Honey, Do You Know You Stop Breathing In Your Sleep?
"Honey, Do You Know You Stop Breathing In Your Sleep?"
Yep, those were the words that I spoke to my husband one morning after a very restless night of sleep. His reply, “What are you talking about?” I proceeded to explain to him that while he was sleeping, he had stopped breathing for almost a minute (which, to me seemed an unbearable eternity) before he gave a loud snort and started breathing again.
Here’s the scenario as it played out:
My husband was asleep, on his back as usual, and began snoring. Low at first and then gradually becoming louder and louder. I had no idea how he did not wake himself up with all that noise – unbelievable! After one particularly one loud snore “in” I noticed that after a moment or two, I had not heard a breath come “out”. I kept listening, waiting for one, but it wasn’t there. I began to move closer to him and it looked like he wasn’t breathing – just lying there with his mouth partially open, chest not moving. I really started to become scared, lifted my hand to gently shake him, when all of a sudden, out came this loud snort and he began breathing normally once again. I watched him for a few more minutes before I finally settled down and fell asleep.
Sleep apnea is sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
Some common signs and/or symptoms of sleep apnea may include:
· Sleepiness during the day
· Loud snoring
· Periods of breathing cessation during sleep
· Morning headache
· Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
· Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
We argued back and forth, really getting nowhere. He didn’t really believe me. This continued to happen over the next few months, not very often but often enough to bother me. I insisted that he mention this to his doctor the next time he went for his physical.
Sleep apnea cannot be diagnosed during a routine office visit or detected by a blood test.
Are You at Risk:
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even women and children. Risk factors include:
- Male gender (yes, my husband is a male)
- Being overweight (my husband is 5’10 and 135lbs. soaking wet)
- Being over the age of forty (he was 32 when he was diagnosed)
- Having larger tonsils (no large tonsils here)
- Having a family history of sleep apnea (his brother has it too)
When he went for his physical three months later, he actually remembered to mention it to his doctor. His doctor was quite surprised and decided to send him for a sleep apnea test. My husband really wasn’t really considered a candidate for sleep apnea but better safe than sorry. He spent one night at a sleep disorder center, hooked up accordingly to the necessary testing equipment, and then came home early the next morning.
Tests to detect sleep apnea may include:
· Nocturnal polysomnography. During this test, you are hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
· Oximetry. This method involves using a small machine that monitors and records the oxygen level in your blood while you're asleep. A simple sleeve fits painlessly over one of your fingers to collect the information overnight.
· Portable cardiorespiratory testing. Under certain circumstances, your doctor may provide you with simplified tests to be used at home to diagnose sleep apnea. These tests usually involve oximetry, measurement of airflow and measurement of breathing patterns.
Can you believe his surprise, when the results came back that he in fact did have sleep apnea. There were a few different options for treatment:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
This is a treatment in where a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked up to a machine that carries a constant flow of air into the nostrils. The positive pressure from air flowing into the nostrils helps keep the airways open so that breathing is not impaired.
Sleep Apnea and Dental Devices
Dental devices can be made that help keep the airway open during sleep.
Surgery for Sleep Apnea
In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct sleep apnea.
His first choice was the dental device. It didn’t last long. It was very uncomfortable for him to wear at night and his jaw hurt each morning when he got up. He definitely didn’t want surgery so that left the CPAP.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems including:
· Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
Other than having to find the mask that was most comfortable to wear, the CPAP is great. He no longer snores (as long as he’s using the CPAP), sleeps better, and most importantly, doesn’t stop breathing during the night – which in turn allows me to get a more restful night of sleep myself.
So women (and men too), if your spouse snores loud enough to wake the dead and shows any other symptoms of possible sleep apnea, have them mention it to their doctor during their next visit. You both might end up getting a better night's sleep.
For more detailed information on sleep apnea, check out the following websites: