Adventures in Sleep Apnea I

Adventures in Sleep Apnea I

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually learned sleep apnea was a real condition. Tim and I, both heavy snorers, were lying in bed discussing it.

“Wait, so you stop breathing in your sleep?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“But like… you start again right?”

“Of course. Your body wakes itself up again without being fully awake. You breathe fine, go back to sleep and then it can happen again in a cycle.”

“Huh,” I said. “Do I do that?”

“Nah,” he replied. At the point of this conversation, Tim and I had been sleeping in the same bed for over six years. I trusted him more than any doctor. “Your breathing is always really regular. I never hear you.”

With that I considered the matter closed. I snored, but I never stopped breathing. My father on the other hand, a chronic snorer and perhaps the loudest person ever to fall asleep, stopped breathing all the time. When I came home to visit it, I’d notice when he’d nap on the couch. At first his loud snoring would be rhythmical, but it was always followed with a pause. Sometimes after that pause he’d resume like usual, but occasionally he’d kind of gasp or snort and then go back to sleep. Apnea!

Of course you’re probably wondering if my father got diagnosed past that, and the answer is no. This is partially because my family isn’t exactly the most keen on doctors (myself included), and partially because I knew there was no way he’d ever be open to sleeping with a machine strapped to his face. I knew I wouldn’t be!

Flash forward several years, and I had a bought of strep throat this June. For the entire year after Tim died, I didn’t get as much as a sniffle but around the one year anniversary of his death I got strep throat seemingly overnight. This is not unusual to me, because I have large janky tonsils that act as mouth terrorists. A quick round of antibiotics later, and I was good to go.

Except when I went to Taos later that summer, I came down with a really strange case of tonsillitis. One night I had a fever, my lymph nodes on my neck swelled up large enough to be noticeable by other people and I had the worst sore throat ever. It hurt to swallow, turn my neck or touch my throat. I treated myself with the maximum dose of ibuprofen my liver would allow and red wine (see previous avoidance of doctors). After a few days I felt better, but my tonsils never got 100% back to normal.

For weeks I felt like I swallowed a ball that was stuck in the back of my throat. It effected my ability to sleep at night and slowly drove me crazy, so I finally hauled myself to a Ear Nose & Throat doctor.

“My tonsils are giant and I feel like I have something stuck in my throat and I can’t sleep at night because I feel like my throat is closing and if I can’t sleep at night I get a little crazy and I haven’t been sleeping because my throat is CLOSING and I’m getting a LITTLE BIT CRAZY and I really JUST DON’T LIKE MY TONSILS CAN YOU HELP ME I’M SO TIRED!”

He blinked at me and then slowly asked, “Do you snore?”

“Yes I snore, but MY TONSILS ARE SO LARGE PLEASE HELP!”

“Do you snore every night? How long have you snored?”

“I don’t KNOW because I sleep alone because husband DIED and I’m so VERY VERY ALONE and I also have REALLY BAD TONSILS PLEASE HELP!”

At this point he reached for a scope to make sure I didn’t have a mass tumor in my throat (I don’t) and after about an hour diagnosed me with a chronic infection of my tonsils and adenoids. I went home with antibiotics and steroids to reduce the swelling, as well as an order for a follow up appointment.

“Also, I want you to take a sleep study,” he said. “If you’re having trouble sleeping and you snore, you might have sleep apnea.”

I immediately brushed him off.  “Yeah pretty sure I don’t have that, but if I don’t have to sleep in a strange doctor’s office I can do that.”

He assured me that I could do a home study, and a sleep scientist from the neurology office would follow up. For the next few days, I slept amazing. The steroids immediately reduced the size of my tonsils and knowing that I don’t have throat cancer is a great way to ease anxiety. I went back to the ENT after two weeks of my antibiotics, feeling mostly cured. Mostly.

“How are you sleeping now?” he asked.

“Overall much better, but some nights where they still bother me a little bit.”

“Well it’s time to schedule that sleep test and see what’s going on.”

It took about a week and a half to schedule and wait for my sleep study with the neurology center, and during that time I had a sneaking suspicion that things weren’t all as they should be. When I laid down to sleep at night, I would sometimes hear myself snore while I was in the state in-between wake and sleeping. During the day I started noticing how tired I was all the time. By three in the afternoon, I wanted nothing more than a nap. Caffeine didn’t help, and on the weekends when I would happen to nap on the couch I never actually felt “asleep”… just constantly waking up and falling back asleep.

Plus I started noticing a new sensation when I was trying to sleep at night. When I got right to the edge of slumber, I almost heard/felt a click in my throat. THE APNEA! I would think as the sensation jolted me away. The nights leading up to my sleep study, I began to have anxiety about not breathing when I slept which gave me anxiety about falling asleep which only made me more tired during the day.

***

This started getting really long, so I’m chopping it in two parts. Tune in soon for the epic conclusion of my sleep issues. Do I have the apnea? Did I drink too much this weekend and remove my own tonsils? ONLY TIME WILL TELL!

 

25 thoughts on “Adventures in Sleep Apnea I

  1. I had my tonsils removed right before my 21st birthday because I had chronic tonsilitis. It was horrible. Surgery itself isn’t that bad but I pretty much stayed in a drug induced coma for a week bc I was in so much pain. Also sometimes stuff still comes out of my nose after the surgery bc of how it affected my pallete supposedly. Fun times!

    Hope you get it figured out!

    1. Ouch! I had mine out at 3, no memory of it, thanks mom and dad. I have apnea, clenching and grinding. Just saw a new dr for it and got a new night mouthpiece. It’s helping a lot, feeling much better. Can’t do a sleep study until after I’m done breastfeeding baby 2, so it’ll be a while before it all gets completely resolved….hope you find relief soon, feeling exhausted from poor sleep is awful!

  2. That sounds awful!

    Also, I am going to go all preachy on you for a minute… Girl, we live in one of the most developed countries in the world on the cutting edge of the human health industry. Why in the world would you NOT make use of that gift??? You are educated and intelligent – surely you see the backwards thinking in NOT going to the doctor when you suspect something is wrong. Be your own advocate. Use your health insurance – you’re paying for it monthly either way.

    1. I’m the same way…it may be a geographical (as in where we grew up, not where she is now…lol) thing. I have to be incapacitated to talk myself into going to the dr…

    2. Don’t worry, I am WAY better than I sound. Good about all my yearly appointments – I just tend to be the kind of person to wait until something is kind of bad before I go see a general practitioner. 🙂

  3. I had sleep apnea as a kid and they took out my tonsils and adnoids at 10 because they were so large I was basically choking myself. The most traumatic part I remember is waking up screaming after they told me not to, having to drink hot apple juice, and getting the nastiest grape lollipop before leaving the hospital.

    Its much less common to do a tonsillectomy now, but I hope yours get sorted out!

  4. My dad was one that wouldn’t go to the doctor and swore he would never wear one of those things on his face. Until he started having to pull over if he was driving more than an hour. And until family members that were not his wife told him that he had a serious issue. It was bad enough that the sleep clinic would not let him leave without one, because when he stopped breathing, apparently his heart stuttered as well. So, long story short, he’s been using a c-pap for years now and swears it’s the best thing ever.

  5. Wait, not you as well!! Now how do we go to sleep if we don’t know the end of the story???

    (just need to mention: as a teacher, I can’t stop noticing typing mistakes – there are more than usual in this post (your computer needs some sleep sweety pie) – if you want, I can send them by mail, but can’t find a contact thingy on the blog (am not very versed in internetspeak – sorry!) – so please tell me where to find your email address and I will send you my “comments” so you can make the changes if you so wish – excuse the weird English, it is late, need some sleep too)

    1. Wrote this post super quickly this morning, and didn’t proofread (bad, I know). You’re always welcome to contact me. There’s a link on the right at the menu in the very top of this page.

      1. I did send an email about 15 minutes after posting my comment. Hope you got it. If not, will try again from different email address. And please know that I would not be able to write anything with sense early in the morning, so don’t “vorry” about some typos, it is just not possible for me to ignore them (except when I wrote them myself! Sigh).

  6. MOUTH TERRORISTS?! I was laughing through this whole post! But seriously I hope you are feeling better now and are not choking yourself to death in your sleep.

  7. Apparently I have a deviated septum. One side of my nose doesn’t want to let air in once I relax into sleep. I suffered for years. Cranky in the a.m., so tired and could fall asleep at the drop of a hat if I sat down long enough during the day. Luckily those nasal strip thingies keep my passages open and let the air in now – oxygen is key!! (they come in lavender scented which is lovely)

    I predict you will find improvement in your energy level, outlook and mood once you get your sleep sorted. Looking forward to the conclusion 😀

  8. Lol I LOVE how you wrote your convo with the ENT!

    As somebody who also sleeps without another human in the bed, my favorite answer to any question about things I do or don’t do in my sleep is, “Idk, you’ll have to ask my dog”.

    I hope you do not have the apnea!

  9. Uuuuggggghhhhh. Sleep Apnea can be terrifying when you learn about it for the first time. Especially when you learn by exposure. My ex had it and the only way I could sleep would be if I fell asleep first. If I tried to fall sleep after him, between his snoring and the occasional lack of breathing, I would literally lay there and just be on the ready to jolt him awake. He’d always start breathing again before I touched him. Sooo… I just made sure I fell asleep before him after I got used to it. Still scary… I guess when he was younger and it first started his mom would stand outside his bedroom for like 30-45 minutes listening.

    I hope you get to the bottom of it!

  10. I doubt you’re doing the home surgery kit version of removing your tonsils or even having someone else do it. Then again??? Yeah, just kidding, I know you’re not.

    There’s plenty of us who don’t go to the dr. like we should. The hypochondriacs clog their schedule, waiting room and office, keeping them busy and paid. I will go if I’m sick but mostly I steer clear if I can

  11. My husband used to snore horribly and ‘snort’ himself awake OFTEN, which of course awakened me. I talked him into having a sleep study (probably what actually convinced him was our doctor agreeing with me LOL). Before I lost over 100 pounds, I had mild sleep apnea, not bad enough to need a machine.. He had one, found out he had sleep apnea and got a C-PAP machine. He suddenly had a LOT more energy, and said he’d never slept so well. Recently, he started snoring loudly again, so I asked him to talk to the ENT to see if he thought the settings needed to be adjusted, or a new mask, etc. The ENT said he had had that machine for so long, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he needed adjusting or, more probably, a new machine. After the sleep study, the technician said he definitely needed an upgrade (they’ve progressed a LOT since he got his, probably over a decade ago). He is to go back for a followup and to order his new machine in a couple weeks.

    Maybe getting one will even help with your feeling so down at times. BTW, they gave him a choice of several different kinds of masks, so hopefully you will see one you think you can wear comfortably. 🙂

  12. ROFL — the ending to this is hilarious. I’M SO ON EDGE FOR PART II!

    P.S. My dad has sleep apnea and he got some sort of machine that has worked WONDERS for him.

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