When Snoring Isn't Just An Annoyance But A Serious Health Risk

Sunday, March 3, 2024

 "If anyone ever told you that you snore, just know that person has very carefully weighed the pros and cons of letting you live." - Anonymous

I've been on both sides of this quote and I'm happy to report that snoring (mine and my spouse's) did not have to be a permanent condition.  It also did not have to end with a criminal act.  I wish I'd figured this out years ago, but as the saying goes, better late than never.

Like most people who snore, I was fully aware that I sounded like a steam train when I slept.  I knew because people told me (some who were sleeping in other nearby rooms) and because sometimes my snoring even woke me up!  I remember my grandmother snoring.  Her snore pattern was sort of comical to me as a child listening. She'd breathe in and then exhale through her mouth making a sound sort of like a baby doing raspberries.  At some point, I acquired the same pattern and no one, not even I, thought it was comical.  My sweet husband used to snore.  He addressed his snoring a couple decades ago when he had a sleep study done at a sleep lab.  He was wired up, head-to-toe, in a room where sleep technicians observed him sleep as they monitored his vital signs and measured the decibels his snoring reached.  He was found to have mild sleep apnea and was prescribed a CPAP machine.  After some time getting used to the mask and chin strap, he eventually became accustomed and has since enjoyed a much better quality sleep that no longer keeps me awake.

A couple of years ago I decided to look into quieting my nighttime affliction and I asked my ENT about a sleep study.  He explained that sleep studies are now done in the comfort of one's home, in their own bed, with minimal equipment - easy peasy.  I told him I'd consider.  I considered - and I did as most of us do in matters of health, I put it off.   The next year at my annual ENT check up, Dr. Kaufman (an ENT with Albany ENT and Allergy) asked me why I hadn't done the sleep study.  I gave him what I considered a very logical explanation, "Well, since having the study was my idea, I decided it wasn't that important."   In his typical gentle demeanor, he responded with, "Well I'd feel terrible if something happened to you and we hadn't done the study".  His reaction reminded me of my mother's famous line - you get more bees with honey.  I agreed to do the study.

Eventually I was contacted by the company providing the test equipment.  They explained that I'd have to download an app onto my phone and the equipment would communicate with the app and send my results to my physician.  The process took time to arrange, but eventually I received my 'equipment'. My first thought when I opened the box was that it looked like my kids' Fisher Price doctor kit from the 80's.  Not surprising really, since they told me to dispose of it after my test.  I wondered how this was going to be as accurate as the test my husband had in the lab.  I had some serious doubts. 

Come the night of my test, I'd studied the instructions for app and the equipment and felt pretty comfortable with the process.   I stuck the heart monitor to my chest, put on the watch, and put the oxygen sensor on a finger on my left hand, silently praying it didn't fall off during the night.  I then engaged the app and settled down to what I hoped would be a peaceful night with results that didn't mean a CPAP would be in my future.  Surprisingly, I slept fine, even got up once to use the bathroom and in the morning I stopped the session on my app.  Now to wait for the results....

Well, one can joke about snoring, and many do, but it takes a lot to take it seriously and boy, I'm glad I finally did.  It seems my snoring wasn't just a noise issue, it was a serious health issue. My test showed I have severe sleep apnea - episodes where I stop and restart breathing.  During my test I stopped breathing 48.6 times per hour.  Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to a number of health issues, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes and more.  I don't think the average person is aware of how serious snoring is, or that it can be a dangerous symptom of sleep apnea.  There are many risk factors for sleep apnea - excess weight, age, smoking, alcohol use, neck circumference,  narrowed airway, many medical condition...for more check out this article Sleep Apnea - Mayo Clinic.  Aside from the fact that I spent the night not breathing, I was snoring at a 51 db.  Poor John!!!  

While I made fun of my test equipment, its simplicity did not hinder the complex data it collected. 

It took a couple months to get my equipment but by July 31st, I had had my educational session with Hometown Health and was sent home with some state-of-the-art equipment that would hopefully improve my quality of sleep and reduce the health risks of sleep apnea.  

These photos show how simple my face gear is (just like the model in the photo) - comfortable silicone that is minimally invasive. (There are other masks available some covering your mouth and nose.) This model is so comfortable, I often wake towards morning and panic that I've removed my mask during the night only to reach up and find it's still secure on my face.  It's so comfortable in any sleep position, I can't imagine of sleeping without it.  My husband feels the same.  Before he got his CPAP in 1999, he used to fall asleep reading or watching tv.  He has a continuous positive air pressure machine. CPAP machines provide constant pressure to keep your upper airway open as you sleep.  Now he never nods off reading or watching tv.
I also love the app that works with the machine.  Every morning it tells me how many hours I've slept, how my mask fit was, how many episodes of apnea I had and how many times I took my mask off.  If you like feedback, you'll love this app.  It also sends your data to your provider!  I went from 48.6 apnea episodes an hour to less than 6.  That is considered a successful therapeutic level and I'd say, pretty darn awesome!
My first 10 days

I have to give Dr. Kaufman credit for his expertise in encouraging me to do a study, interpreting my results, setting my machine at perfect settings all 'round the first time out, and making what was historically a very difficult and frustrating adjustment to therapy something quite manageable.  It took me only a few nights to get used to my equipment and within a week I was sleeping 7 full hours.  Before my  machine is an APAP (automatic positive airway pressure).  It  can raise or lower the pressure based on your breathing patterns..  Before my machine,  I would wake up once or twice a night to use the bathroom and sleep until John woke me - even after 9 hrs. of sleep.  Now I often sleep without waking at all and wake up in the morning on my own -  most days after 7 or 8 hrs. of sleep.  My mood and mental clarity all day is much better too!  Instead of waking up groggy, I wake up refreshed and ready to roll.

I've been wanting to write this blog since a week after I got my APAP machine, I was that enthusiastic about the results and ease of adjustment to it. I wanted to spread the word to everyone who'd been putting off addressing their sleep issues.   I wished I'd gotten a study done years sooner even though I was totally unaware of my apnea or the serious consequences it could have had.  I was lucky.  I also wish the medical community would be more assertive in discussing sleep apnea with their patients who have conditions that put them at risk.  No one ever suggested one to me until I brought it up.  If you've heard horror stories about people who couldn't get used to their face mask and those stories discouraged you from getting tested, don't let that be the reason you don't get tested. If you snore or think you're at risk - I strongly urge you to talk to your doctor about having a study.  Some patients still require a study in a lab, but many are able to do a home study like I did....in the comfort and privacy of their own home, in their own bed.  Honestly, it has an immediate affect on your quality of life and you can't say that about everything.  

My insurance covered my study and my equipment as long as I used the machine at least 4 hrs. a night for 90 days.  That was not a problem for me as I was averaging 6-8 hrs. of sleep ever since the middle of August (2 weeks after I got my machine).  I've always loved sleep but now I'm getting quality sleep and lowering my risk of heart attack, stroke and more.  If you snore like a bear or sleep with someone who does, consider taking a step towards improving  your sleep and your health.  Remember, most health conditions do not shout to get your attention.  Some are silent or give warnings in subtle ways.  We need to pay attention to the ones that don't shout but whisper loudly, as is the case with snoring.  

Disclaimer: I am NOT a health professional.  The information shared in this blog is my personal experience and research...shared with the intention of encouraging others to get help eliminating dangerous sleep apnea.  Always talk with your physician for medical advice.

No comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Life As I See It Header

Never Miss A Post - Follow by Email

Sign up here to get the latest blog post delivered to your inbox.
Never miss a post again!