I got my results a few minutes ago. They confirm that I do indeed have sleep apnea. While sleeping normally, I got zero REM sleep - the really refreshing sleep that rejuvenates the mind and body. Zero. I stopped breathing on average 38 times an hour - at one time for thirty seconds continuously. The oxygen saturation of my red blood cells dropped to worrying levels. When I was put on the machine, 13 percent of my sleep was REM sleep, and I didn't stop breathing once. No wonder I felt better the next day. My doc is now ordering the C-PAP machine. The best Christmas present I'll ever have.

Source: Andrew Sullivan, Apnea

If anyone ever wants to start doing public service announcements for Sleep Apnea for geeks, give me a call. I blogged about my sleep apnea quite awhile back, and haven't gotten around to writing about it since, but this disease and my subsequent treatment have been some of the most significant events in my life.

Whenever I read someone else writing about snoring, I now have this instant zealotous reaction to run-don't-walk to that person and shanghai them off to a sleep clinic. All apologies to anyone this has ever annoyed, since I have a personal furor over this issue akin to rabid various cult leaders pushing their radical agendas about the necessity of marriage to potted ferns. That is to say, it makes me nutty that anyone's left on the planet not breathing during sleep.

I cannot overestimate the positive effect this CPAP machine has had on me. I believe that it has clearly been responsible for reversing a downward spiral of anxiety, depression, and stymied productivity that increasingly gripped me over the last few years. Granted there have been other causes and events involved, but this sleep apnea was literally robbing me of my brain.

As my condition worsened, I lost my ability to think and to grasp big pictures-- the things I so consider part of being me-- but it happened so gradually that I didn't even realize it was happening until I reached the point where I literally couldn't add 2 and 2 in my head, couldn't write more than 3 lines of code at a time, and I couldn't drive a car by myself for longer than 5 minutes at a time without nodding off.

And due to a strange mixture of lethargy, social anxiety, and perceived helplessness, it took me way too long (and far too many proddings by the people I love) to finally get my ass tested. If I could gain access to a time machine, I'd personally march up to my past self years ago, assault him with a baseball bat, and strap a CPAP mask on him as he recovered in bed-- and damn the consequences of time paradox even if it threatened the very fabric of space-time.

So, if you have a heavy snore, suffer often from daily exhaustion and lethargy, can't seem to think as well as you remember you had in the past... SEE A DOCTOR!!!

(Don't make me have to come over there and threaten your space-time fabric.)

Archived Comments

  • Thanks for bringing this up. A lot of what you describe sounds very similar to what I go through from time to time (and I do snore). I'm definitely going to get tested...
  • I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 1999 and have been on CPAP ever since so I understand what you went through. In a funny way tho, sometimes I am unable to use the machine and my creativity is enhanced by getting 3 hours of sleep in 2 days. When I finally get a good sleep, I look at stories I wrote and think WHAT THE HECK WAS i ON? and chuckle.Peace and have a good holiday
  • Interesting, I have major sleeping problems but never really considered getting them checked out at all, mainly because it's just the way I've always been right from birth. /me goes to grab the yellow pages.
  • I have snored for years. My wife has told me I stop breathing. I hate doctors. Today I put all of that together and had an appointment with a sleep specialist in Denver. I have a sleep study scheduled or next week and, though I hated going into this process, I am glad I am doing it. But I am more glad that I was led to your blog to hear from a REAL person about their experiences with apnea, cpap and other delightful items of interest. I will let you know how things turn out. I may write about it on my own blog at www.dandykatkonnection.blogspot.com. Thanks!
  • Been using my CPAP machine for 5 years now. Taken it around the world on work trips. Been tested a few times in a sleep clinic since my initial diagnosis. Things appear to be getting better. More energy. Started a solid exercise program as well. All helps. Looking for a smaller machine these days. All new ones seem over engineered. Looking for the most compact one I can find that works. Suggestions welcomed. What's worked for me - heated humidifier, nose pillow (not the mask) and over the counter "salt spray" on those days when I get plugged up. Have had colds and can still use the machine. Get to a sleep clinic if you have any problems sleeping. Easy to set up. Easy to use. Makes a world of difference.
  • sleepsLikeABaby: Hey - thanks for the comment. Makes me want to check out the nose pillow, and the salt spray since I have used decongestant off and on and am afraid of getting hooked or using something I really don't need.
  • Where did you buy your CPAP machines? I was looking at them online and it looks like you can get them cheaper there. Do you have any experience on purchasing one online. I was looking here: http://www.apneatherapy.com/cpap.html I havn't ever purchased anything this expensive on the internet. Maybe a book at Amazon.com for 15 bucks... but thats it. What do you think?
  • As with Jason I have just been diagnosed and am without insurance (I have NASE/CCN which is like being w/o insurance) and am looking for feedback on which machine to buy and if it is worrht buying it on the web
  • A few caveats about buying a machine off the web, as far as I understand: 1) You might not be able to without a doctor's prescription. 2) A doctor's prescription is a preferred thing to have in order to know what setting the machine needs.
  • I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and will be getting my cpap this week. I was surfing looking for some positive stories. So glad I found yours. I suffered a heart attack 2 years ago at 39. I'm sure I've had sleep apnea for years. Whether or not that contributed to it I don't know but I'm not gonna let it get me again!! LOL Sleep Well :)

  • Hey there! I just woke up gasping for air about 10 minutes ago and decided to do a google search.

    This happened again probably about 5 years ago and that was the last and only time I can remember.

    Both times I've burped almost immediately upon getting my breath back.

    So should I go get tested? Could I be not breathing during the night and not knowing it?

  • When in doubt, go get tested!

  • A lot of people snore, kids snore, teens snore, adults snore, elderly people snore, and drunks snore really really loud. Snoring is fairly common. Sleep Apnea is the opposite of snoring, you stop breathing and wake up, most of the time. People who snore sleep right thru the snoring, it's a LOUD form of breathing. If you wake up repeatedly, taking a gasping breath because you're out of air, you should be concerned. If you wake up because your snoring was so loud the neighbors called the police for disturbance of the peace, there's another cause. Maybe your body is water deprived and your nasal passages aren't moist, your lungs are using your saliva to moisten your breath. Your lungs, like you, need water and they prefer air with water mixed in. Your blood, your brain, and your digestive system get first dibs on the water you drink, your vital organs get seconds, and your other systems like vision, sweat glands, and your nose get thirds, if any is left over, your skin might get some. When you don't drink enough water, your nose dries out, your lungs switch over the mouth backup system, unfortunately it doesn't work very well and it makes a lot of noise.

  • While it's true that snoring is common, really loud snoring is often a symptom that accompanies sleep apnea. It's the panicked recovery from the apnea where the body finally breaks through the seal made by its own throat. My Dad and my Grandfather have had freight-train level snoring for years and never remembered actually waking up. I don't think either of them have gotten tested for apnea yet, though they both nod off in an instant and both are developing heart problems. Me, I just started developing the freight-train symptoms before I was dragged in to see a doctor...

    Either way, it can't hurt to get a snoring problem checked out.

  • Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a persons breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night.

    Sleep apnea is a true breathing obstruction, which requires the sleeper to awaken to begin breathing again. A person with sleep apnea wakes up many times a night to regain breathing, but usually remembers nothing at all about the awakenings.

    The sleep partner of a person with sleep apnea remembers a great deal about the awakenings and is generally a good witness of the incidents. Sleep apnea is a dangerous and progressive sleep disorder (it gets worse as you age).

    Not only does sleep apnea result in sleep deprivation, but it also can threaten your life. Sleep apnea is a period of time during which breathing stops or is markedly reduced. In simplified terms, a sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more.

    So, if normal breath airflow is 70% to 100%, a sleep apnea is if you stop breathing completely, or take less than 25% of a normal breath (for a period that lasts 10 seconds or more).

  • I was diagnosed with sleep apnea 3 years ago when the testing showed I either stopped breathing or did very shallow breathing 169 during the night. Since that time I have only used the CPAP consecutively for the last 6 months because I had difficulty using a mask. Last October I discovered the Mirage Swift Nasal pillow system and have been using it every night since. The only problem I have is with the "elvis" type sideburn headgear, it can dig into my cheeks leaving a horrific imprint. AND... no, it isn't on too tightly. I use a pressure setting of 13 right now but recently have been having serious allergy type issues with nasal congestion, etc., and have been told that it may be due to the delivery system of the nasal pillow and the high air setting. I am going to be re-evaluated to see if a reduction in pressure is feasible for me.

    Of concern to me is the noise of my machine. I use a Fisher & Paykel HC220 with humidifier. Are all machines with humidifiers noisey? I know that the RemStar machine they tested me on was very quiet... but it didn't have a humidifier which may be the noise culprit. Any advice would be welcome. I am not adverse to buying another machine even if they are pricey. I bought my machine online and yes, they are so much cheaper that way. If you can go to a local DME (durable medical provider) to test them you will find that they are marked up about 3 times as much. I bought my Mirage Swift Nasal pillow system for $114 online and my local DME sells it for $480! Outrageous.

    If anyone knows of another nasal pillow type headgear that is comfortable for side sleeping and does not tear up your face... I'm interested.

  • I, too, was diagnosed with sleep apnea, arousing 30 times an hour and not getting any REM sleep. Unfortunately the CPAP machine was worse than the disease itself, for me. I have always been a light sleeper even when I was younger and slept no problem so I think it's just part of that. I am also a slim guy, which is rare for people with sleep apnea, which means that relatively sharp angles on my face made it hard for me to maintain a proper seal with the mask. So I often moved just a little and woke to the sound of escaping air. Finally I fell asleep one night and then my mouth got blown open by the CPAP. So then I got a chin strap ... but even that didn't help.

    So it's not a miracle cure for everyone, just almost everyone. Whenever I hear about people with sleeping problems I think "Get a sleep study" because I had no expectations that I would be diagnosed with apnea. I don't snore all that much at all but I still have it and I am aroused 30 times an hour.

    Good luck!

  • One-third of all adult Americans--about 50 million people--complain about their sleep. Some sleep too little, some fitfully, and some too much. Although one-third of our lives is spent asleep, most of us don't know much about sleep, not even our own. We don't even know exactly why we sleep, other than--like an overnight battery recharge--sleep promotes daytime alertness. Sleep problems profoundly disturb both sleeping and waking life.

    Some useful resources to help you out from all kinds of sleep disorders http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov http://www.sleepdisordersguide.com http://www.stanford.edu http://www.neurologychannel.com

  • Sinus congestion from Georgia pollen these days is interfering with my therapy. I use Flonase and Benadryl which don't help. Anyone find a nasal decogestant that works?

  • To Jonathan Payne, what are you currently doing to relieve your problems if not the CPAP?

  • i use a sullivan mark 3 machine, I now live in Spain and finding it hard to have the machine serviced and checked. i am also in need of ancillary equipment, the Spanish do not seem to have anyone that can help me, can you?

  • Does anyone know how to set/change the pressure on a ERMstar/plus CPAP system? George

  • Just reading all these stories. It's amazing how many people have sleep apnea. I can't believe it when I, now that I have been diagnosed, see so many people not realizing what is going on with their sleep issues. I had been told many, many times that I snore really, really loud. Wake myself up sometimes too! And people also tell me that "all the sudden you stopped snoring and got completely quiet" ... well that was when i stopped breathing. Not good.

    During my test I stopped breathing some 54 times during a six hour test and once for a full 45 seconds. That is quite a while. Try holding your breath now for that long ... just kidding ... BREATHE!

    Anyway, I agree. Get a sleep test. Find out what is up. Get a CPAP machine and use it.

    --BK

  • There is a new product on the market called CPAP Pro (www.nomask.com). I have been using for about 3 months now and find it to be the best interface I've tried. It is much more comfortable than the other masks I have tried. Just wanted to share. Check them out...

  • I had forgotten how good it feels to rub the sleep out of my eyes.... After a plane crash & automobile accident - both I'm sure now were the direct result of poor sleep, daytime drowsiness & slow response times, I went for help to a sleep disorder clinic.

    They wired me up & did the overnight sleep study - Results came back that my sleep was interrupted (on average) 25 TIMES / Hour !! Which means I was getting 2-3 minutes of sleep before I quit breathing. This event (stop breathing) causes a chain reaction of things to happen in the body:

    Brain (normally resting at night) senses the low ogygen level & sends a message to release adrenalin & start the heart pumping. (which is also suppose to be taking it easy during a normal nights rest) And finally, the lungs - sensing the increased activity, get in the action & call for more air. Which usually results in that classic snoring / gasping for breath. This cycle repeats itself - ALL THRU THE NIGHT

    After using a CPAP maching for 4-5 weeks now, I notice a big improvement.

  • I've been on CPAP now for about 3 years. I se the REMStar Plus. I'm one of the lucky ones in that I adapted almost instantly to the mask. My sleep was so interrupted (46 wakings/hr in the test) and the benefits were so dramatic that I would have found a way to adapt to wearing a volkswagon on my face if thet was what it took. I too have had some sinus issues occasonally but find that if I clean the mask, tube and water chamber regularly and use nasal spray sparingly (I emphasize sparingly - that stuff can be addictive and do more damage than good if used continuously) the side effects are dwarfed by the benefits. My life was in a serious downward spiral before CPAP and I can tell you that if you have only mild symptoms now they will likely get worse with age. When they get really bad you will likely lack the clear judgement to understand what's happening to you. So if you're wrestling with sleep problems keep working with the doctor until you find a workable treatment for you.

    If CPAP is problematic for you, try a heated humidified unit (as opposed to non-humidified or pass over humidified) and try different masks or nasal pillows. If none of that works, talk to the doctor about surgery. Surgery is only effective in a limited percentage of patients, but when it does work I'm told it is a true cure sans machines and masks. Also note that in recent years the technology has advanced a lot. There are now machines that continuously vary pressure to remove exhale resistance and also vary inhale pressure based on breathing patterns. These can help with many patients who have problems tolerating generic CPAP.

    I saw one person asking about self adjusting a REMStar Plus pressure. You can trick it out a bit by changing the altitude setting but there is a reason this is set by the physician. You can do more harm than good tinkering with the pressure without understanding the factors involved. You might want to try one of the new REMStar M Auto units which monitor your breathing patterns and adjust pressure accordingly. I've never used one of these, but I've read reviews that speak highly of them.

    Sleep Well!

  • Does anyone know the best/fastest way of getting rid of the "imprints" left on the face in the morning? I just started using my CPAP machine a couple of days ago. So far, I have a nasty neck ache (I guess I'm afraid to move at night) and the line problem...which is not a big problem... I just don't want to advertise at work that I wear a contraption on my face at night. I loosened up all the straps but I think I will have imprints no matter what I do. Any Ideas?

  • It seems like everybody is not 100% happy with their apnea treatments. Why don't you tell your doctor about it? He might be able to provide some alternatives, a BiPAP maybe, or surgery. CPAP masks can really be a problem sometimes even if it fits you snugly.

    You can also check out this site http://www.askthesleepexperts.com to know more about sleep apnea and other possible treatments.

  • This board is very helpful. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in November and I am still waiting for my CPAP machine. My insurance has denied it and I have appealed it. I am to the point of being somewhat scared with the following symptoms that I am having. I would be interested in knowing if anyone else has them. Everytime I wake up my whole body is numb, my mouth is so dry I I have no saliva in it. This makes me try to gasp for air. Another thing is my body sometimes gets so weak I feel like I can barely walk or even lift my arms up. Are these symptoms familiar? My oxygen level goes down to 70 and I also, get no REM sleep. I am bi-polar and thought my clinical depression was caused by that until I found out sleep apnea also causes it. My memory is so bad that I can't even finish a sentence without forgetting what I was saying and I have gained a tremendous amount of weight, which my DR. said could also be caused by sleep apnea. Will check back for any responses that may be helpful. Please don't suggest that I buy a CPAP machine due my difficulties with the insurance company, I am on disability and receive only $700.00 a month, so, that is out of the question.

  • thanks for that. I was diagnosed in October with apnea and got the machine mid-november. that lethargicness you are talking about is absolutely crazy. i thought i was depressed for years. turns out it wasn't me. i can tell now when i haven't had a great night sleep, because i know what a good day should feel like. thanks for writing.

  • Thanks for the info. I've just been diagnosed with sleep apnea - I wake up 71 times an hour. How much do overweight problems contribute to sleep apnea? If I lose weight, how will I know if it reduces the apnea? Will I be wearing a sleep mask unnecessarily after that?

  • Was diagnosed several months ago and had initial trouble adjusting to sleeping with a mask, buy am currently using the SNAPP nasal pillow system which isn't too bad in terms of comfort.

    I note that one person has had success with CPAP/PRO. Has anyone else tried that? It would be wonderful not to have the medieval torture straps to contend with all over your head.

    Thanks.

  • I would like to commend all of you for getting treatment and not putting it off. I recently had a person come into my practice that had waited and waited to do something, and he fell asleep at the wheel of his car killing someone. He will never be the same.

    It is a passion of mine to help others get the treatment they need before other life threatening health conditions come into play like heart attacks and strokes. You can see by the amount of press that Sleep Apnea and Sleep Disorders are getting, that the public is becoming aware...

    Congrats to all of you that take this seriously and have done something about it.

    You are welcome to visit my site at http://www.apnea.treatment.com/blog

    Take care, and good health to you!

    Dr. Jonathan Greenburg DDS

  • Whoops. moderator please change my above post to http://www.apnea-treatment.com/blog

  • I think I can honestly say I never got a good night's sllep until cpap (now bipap). However, I have been struggling with my machine and pressure settings for 2 years now. It may be that I also have nasal polyps that are painful after having pressurized air passing over them for a time. I also have the allergy-like symptoms really badly sometimes. I have refused to cut my beard off but it sounds like many of you found the mask unworkable anyway. It is good to hear about others experience. There is no question that when it all comes together for me it is surprisingly wonderful to get a good night's sleep.

  • I wonder if i could have this. I dont snore much at all but I do have breathing problems due to chronic hyperventilation - this can affect my breathing in the day particularly when anxious. However during the last two years I have been permanently tired, put weight on and keep waking repeatedly at certain times gasping for breath. This can go on all night and I hardly get any sleep however other times I am not aware of having woken at all. Because it comes and goes and seems to be linked to stress I thought it was just anxiety making me repeatedly wake gasping for air but now I am wondering. Does anyone have advice?

  • I have a CPAP and I still can not sleep with out the aid of a sleeping pill I have always been a night person that is why I always liked to work at night even as a child my parents had to fix it so I would be safe and the other children could sleep while I played. So not all sleep disorders are solved by a CPAP. I do have sleep apnea tho so it does help.

  • Millions of people around the globe suffer from snoring and still they think it is just normal.Level of awareness that this will lead to severe sleep apnea is extremely low.In fact people at large are completely unaware of the effects of snoring and hardly think of visiting a doctor. Condition in developing and under-developed countries are far more worse where the disorder goes undiagnosed and millions lose their lives without effective treatments. Self-consciousness is one factor that is extremely important in dealing with sleep apnea disorder and for this I appreciate your concern.

  • Hey guys,

    I just had surgery for sleep apnea and now i am great. No problems! Life is great! I do have trouble sleeping occasionally but I'm not sure if that's just stress or the hard bed I'm sleeping on, LOL. I found a new blog relating to all issues regarding sleep problems at:

    http://letslivelonger.blogspot.com/2009/04/sleep-better-you-can-do-it.html

    I will be hanging out there as they have some other subject matter that is of interest to me. see ya!

  • It's been almost five years since you started CPAP therapy. I now that a lot of patients with sleep apnea quit their CPAP machine because they can't stand it.

    What about you? Are you successful with CPAP therapy after so many years?

  • I've been using CPAP every night since I got it, and have only missed 5 nights altogether in that time. And those missed nights were because of a power failure and a missing humidifier tank while on a trip :)

  • A friend of mine got tested and stopped breathing almost 100 times an hour.

    Just like you he was having a hard time concentrating. I seriously wondered if he had started taking drugs.

    The CPAP machine made a huge difference. He seems to hate the thing as much as anybody but the benefits are so great that he uses it anyway.

    If you don't seem to be getting a good nights sleep, get tested!

  • This is a great blog. I love reading about how people discover and treat their sleep apnea. As a sleep physician, I thought I'd add a few comments:

    1. Not all patients with sleep apnea snore (some call it "Silent Sleep Apnea")
    2. A person with quiet snoring can also have sleep apnea (NOT JUST LOUD SNORERS)
    3. Even mild sleep apnea is dangerous: a recent study revealed that mild sleep apnea DOUBLES the risk of stroke in men
    4. Sleep partners are not always the best witness (after all, they are unconscious)

    Just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents.

    Come visit our website, and if you're in the Portland, Oregon area...make an appointment!

    http://www.westsidesleep.com

    -Scott Fromherz, MD

  • Cheers for sharing Leslie, I'd never heard of sleep apnea until now. I can totally relate to what you said about having social anxiety. Do you suffer with social anxiety often? I guess not having any REM sleep would definately increase waking anxiety levels wouldn't you agree?

    Thanks,

    Steve

  • I totally agree. I have sleep apnea and the best thing I ever did was check myself in to a sleep study clinic. Now I feel so much better!!!