Friday, July 28, 2017

As if growing older weren't bad enough, there's also sleep apnea

Sculpture by Damien Hirst

     Maybe you’ve noticed them too. The telltale elastic marks, red lines on the faces of portly gentlemen. I was puzzled the first few times I saw them, in the morning, at the train station, on the street. Then it hit me:
     Mask strap marks. From CPAP machines.
     “CPAP” stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” It is the primary — though not only — treatment for sleep apnea, a condition where a sleeper’s throat closes and he — sufferers are overwhelmingly men — stops breathing, for up to two minutes.
     It’s bad to stop breathing. Sleep apnea leads to fatigue, of course, but also ailments from depression to heart disease.
     The problem is growing. The Centers for Disease Control conducted a 10-year study; in 2005, they found 3.7 percent of men had sleep apnea. Ten years later, 8.1 percent had it, though the researchers couldn’t tell if more people are developing the condition, or just more are aware they have it.
     When I learned I have sleep apnea in 2009, it was initially a relief, because I thought I was dying. Exhausted all the time; some days my knees would buckle. I figured it had to be my heart. But the heart folks found nothing wrong. OK, cancer then. I went in for a colonoscopy. The doctor who administered it said I didn’t have colon cancer, but pointed out that I stopped breathing during the procedure and might want to get tested for sleep apnea.

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  1. "Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care. The death of each day's life. Sore labor's bath. Balm of hurt minds. Chief nourisher in life's feast."


  2. This is a helpful column. Sleep apnea can also elevate blood pressure and then people are on meds unnecessarily, as we learned from a family member. Supposedly, some of the later models of the mask/ air unit make less noise but cleaning them is important.

    1. And it can happen to slender or medium build people as well.

  3. Hey I found the 30 lbs you lost if you want them back :\. Fellow fighter pilot, only just a cat to witness. Is my middle-aged self confidence soaring? "Negative, Ghost Rider."

  4. And here I was feeling sorry for myself because I've taken to wearing one of those big bandages across my nose at night to pinch my nostrils open. Proof once again that someone else always has it worse.

  5. Being a "fighter pilot" isn't just for men. I've been one for two years, however, they never told me how you're supposed to survive when you have a cold in the winter and allergies in the spring/summer. I constantly feel I'm being suffocated because most of the time only one nostril works! And don't get me started about almost strangling myself with the hose because I toss in my sleep.


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