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My Experience with Sleep Apnea

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The definition of sleep apnea, according to Medicinenet.com, is a disorder characterized by a reduction or pause of breathing (airflow) during sleep.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea 15 years ago. This was before the doctors knew it was life threatening and they thought only men had the condition. But in my case, I realized it was life threatening when I was driving home from work one afternoon fully awake, but seconds later I found myself driving toward a mailbox on the other side of the road. Luckily, I pulled back onto the road before I ran into the mailbox and I was doubly lucky there were no other cars coming. I immediately turned on the radio, rolled down the windows and sang out loud to keep myself awake.

I blamed the episode on being tired from work or not getting enough sleep. However, what began as an isolated episode turned into a series of almost serious accidents. Reality struck when I saw my neighbor at a party one weekend and he said, "Hi, stuck up." I asked him what he meant by that. He said he had met me on the road a week ago and he waved but I didn't wave back. I said, "This may sound weird but I think I was sleeping." By his expression I realized how strange it must have sounded. The next morning I called my doctor.

My doctor referred me to a sleep specialist to determine whether I had sleep apnea. The strangest part of the entire visit was when the doctor asked me how many times I had fallen asleep while driving. When I told him three or four times a week he looked surprised and said, "Wow, that's a lot." At that point, I was thinking — can this guy help me?

To make a long story short, it was determined that I had sleep apnea and I was measured and set up with a CPAP machine. Anybody who uses this contraption will tell you that it is very uncomfortable. Basically, it's a machine that blows air through a hose that's hooked to a mask that is strapped over your nose. Air blows down your throat to open up the airways and, thus, provide you with a better night's sleep.

After struggling with the CPAP for several years, I had heard about a surgical procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), which is intended to enlarge the airway by removing the uvula. The surgeon told me it was 85 percent effective in curing sleep apnea. I was ecstatic. I was living alone for two years after the surgery and thought I was doing great. It wasn't until I moved in with a friend who complained about my loud snoring that I discovered that I still had sleep apnea.

To date, the CPAP method is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea providing you can tolerate wearing the mask. I find it to be cumbersome and uncomfortable. If any of you have found a more tolerable way to treat sleep apnea, I would love to read your recommendations.


Add a Comment2 Comments

Love your blog! Thank you for telling me about it.

May 16, 2011 - 1:38pm
EmpowHER Guest

I write a blog called CPAPisSEXY.com that can be helpful to your readers if they are struggling with CPAP

May 10, 2011 - 9:16am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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