Me and Sleep Apnea
Snoring on holiday
Back in the summer of 2009 I went on a holiday in a caravan with my family.They complained bitterly that I was snoring and keeping them awake. The next day I bought a spray to help with this problem and it was in this packet that I read about Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is life-threatening.
The photo is mine.
A long term problem with snoring
I had been vaguely aware that I did snore. I thought it was occasional and intermittent, but on holiday I discovered the problem was much bigger than this. So what was happening? As we get older and more likely if we get fatter, the muscles of the throat relax and sag in sleep and in fact, for a while completely obstruct the airway for as much as ten seconds. The brain then sends signals to open the airway and the tissues vibrate producing what we know as a snore. This snore causes one to wake up a certain amount but one is not aware of this. With this happening throughout the night the subject is deprived of sleep at the right levels and often feels tired on waking in the morning. Drowsiness is a problem throughout the day and makes using machinery or driving a car dangerous because one is quite likely to be overcome by drowsiness to the point of sleeping. The first problem is that the subject is not aware that there is a problem. They may be aware of the drowsiness but not realise how dangerous it is for them and others. If you have drowsiness in the day it is best to consult your doctor.
At the doctor's
I discussed my fears with the doctor and he gave me the Epworth test. This consists of questions about how drowsy you feel in the daytime. It asks questions which require answers on the scale of 1 to 3. 1 being slightly drowsy 2 being struggling to keep awake and 3 definitely falling asleep.The first question is how you feel when sitting reading, then it goes on to watching TV. Next is sitting inactive in a public place, such as a theatre or meeting. Next there is as a passenger in a car for an hour without a break. Lying down for a rest in the afternoon. Sitting and talking to someone, would you fall asleep? Sitting quietly after lunch with no alcohol.And finally, and most alarmingly, waiting in a car in traffic or at the lights. If your score comes to ten or more it is wise to allow further investigations to be made
Seeing the consultant about the snoring problem
The next step should have been to find out how to use an oximeter overnight. However the weather intervened with quite a big snowfall preventing me from going to the hospital the day of my appointment. That meant that the consultant did not have details of the oxygen in my blood over night. The oximeter fits on a finger with another part strapped to your wrist. It shows your pulse rate and the level of oxygen in the blood. The consultant went through the Epworth test again and I had a score of 13. He confidently stated that I had almost certainly got sleep Apnoea. Having said that he said I could not drive my car until I was receiving treatment and must inform DVLA and my insurer. DVLA is the authority that controls car lecences in th U.K.. It is rather alarming to be unable to drive, especially as I live in a rural area.
Will this work?
Coping without my car.
Fortunately I have a good friend who took me to important engagements. In exchange I took her out for meals. I tried not to make use of her too often. Being unable to drive must put some people off investigating their snoring. I had another appointment at the hospital to find out how to use the oximeter overnight. It was like wearing an over-sized watch with a piece to fit over my middle finger. I slept well. Then in the morning I took the oximeter back to the hospital. Then I had to wait about three weeks to hear from the consultant. I had to ring up twice to chivvy them. Eventually they told me that after all I hadn't got sleep apnoea. HURRAY. My oxygen levels recorded during the night had been steady. I had not had obstructive breathing.
There was a suggestion I could use a mandibular device to stop the snoring. If I had this properly made by a dentist it would cost about 250 GBP. Also they said it usually helped about 50% of people. On a quick calculation I worked out this meant that it didn't help the other 50%. Also the device pulls the lower jaw forward, to open the airways, sometimes the jaw will not go back again in the daytime. I decided that as I live alone and had no one to disturb with my snoring, it was best to steer clear of this device.
Once again I am enjoying driving.
Avoid Losing Your License Unnecessarily
It is a great inconveniense to have your driving license taken away, so if you suspect you may have sleep apnea you can buy your own pulse oximeter and monitor your night's sleep, to check if your oxygen levels are dropping. If they are you know there is a problem and you can seek medical help. If not you have saved yourself losing your license for a time. You can buy an oximeter from Amazon in the module below. If you suspect you have sleep apnea check it out at once. It could well be a matter of life and death and not just for you. If you fell asleep driving, you could kill yourself, or some innocent by-stander. This needs immediate action. I cannot stress enough that this is a life threatening problem.