I recently had a sleep study to confirm that I have obstructive sleep apnea. Cathi’s elbows to my ribs should’ve been confirmation enough.
Sleep apnea, which affects 18 million Americans, is a disorder in which breathing is interrupted briefly but repeatedly during sleep, causing a person to awaken. This fragmented sleeping interrupts the sleep cycle, lowers the oxygen in the blood and leaves the person drowsy during the day. One of the hallmarks of sleep apnea is loud snoring.
It is corrected by the use of a machine called a CPAP that forces air through your nose and/or mouth to keep your airway open so you get restful sleep.
Two of my brothers have had sleep studies for the condition. We used to live on Davis Drive with the railroad tracks behind our house. At night with the walls shaking, one almost couldn’t tell if it was a freight train passing by or Tony’s snoring.
My brother Orvis’ drowsiness from not getting restful sleep was so bad we’d go to Lake Berryessa to party and I’d turn around and he’d be sitting at a picnic table sleeping with a red Solo cup in his hand.
You know it’s bad when my Beagle Theo, who has his own snoring problem, actually puts his paw over my mouth in bed when he’s next to me.
When you go for a sleep study, you spend the night in a room that seems like a motel room while technicians monitor your sleep. Sounded simple enough.
A smiling female technician led me to a tiny room with a chair in the center of it. Behind the chair stood a guy about 6 feet 6 inches tall. Dozens of multicolored wires hung from the walls. It looked like an enhanced interrogation room.
They attached electrodes to my ankles, chest, side and face, behind my ears and glued several more to my scalp. When they were done I looked like something out of Abu Ghraib.
To lighten the mood, the female tech told me about one time while she was hooking up a man, he let out a fake scream that sent two other patients running from the waiting room. Another time, she was attaching electrodes to the scalp of a bald man. Just as another patient with a full head of hair walked past the room the bald man said, “Hey, how come he didn’t have to shave his head?” The other patient was in a near panic, asking if he had to shave his head!
By 10 p.m., I laid in total darkness watched by a night vision camera in the corner of the room, listened to by an always-on intercom with sensors monitoring my leg, chest and stomach movements, heartbeat, brain waves, teeth grinding and rapid eye movements. The NSA had to be involved somewhere in this.
At one point in the night, the tech came in to fit me with a CPAP machine. It takes some getting used to, but I managed. Morning came sooner than expected.
While the techs and I had fun during the sleep study, obstructive sleep apnea is no joke. It can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. It increases the risk of irregular heartbeat and makes workplace or driving accidents more likely.
If you’re excessively drowsy during the day, wake up with headaches and/or are told you’re a heavy snorer, talk to your physician about a sleep study for sleep apnea. Your life could depend on it. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]