I snore. Not low, sweet, purring snores. Rather, booming, quacking, jetliner-approaching-the-runway snores; and my husband has the tape to prove it.
So after years of his nagging, I saw a sleep specialist to determine if sleep apnea was causing my nighttime racket.
About 18 million Americans suffer sleep apnea, where they involuntarily and intermittently stop breathing for seconds or even minutes when asleep. Sleep apnea is caused by either something obstructing the throat, like a tongue or tonsils (most common); by a defective brain signal that fails to tell muscles to breathe; or both.
The result is a terrible night’s sleep. Sleep apnea sufferers can stop breathing hundreds of times each night. Usually, they sleep through the stoppages, but sometimes they awake snorting and gasping for air.
If you have sleep apnea, this start-and-stop breathing and sleeping can have dire consequences for your health — high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and falling asleep when you least want to, like at the wheel.
Although loud snoring is one symptom of sleep apnea, not every snorer has the sleep disorder. Here are other signs, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
• Persistent daytime sleepiness
• Bouts of awaking out of breath during the night
• Dry mouth or headache upon waking in the morning.
If you have all or even just some of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor and undergo a sleep study, which is the only way to tell for sure if you have sleep apnea.
The gold standard for sleep studies involves an overnight stay in a sleep study lab, where a technician measures your brain waves, eye and chin movements, heart rate and rhythm, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, and other body functions while you sleep.
I wasn’t keen on having a stranger listen to me quack all night, and less excited about spending $1,000 on the lab study, so my doctor hooked me up with home sleep study equipment, which doesn’t gather as much data as the lab study, but enough to determine if you have sleep apnea and how severe it is.
Turned out I have mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). But since I don’t have symptoms other than snoring, we agreed to forgo the CPAP machine, which would make me look and sound like Darth Vader. Instead, I take a nasal decongestant before bedtime, sleep on my side instead of my back, and continue my life-long attempts to lose weight.
Also, I bought my husband a white noise machine. So instead of listening to my snores, he now listens to falling rain, jungle birds, or waves lapping on the shore.