My husband and I used to joke, particularly at the end of a really harrowing day with C, that at least when we became parents he was already sleeping through the night. I think if we had added sleepless nights into the mix with all that was going on – we all would have toppled over and our quest for the elusive happy and adjusted family would have imploded. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my own body was already robbing me of sleep. Insidiously and gradually, undiagnosed sleep issues were robbing me of REM that, low and behold, I actually need to function.
I have always snored and I have always fallen asleep at the drop of a hat. Put me in an idling car and I am out like a light. As soon as my head hits the pillow at night I am dead to the world. It drives my husband crazy. What also drives my husband crazy is my snoring and gasping for air. I knew I snored – LOUD! It has been a source of embarrassment for me my entire life. I make jokes about it to defuse my embarrassment as I had been lead to believe as a kid that it was just my cross to bear. But the gasping for air was new for me, or so I thought. I kept meaning to see the doctor about it – I really did. I knew I probably had sleep apnea but instead of taking the time to get it checked out I pushed it to the bottom of my huge to-do list.
I threw myself into being a mom, a wife and working with kids with special needs. Sure I noticed that I was drowning in paperwork that never seemed to get done, that the housework was largely left undone for days at a time (ok, weeks) (OK! months). So I went to my doctor – secretly convinced that I had some horrific disease that was robbing me of my energy and that I was going to die. Funny how I didn’t think to tell my doctor that I snored or that I thought I might have sleep apnea. All the bloodwork and tests came back negative. So I joined a gym, convinced I was just lazy. I dragged myself there for several weeks, wondering when I was going to start getting that endorphin rush I remembered from my work out stint in my early 20’s. It never came and my work out clothes have been sitting unused in a bag for a VERY long time.
Early in the New Year my hubby threatened divorce if I didn’t do something. Then I started waking up with a bad headache, often a migraine, every morning. I was waking up everyday feeling like I had a hang over, with none of the fun benefits the night before. I went to the doctor and he immediately made a referral to the sleep clinic. I know many people who put off going for a sleep test because they don’t want to wear the “fighter pilot” mask if they have sleep apnea. I put it off because invariably when I think I have a “simple” issue it blows up in my face (all stories for a different post).
I went to the sleep clinic in late June. It was . . . interesting. You would think a sleep clinic would have sound proof rooms. I am sure my snoring kept the light sleepers awake and the conversations between the insomniacs and staff jostled me repeatedly. The best though was the guy in the room beside mine, we shared a bathroom. Dude, if you are reading this – I don’t think you have sleep issues – I think you need to go to a urologist and cut down on your fluid intake. Every hour on the hour the guy was in there peeing like a race horse. So NOT the sound I really want to be woken up with. Anyhow – I made it through that night and woke up with a killer headache which lead me to believe I had “performed” exhaustively that night.
3 LONG weeks later I get a call from the sleep clinic. A nurse there wanted me to call back and get my results over the phone. I figure anytime a doctor gives results over the phone it means that nothing is wrong. WRONG!!!! Turns out I have Central Sleep Apnea, not the Obstructive Sleep Apnea that the majority of people with apnea have. So, my brain forgets to send signals to my muscles to breath. Hmmm, yes that sounds like something I would do. I wake up anywhere from 44 to 88 times on average an hour. No wonder I am tired.
So now I have a CPAP machine that blows air up my nose at night – and yes I look like a fighter pilot. If I talk while I am wearing it I sound like Darth Vader. Very cool according to the kids. People keep asking me if I hate it and saying they could never wear it. Honestly, I would wear or do almost anything at this point if it meant getting a good night sleep and waking up refreshed. Since starting to use it I have had far less headaches in the morning. It is going to be a long road because Central apnea is not as straightforward as the other kind.
Last Friday I went for my second sleep study. It was a horrible night. I kept waking up gasping for breath – which is what the doctor (and my hubby) say that I have always done but this time I was actually conscious of it. It felt like I was suffocating every 30 seconds or so. I thought the night would never end. But then, sometime around 5 a.m., the sleep tech was able to get the pressure at an optimal level for me and I did something I haven’t remembered doing (and probably haven’t done) for a VERY long time. I dreamt! It was wonderful and after I woke up I had such a longing. This whole sleep issue crept up on me so gradually that I never stopped to realize that the wonderful, powerful, dynamic dreams that I used to have had stopped. I want them back.
We all need to dream don’t we?