So, it turns out, I likely have sleep apnea. A potentially life threatening condition where the patient stops breathing for a period of time while sleeping. I am being sent for a sleep study by my doctor to get it diagnosed and the severity evaluated. This video shows what happens to someone during an apnea episode. Frankly, it’s frightening.
In the short term, I may need a CPAP machine. Affectionately known as an elephant mask. People I know who have used one, say they have never felt better. Essentially, a CPAP, maintains a certain amount of pressure in your throat, so your airway doesn’t collapse during inhalation.
Long term solutions involve lifestyle changes, such as:
- Avoid alcohol and medicines that make you sleepy. They make it harder for your throat to stay open while you sleep.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Even a little weight loss can improve your symptoms.
- Sleep on your side instead of your back to help keep your throat open. You can sleep with special pillows or shirts that prevent you from sleeping on your back.
- Keep your nasal passages open at night with nasal sprays or allergy medicines, if needed. Talk with your doctor about whether these treatments might help you.
- If you smoke, quit. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking.
The primary one that concerns me, is weight loss. As my weight decreases and even as my activity level increases, I should see a reduction in such episodes (unless there’s an actual anatomical defect in my ENT).
I am thankful to my wife for telling me when she witnessed me having an apneic episode. If stopping breathing doesn’t set you on the path to life, I don’t know what will.