Don’t snooze on sleep apnea: a diagnosis changed my life

sleep apnea

My husband’s snoring was annoying, but it also made me concerned about his health

“I’m going to have to smother him with the pillow.” 

When my husband and I first got married, I had to time bedtime such that I fell asleep first or I would not sleep at all. It was like sleeping beside a jackhammer. A snorting, leg-jerking, air-sucking jackhammer. 

On the occasions I didn’t manage to fall asleep first, I lay awake, quietly simmering in frustration, accruing resentment, and plotting revenge. Gentle requests to turn over, followed by elbow jabs, would buy me small windows during which I could nod off before the roar recommenced. 

In addition to the annoyance of the snoring, there was daytime sleepiness. We were unable to get through a movie in the theatre without my husband nodding off. He would fall asleep while sitting on the couch chatting. 

He fell asleep during a performance of RENT on Broadway, one of the loudest shows there is. I was annoyed with all of this, but I was also starting to get concerned about his health. Finally, he went to a sleep clinic and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. 

Thanks to a CPAP machine, the two of us started sleeping better

The first night he used a CPAP machine, I didn’t sleep a wink. He was so silent I kept checking to make sure he was breathing. The snoring stopped, the daytime sleepiness stopped, and we both started sleeping better. He is at the point now that he can’t sleep without the machine. He even brought it to the hospital when I was in labour! 

CPAP machine

Surprise! It turns out, I have severe sleep apnea, too

Fast forward a few years. During a routine physical, my doctor asked me if I snore. My husband had mentioned that I snore a bit, but nothing major. I mentioned it, not thinking much of it, and my doctor ordered a sleep study just in case. While waiting for the results, my husband and I discussed how we would be very surprised if I had sleep apnea, since my snoring was nowhere near as bad as his had been. 

We were surprised. It turns out that I have severe sleep apnea. It is normal to stop breathing up to six times an hour — I stop breathing up to 90 times an hour, averaging about 35 times. 

The fatigue I had attributed to being the mother of young children was actually due to a severe sleep disorder. I was shocked, but so glad it had been caught. The CPAP machine was easier to adjust to than I anticipated.

Proper treatment of sleep apnea changed my life

I know a lot of people, particularly women, are hesitant to use a CPAP machine because it is bulky, awkward, and just generally unattractive. I won’t pretend that isn’t true. It does take some time getting used to, but you do get used to it. It isn’t very sexy, but neither are health problems or fatigue. 

As surprised as I was by the diagnosis, finding the proper treatment has made a big difference in my quality of life, and I am grateful that my doctor didn’t take my “mild snoring” lightly. 

If you or your partner snore, or feel tired during the day, I strongly urge you to speak with your doctor about doing a sleep study. If you are informed you need to use a CPAP, don’t worry! It isn’t nearly as bad as you are thinking, and you will be amazed how much more alert you are after using it for a while. 

Your health is important — and so is your partner’s sanity! Checking for and treating sleep apnea is an important step in ensuring you are getting the sleep your health depends on.

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