have the sleep study done, INSIST that they test the CPAP machine on you. When I went for my sleep study, they were supposed to test me out on the CPAP, but for some reason they didn't, and the whole thing ended up as a waste of time. I still need to go back to repeat the test, and I keep putting it off, much to my wife's chagrin.

For the rest of you with sleep apnea, I recommend doing some research into the Pillar Implant. This seems to be a very promising alternative to machines or surgery.

(And I guess I should put my money where my mouth is, so I will quit procrastinating and call the doctor about my own SA, again.)
posted by malocchio at 10:48 AM on June 21, 2004

Response by poster: Okay, okay, okay. I'll take this seriously.

Perhaps my entire history of depression can be linked to poor sleep. That would be a wonderful, wonderful thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 AM on June 21, 2004

Response by poster: Hey, what about this habit of stopping breathing while awake? Does anyone else here do that?

Like just now. I posted the message above, and while I was waiting for AskMe to finish doing its business, and while waiting for MeFi to load, I quit freakin' breathing for probably, oh, ten to twenty seconds. Holding my breath, waiting to exhale.

That seems downright bizarre to me.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2004

Just to hop on the bandwagon- my stepdad had sleep apnea. He went to the Stanford sleep clinic and did the sleepover test- which he said was pretty comfy all things considered. They gave him a CPAP (which drove my mom nuts sleeping next to him- it makes a hissing noise). BUT:

He stopped falling asleep during the day. (Also, they told him that people with sleep apnea take 10 second mini-naps during the day without realizing - including while driving etc.)

His ulcers went away.

His blood pressure went way down.

He stopped catching every flu that came through town.

He got way more done because he wasn't tired all the time.

It was a miracle cure.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:49 AM on June 21, 2004

FFF, it could indeed be causing your depression. PLEASE GO GET CHECKED!
posted by konolia at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2004

Response by poster: I WILL, I WILL!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2004

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