Life After Sleep Apnea

Mid-December of 2014 I began down the path of recovering from Sleep Apnea. I had been dealing with constant memory issues, programming was becoming harder to concentrate on, things just didn’t stick easily anymore. Fatigue was an issue, even though I regularly ‘slept’ for 7-8 hours a night, I often felt unrested. My daily commute was becoming worrisome as well. I had been doing the hour plus commute deal for almost 15 years and was now finding myself dealing with an increasing amount of road rage.

Up until the past few years, I had been able to brush-off most encounters with unruly drivers. My threshold for dealing with Atlanta’s finest had been quite high, but I was finding it harder and harder to ignore even minor infractions. I tried to approach driving with Hanlon’s Razor in mind (Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity), but it didn’t help.

It came to a head sometime in the fall of 2014. I was driving to work and noticed my lips and face were going numb. The numbness traveled down my right arm and through to my fingertips. It subsided somewhat once at work, but flared again on the drive home.

After a series of questions, my doctor informed me the numbness and location of it were classic signs of hyperventilation and driving seemed to be a trigger. We began to discuss treatment options when the question of whether or not I was still having snoring issues (I was) came up. He asked a few more questions, then explained what Sleep Apnea was and how it could be behind all the symptoms I was experiencing. My homework was to have my wife watch me sleep and follow-up with whatever she noted.

It’s from this task that I learned I’m not as sound a sleeper as I thought. My wife reported that I frequently twitched and jerked in my sleep and I would periodically stop snoring and then gasp/snort about 30 seconds later. Further, I would sometimes sit up during these episodes, look around, then fall back to sleep. I have absolutely no recollection of any of it. To further diagnose, I also bought an oxcimeter to see if I can see this happening on the meter. If I stop breathing, I should be able to see it, right? Well, turns out I could:

Relaying this to my doctor, we made an appointment for a sleep study. Unfortunately, I had to later cancel said appointment since the out-of-pocket cost was going to be approximately $1300. However, given my wife’s observations and the oximeter readings, I felt like I could really benefit from a CPAP machine. Turns out there are places online that loan monitoring equipment for a fee of $100 and will sell you a CPAP based on those results.

That said, after a week of use I didn’t notice any changes. In fact, it wasn’t until early January 2015 that I noticed some changes going on. Mentally, I felt amazing and had an overall calmness that I hadn’t had in a long time. The barrier between me and other drivers was returning and my ability to focus on my work came back. It’s scary to think something so invisible to me, was causing actual tangible issues to my mental health. If my wife hadn’t relayed my snoring to me and my doctor had not made the connection, who knows how much damage it could have caused in the long term.

In case you’re wondering, this is what my oximeter readings look like with a CPAP (only shows an hour, but it looks like this all night):

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