How a Machine Changed My Life.

It has been a little over two months  since my last ramblings that I tried to pass as a post. In that post I told you about “hitting the wall”, needing to slow down and lose weight. That has not changed but I have found out why I “hit the wall” and that is need to know information folks. After getting a lot of blood work done and no red flags going up my favorite health care professional ordered  a sleep test for me. After having a sleep test I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea and probably have suffered from it for several to many years. Now this is for those of you who NEED (not just want one) a long nap every  afternoon. This is for those  who snores so loud it sounds like a bad running chain saw. This is for those who gets sleepy while driving even short distances. These are possible signs of an underlying health problem like sleep apnea and needs your utmost attention. I hope my journey can save you some time and headache.

It all started after I “hit the wall”  and that  started me thinking ” Hey something isn’t right”. No duh! you may say but you see I have very seldom sleep more than 4 hours or so at a stretch my whole adult life. I just thought that was part of being a  grown up with a mortgage, bills to pay and mouths to feed. After I “hit the wall'” I was sleeping 12-14 hours straight and it would take an hour or so to get out of bed. I though maybe I was suffering from depression or maybe another serious condition. I did a lot of research based on my symptoms and suffered information overload. I decided to go to my doctors office. As mentioned above all the blood tests came back fine and a sleep test was ordered. After the results showed I had sleep apnea I started looking up sleep apnea on the web to because I had heard about but had no idea what it really was.

So what is sleep apnea may you ask? Now  there are a lot of sites on the net that can help, but the following is from the American Sleep Apnea Association’s site and is as a quick and short summary of what sleep apnea is as I could find:

“The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath.” There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed; of the three, obstructive is the most common. Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and health care professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences.

Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.”

As you can see sleep apnea is a serious problem but is very treatable.  I want to interject this here : There over 70 different sleep disorders so it is important to seek medical help in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. Also please do not self medicate because you may have underlying health problems or over medicate and cause problems to yourself unnecessarily. Remember the right treatment starts with the right diagnosis!

With my diagnosis of sleep apnea is was prescribed an machine called a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). It helps over come my obstructive sleep apnea by using mild air pressure to keep my airways open while I sleep.  I feel my  CPAP machine  is a  god send with a big G!  I have not felt this good nor have I had this much energy in years!  And if (big if)  I lose the weight I will increase my stamina as well but for the first time in years I actually feel like doing something about.

In closing I would like to say I am obliviously not a doctor so do not use this post as a way to self diagnosis any health problems you may have. But if you suspect you or someone you know has a sleep disorder encourage them to seek medical help. A proper diagnosis and a machine can literally change your life.

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