Worried That You May Actually Have Sleep Apnea? Realization Often Comes Slowly.

October 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Health & Fitness, Sleep Apnea, Steve Holmes

Worried That You May Actually Have Sleep Apnea?

Part 1 of this series discussed how men rationalize their denial about having “Sleep Apnea“.

Today, in Part 2, the discussion revolves around starting to recognize that you might actually have sleep apnea, and the transition from denial to accepting the possibility.

Two new factors took me from absolute denial to grudging acknowledgement of the possibility:

  • Meeting a new doctor at age 50
  • Discovering that all my siblings either had or suspected they had Sleep Apnea

Meeting a New Doctor at Age 50

For a doctor-phobic, middle-aged, suddenly less-healthy man to be forced to select a new doctor, you begin to have visions of midlife crisis and a sudden need to buy a Ferrari. After all, new car pride should make any man feel better.

Fortunately, my wife was insistent on me having a new doctor, and the Ferrari wasn’t really in the budget.

So, the easiest solution was to call the most convenient doctor’s office and find out whether any of their three physicians was accepting new patients. They all were, but there was more:

  • The first was a distinguished-looking man who was also the owner of the clinic. While he was certainly qualified, it was also evident that he would merely be a temporary solution, and another change would be needed in a few years.
  • Next was friendly woman with good credentials and references, but not many middle-aged men feel comfortable being examined by a woman doctor, and that was the case with me.
  • The last choice was a man in his late thirties or early forties and that was perfect. He was old enough to be experienced, and young enough to work with me long-term.

So, I had a new doctor. Unfortunately, even after I transferred my medical records from the last doctor, and swore that I’d been healthy enough to pass a life insurance exam two years prior, the new doctor insisted on a full checkup. He used words like “turning 50“, “baseline EKG” and “elevated blood pressure.

The higher blood pressure was the most worrisome: After more than a decade of proudly testing at “120 over 80,” this test showed about “150 over 105.” Because of the higher numbers, the new doctor started asking questions about every aspect of my life, and zeroing in on any recent changes.

Grudgingly, I admitted that recently I was always feeling exhausted, but I pointed to an expanded workload and added stress due to a number of situations.

Then it happened: He asked if anyone ever said that I stopped breathing while sleeping, or whether I had ever been been tested for Sleep Apnea.

Time stood still for awhile as my potential responses passed through my mind:

  1. Take the easy way out by denying that anyone ever suggested that I stopped breathing. After all, he had never met my wife. What would it hurt?
  2. Tell him that I have been tested numerous times by nosy doctors who also misdiagnosed this condition.
  3. Bolt for the door and find yet another new doctor who might not be as thorough.

Suddenly, my lips failed me as I heard my own voice saying, “Yes, my wife has complained for years about me stopping breathing throughout the night.”


He next asked, “Do you fall asleep during the day?” GULP! Well, not unless you count waking up face down on your keyboard. So I admitted to finding it harder and harder to stay awake throughout the day.

That was it! He scheduled me for an overnight test at a local sleep lab. DOOMED!

After the rest of my exam, the blood pressure dropped some, and the doctor explained that he was prescribing immediate blood pressure medicine – instead of sending me to the hospital. That got my attention!

All in the Family

During the time between the doctor’s examination and my appointment at the sleep lab, I traveled to a family gathering back in my hometown.

Naturally, my wife pipes up that I am going to be tested at a sleep lab for Sleep Apnea.

To my surprise, one sister admits that she and her husband have Sleep Apnea and sleep with breathing machines. My other sister and our brother chimed in that they have always suspected that they had Sleep Apnea too, but had never been tested.

Could it be true?

There it was! – The Indisputable possibility that I actually could have Sleep Apnea.

Okay, MAYBE I could have Sleep Apnea, but that doesn’t mean that anyone will ever convince me to use a breathing machine with a mask at night.

In the Part 3 of this series, you’ll learn what a sleep lab is like, and what kinds of data is revealed by the test results.

For faster information, read “The Perils of Sleep Apnea–An Undiagnosed Epidemic: A Layman’s Perspective“.


15 Responses to “Worried That You May Actually Have Sleep Apnea? Realization Often Comes Slowly.”

  1. Do You Fall Asleep During The Day But Deny You Have A Sleep Disorder? I Did And It Almost Killed Me! : Boomer Lifestyle on October 26th, 2008 11:58 pm

    […] part 2, we’ll review the joys of meeting a new doctor – in person – at the age of […]

  2. Clint @ hypotheque quebec on November 16th, 2008 4:59 am

    I often make fun of our classmate from college days. She often falls asleep right in the middle of the class, under a well-known terror professor. It was later that we’ve found out she has this disorder, and man.. I feel really bad about laughing at her because of my ignorance.

  3. John@Ingrid & Isabel on November 21st, 2008 12:09 pm

    I often have problems sleeping all night but nothing as serious to the point where I could not control if i just feel asleep. I wonder how common this is?

  4. john@Heart Monitor Reviews on November 28th, 2008 2:07 pm

    Looking forward to part 3, has it been posted yet though? I can’t find it if it has.

  5. Steve Holmes on November 28th, 2008 3:43 pm

    John, Thanks for inquiring about part 3. It intend to post again soon.

  6. latif@debt management on December 25th, 2008 6:42 pm

    One of my Uncle had same problem and sometime it can be so dangerous that he used to sleep while sitting on back of the bike and the driver even don’t know about it.. Today realized its a disorder.

  7. Sean@US Medical Supplies on March 3rd, 2009 4:13 pm

    It’s very expansive and kind of you to post such intimate details. I don’t have sleep apnea, but I understand that it can be very tough to be honest with your doctor… particularly your new doctor. I look forward to part 3!

  8. mil on May 1st, 2009 9:58 am

    Was it a big shock when one of the doctors finally diagnosed you with sleep apnea Steve?

    How is your condition now?

  9. Milly@Sleepmasters Beds on May 13th, 2009 8:42 am

    It is terrible that you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea Steve but I bet you were glad to finally put a label on your illness so that you could work towards curing it.

    How are you coping now?

  10. Sweet Dreams@DenverMattress on May 18th, 2009 1:47 pm

    Steve, thanks for the great article. I too had sleep apnea previously, and we have had many customers of our Denver mattress showroom come in reporting having been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Honestly, it is a very scary condition because it impacts your entire life.

    It has been a long battle, but I am now apnea free. Did your doctor have any suggestions as to how you might be able to resolve the apnea? Hope that you are doing better and hopefully enjoying a great restful night of sleep.

  11. Christopher @ Car Auto Portal on June 4th, 2009 10:35 am

    I have a friend with sleep Apnea and sleeps with breathing machine, I suppose it’s better safe than sorry.

  12. lyka@comparatif assurance vie on June 13th, 2009 10:00 am

    Sleep apnea is a very complicated condition. It should be taken cared of immediately. This is a very informative post. We should really look after ourselves. be conscious of your body, it may show you signs that you should be alarmed of.

  13. AJ @ recycled business cards on June 25th, 2010 10:39 am

    I have a friend who has this. Almost fell asleep behind the wheel. Now he wears a mask to sleep which is super common. As soon as he started using it… and felt the difference… he realized how little sleep his body was actually getting before the treatment. Imagine going through every day not “all there.” Pretty scary.

  14. Tom@Astral Projection on January 23rd, 2011 6:33 pm

    My uncle has sleep apnea for decades. But his breathing equipment is covered by the Insurance by the Canadian health system… When can we get that kind
    of sweet heath care system in US?

  15. David Clay on November 22nd, 2011 4:55 pm

    Just found this series. Awesome resource! Sleep apnea is a huge issue, especially now that the holidays are upon us.