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Do You Fall Asleep During The Day But Deny You Have A Sleep Disorder? I Did And It Almost Killed Me!

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Health & Fitness, Sleep Apnea, Steve Holmes, Wellness

Do You Fall Asleep During The Day But Deny You Have A Sleep Disorder?

Hello, my name is Steve and I have sleep apnea.

My wife diagnosed this more than five years ago, but I was in denial. The only reason I’m alive today is because my doctor died and my wife is VERY persistant.

What you say? – Alive because my doctor died? – How does that work?

Well, it goes like this: I’ve been mostly healthy all my life – the kind of guy who eats anything, does whatever I want, and avoids the doctor like the plague. My family doctor also treated my parents and knew the whole family health history. That means he knew that I’m never sick, so every few years I’d show up to prove I’m still alive. We had this GREAT arrangement, where he’d leave me alone until I asked for help.

In fact, the last time I saw him, I drove to his office to discover it was now an office for Psychiatric Therapy. My self-diagosis on that subject was very positive, and I since I didn’t want another second opinion from my wife, I picked up the cellphone and called my doctor’s number. The reply – after a few giggles from the receptionist – was that they’d moved seven years earlier, and I needed do drive east for a couple of blocks.

As a typical guy, I generally figure that any problem short of broken bones will go away with time, and often, time will mend those too. In fact, I’ve broken ribs on multiple occasions, and the doctor just prescribed pain pills and said “you’re tough and have great chest muscles to holdem in place, so call me in a few weeks if you haven’t gotten any better.”

So, since I was convinced that sleep apnea was just a made-up disease by doctors conspiring to take more trips to Tahiti, and since my doctor wasn’t likely to send the authorities to drag me into his office for a physical examination, my expert opinion was that I was in perfect health.

My belief was that my wife just needed a new hobby – and maybe ear plugs. After all, my dad’s snores could shake the house, but he lived to be 77 years old.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, my wife was not deterred from her insistance that I not only snored, but I was continually stopping my breathing throughout the night. I assured her that I just reverted to a more shallow form of breathing during parts of the night. Heck, if I wasn’t breating, I wouldn’t be perfectly fine each morning. RIGHT?

After three years of this verbal dance, I was blind-sided by a need to renew a prescription for a special hand cream. When I called my doctor’s office, I was told that he would not renew my prescription without seeing me in person to prove I was alive and still needed the medication. I said something like: “What? You know my voice. Of course I’m alive, and I’ll need this stuff for as long as I live – if not longer!

How dare my doctor to dare challenge my self-diagnosis! And, given that I was just turning 50, he insisted on checking out my overall health. So, I decided that procrastination was my best friend, and maybe the doc would foget about this unreasonable demand and accidentally fill my prescription.

Well, after a two month delay, I decided to bite the bullet and make an appointment. To my surprise, the receptionist informed me that my long-term, usually reasonable doctor had passed away. My response was to say something comforting like: That’s terrible! … Can someone else fill my prescription?

Natually, no doctor was going to give me a prescription without EVER seeing me in person, and this was an even bigger problem because I had moved to another state two years earlier. This had been fine until then, because of the wonders of the telephone and fax. Now I needed a new doctor in my own community. How unreasonable!

In part 2, we’ll review the joys of meeting a new doctor – in person – at the age of 50.

Part 3 will cover the wonders of spending the night in a sleep lab, and hearing the truth about Sleep Apnea.

Later, we’ll explore the ongoing saga of living [yes, living] life with Sleep Apnea, and how it is actually better than gradually dying in denial.

For those of you who want to know more facts about Sleep Apnea, here is my current definition – minus the Tahiti part:

Sleep Apnea “A condition characterized by temporary breathing interruptions during sleep. The pauses in breathing can occur dozens or even hundreds of times a night.”

Symptoms include:

  • loud snoring
  • a gasping or snorting sound when the sleeping individual starts to breathe again.

Although the individual may not be aware of having sleep apnea, the condition can:

  • disrupt the quality of sleep
  • result in daytime fatigue
  • raise your blood pressure
  • cause permanent brain damage
  • result in sudden death over time

The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the tongue or other soft tissue blocks the airway.

Enough with these boring technical details. We’re still too early in this story to believe this kind of non-sense.

So, if you absolutely need to know more facts before the next installment, go ahead and check out this 5-star book about Sleep Apnea.

For more information about how to get a better night sleep, read my wife’s recent post about Sleep Apnea and many other sleep challenges.