Does your snoring make others want to kill you? It may have already started the job!
I laughed when my friend told me his dad had just had surgery to stop him from snoring — I thought he was joking! This was many years ago, and long before I’d heard about the dangers of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. I, myself, have been infamous my whole life as a monstrous snorer. My best friend knows to pack earplugs if we ever travel together. When I was a Boy Scout camping in the deep woods of northern Wisconsin, my troop was convinced that there was a bear invading our site one eerie, moonlit night when it was really just me. I’ve had punk rock musicians (themselves no strangers to noise) throw their shoes at me in an attempt to stop my nocturnal bellowing when sharing floor space on tour. I’ve awakened to murderous threats from road trip partners unable to rest due to my beastly condition. I didn’t just saw logs with my snoring; I felled forests with an army of chainsaws!
Oddly enough, as deep as my sleep seemed to be and as difficult as it always was for others to awaken me, I rarely felt as if I was really getting enough of it. No morning in memory was free from a dry mouth, a sore throat, and a headache. Nodding off in public places wasn’t uncommon (and, I’m sure, convinced casual observers that I must have been under the influence of some controlled substance or another). My attention wandered. Concentration was a real effort if not impossible.
Eventually, after an overnight spent in a sleep lab, I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. The problem was that, as I drifted into slumber, an excess of tissue in my throat would close upon itself and stop the flow of air between my gaping, drooling mouth and the lungs that gasped fitfully in my chest. Not only did this prompt the loud bouts of snoring that were the bane of anyone sleeping within three blocks of me, but (I was told) there would be gaps when I would cease breathing, altogether. Over long periods of time, this can cause countless problems — among them high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, depression, and insomnia. Snoring may be merely the tip of a very treacherous iceberg, and should be taken seriously as a possible indicator of more significant issues. Obstructive sleep apnea is no joke.
While the most extreme cases may be treated with surgery (as was the case with my friend’s father), relief can often be found with the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine that, as the name implies, forces a constant opening of the throat for the continual passage of air throughout the night. This is the route I’m currently taking, and it seems to be going well. Now I don’t snore anymore, and the other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea have subsided. I sleep through the whole night and even four hours of sleep with the aid of the CPAP machine feels more refreshing than eight hours without. While the CPAP machine isn’t a perfect solution (the mask that needs to be worn over my face can sometimes be uncomfortable), but it’s more appealing to me than surgery!
If you (or those who have to sleep near you) think that you display the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, it’s worth seeing your doctor for a diagnosis and to examine options for a treatment strategy — whether it’s CPAP or surgery — should it be determined that you’re a fellow sufferer of obstructive sleep apnea. Because as annoying as the snoring might be to those around you, it’s possible that it’s really just the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.
Should you think you’re so afflicted, here are a few resources that might help you get started on the path to obstructive sleep apnea treatment.