I’ve always had sleep problems. Up until a few months ago I was tired all of the time. I drove around like a zombie trying to stay awake while I navigated my way to work. I spaced out and nearly fell asleep during slow times at work. I couldn’t get out of bed until I literally had just enough time to dress and run out the door. In high school I danced for at least three hours a week, I rode my bike everywhere (until I got a driver’s licence, that is) and still wanted to sleep through everything. In college during my freshman year I danced up to fourteen hours a week, and I worked out. I was still exhausted. And gaining weight. This past year I started waking up three or four times a night and my arms were asleep.
I don’t know why it took this long to say something, probably because of my increasing frustration with doctors (though that’s a story for a different day) and also due to my impatience. I don’t want to wait however many months to be tested and retested and maybe something might get figured out…
But anyway, back in March during the second half of a physical (for some reason I had the first half in November… I’m not sure why it worked out that way) I mentioned that I am constantly tired. All of the time. Some days I wake up feeling as I never even slept. My doctor’s suggestion? Exercise. Sure, okay, I’m open to trying that. I didn’t tell her that I danced my way through high school and college and was always tired then. I just agreed and started going to the gym to walk for a half hour after work. The only problem was, this exhausted me so much that by the time I got home I was so tired I could barely move. I quickly gave up exercise and told her, no it’s not working. She said my thyroid levels were okay, so we’re on to the next step — she ordered a sleep study for possible sleep apnea.
I had to wait over a month for this sleep study, something that makes me infinitely frustrated with our health care. I’m grate that I have insurance, that I can afford to work on my health as I may, but it’s still frustrating that I can go for so long without real answers. Every night slept without treating sleep apnea is another night closer to heart disease, another night taking away from the restoration that happens during sleep and another high contributing to my slightly high blood pressure. After one terrible night sleep hooked up to wires and laying on a lumpy, hard mattress there is a diagnosis: severe sleep apnea. For me this means I stop breathing on average of fifty-one times per hour for up to fourteen seconds during each “apnea” (which, for me, is a combination of partial stops and complete stops).
Can you imagine the horror and relief? I simultaneously learned that I am not crazy for being tired all of the time, it’s not in my head at all and also that I have a severe issue that’s been seriously neglected.
Now I’m going to come right out and say that yes, I am overweight. And yes I know that in itself is a serious issue that cannot be neglected. It’s a serious issue that I deal with every single day. And it may have some contributions to my sleep apnea. I only say may, because of a couple things. First off, my first sleep technician told me that sleep apnea can be the cause of weight gain. But not even that, I asked the sleep specialist who gave me my diagnosis if with weight loss I could make sleep apnea go away and she told me that, though weight loss could help, since I have severe apnea it probably won’t go away with weight loss. That made me rethink a lot of things about my life in general.
About a month ago my mom told me that I always snored, even when I was very little. Could this have been a slight indication of sleep issues right then? The sleep specialist told me that I have narrow passage ways, which does not help my situation. Right now I feel as if I’m a little doomed. I think it’s clear from my experiences that I’ve been struggling with this for a lot longer than I was aware of. It makes me wonder if things would be different right now if I had known for longer. I feel like I’ve wasted all of these years feeling depressed and just so damn tired, and there could have been so much other things I could be doing for myself and for others if I had been properly treated.
Does anyone else reading have sleep apnea? Have you gone through similar experiences and diagnosis for that or anything else, really? Tell me your story 🙂
More thoughts in my next post about Dealing With Sleep Apnea Part 2; CPAP Therapy.