I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea four years ago after spending one night in the sleep center of our local hospital, followed by a second study a month later. At first I did not take the diagnosis seriously; I mean, how seriously can one take a lack of sleep? And snoring? Come on!
My doctors, however, were not amused. They explained that my condition was extremely serious. Then my pulmonologist got real; he insisted that I had the distinct honor of being the most severe case his practice had ever seen. I realized immediately this was no laughing matter.
Luckily, I discovered it is possible to control the condition by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine during sleep. Learning to sleep with the CPCP took quite a but of doing and determination, but the alternative, as I quickly discovered, was not an option.
Many people, too, think of Sleep Apnea as an unimportant condition right up there with dandruff and adolescent acne, annoying but not life threatening. Snoring, too, is the subject matter of many a comedy routine. Would anyone enjoy the hearty laugh if they realized that each snoring rumble is the sound of someone fighting death?
No, I do not exaggerate.
My doctors quickly scared me into compliance by giving me the no non-sense facts.
Today, we know that most people need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. The correct amount of sleep is as necessary to our health as proper nutrition and exercise. While some people would like to believe that they can train their bodies to do without sleep, cutting edge research has proven they are greatly mistaken. We now know that sleep is necessary to regenerate certain parts of the body, especially the brain, so that it may continue to function optimally.
Thus when I returned from my trip to Denver on Sunday, and I discovered that my CPAP was not operating, I panicked. The people I turned to for help, (my insurance company, who made me wait 24 hours for approval and the durable medical equipment providers) told me that this was not considered a serious medical emergency. Fortunately for me, I am my own best advocate. These people did discover that I am a persistent and stubborn individual. I spent two days on the telephone to get my CPAP replaced and my efforts paid off; I overcame the obstacles. Lesson learned. You must fight for yourself because no one else will fight for you.
As battles for survival go, this was a tiny, almost inconsequential skirmish. After all, many people actually glorify in the number of hours of lost sleep due to work obligations or pleasure seeking, believing that sleep is a waste of time. My daughter’s mother-in-law once told me that people who sleep more than seven hours a night were just down right lazy. And we all know that sloth is a sin.
I used to believe that sleep was a waste of time, too; now I know it is one of the keys to a healthy, long life. I only wish I had known this a whole lot sooner.
Web MD lists the following consequences due to sleep disruption: [http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/important-sleep-habits ]
In the short term:
Decreased Performance and Alertness: Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.
Memory and Cognitive Impairment: Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness impair your memory and your cognitive ability — your ability to think and process information.
Stress Relationships: Disruption of a bed partner’s sleep due to a sleep disorder may cause significant problems for the relationship (for example, separate bedrooms, conflicts, moodiness, etc.).
Poor Quality of Life: You might, for example, be unable to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like going to the movies, seeing your child in a school play, or watching a favorite TV show.
Occupational Injury: Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
Automobile Injury: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.
The long-term clinical consequences of untreated sleep disorders are even more frightening:
Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Fetal and childhood growth retardation
Injury from accidents
Disruption of bed partner’s sleep quality
Poor quality of life