John had known all his life that he snored. Both his dad and his college roommate did too, so he figured it wasn’t a big deal.
It became a big deal to his wife, Marie, after they got married. His snoring was so loud that it was keeping her up at night. She constantly complained about it, but John thought she just had to get used to it.
Marie tried to get him to talk to a doctor to see if there was anything that could be done to help. John blew it off because he didn’t want to admit that he had a problem.
Eventually he got some nasal strips and thought that would be the end of the conflict. But his snoring still kept Marie awake. She finally began to sleep in another room. Since John couldn’t hear himself snore, he thought she was making too big of an issue out of it.
John was also working at his third job in the past two years. He was fired from the first job because he could never get to work on time. It was really hard for him to wake up in the morning.
He tried everything he could think of. He went to bed early; he used an alarm clock; he left the blinds open so sun would come in the window. It didn’t matter. He was still tired and struggled to get out of bed on time.
Since Marie sometimes worked nights at the hospital, she wasn’t always there to wake him up. John just figured that he wasn’t a morning person.
He lost his second job because they said he was lazy. He would agree that he didn’t have a lot of energy, but he was trying hard. The problem was that he would get distracted and lose his focus easily. During long meetings he would even doze off briefly. John blamed it on the office manager for keeping the temperature too warm.
One evening John and Marie were returning from a weekend spent visiting her parents. On the drive home, John fell asleep and the car drifted into a lane of oncoming traffic. Marie’s scream woke him up, and John was able to swerve back into their lane just in time. This was the wake-up call that he needed.
Marie pleaded with him to see a doctor, and John finally agreed. It was his first visit to the doctor in years. He found out that he was 75 pounds overweight and that he had high blood pressure. John told the doctor about his sleepiness and his snoring. His doctor was concerned and referred John to a nearby sleep center.
John called the center to set up an appointment. A week later, he and Marie went together to meet with a sleep specialist. They both filled out a questionnaire about John’s sleep patterns and how their lives were affected by them. The doctor reviewed those results and went over John’s medical history.
He also examined John’s nose and throat and measured his neck. His neck was a size 18. The doctor told John his suspicion that his sleep problems were the result of obstructive sleep apnea.
To find out for sure, he would have to do an overnight sleep study at the sleep center. John agreed, and the study was scheduled two weeks from then.
He actually felt relieved to find out that there really might be something causing him to be so tired all the time. When he got home, John called his insurance provider. He was happy to find out that his company insurance plan had just recently started to cover studies and treatments for sleep disorders.
In two weeks, John showed up at the sleep center with his bag packed for the night. He was shown to his private room, which was much more comfortable than he expected. It felt more like a hotel room than a medical center. He got situated, changed into his pajamas and relaxed for a little bit.
Then he had to fill out a few papers. After that, a technician went over all the equipment with him and answered his questions. He watched a video that explained about sleep apnea and treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). The sensors were then placed on John, and the equipment was tested.
Once that was done, he watched some TV before turning the lights out around his usual bedtime. Everything felt a little strange to him at first, but he got used to it and finally drifted off to sleep.
Sometime in the night, the technician came in and woke John up. He said that John had stopped breathing numerous times. As a result, they wanted him to try to see if he slept better with CPAP. They put a mask over his nose and adjusted the pressure of the air flow. He quickly fell back to sleep.
When the technician woke him up again at 6 a.m., John couldn’t believe how quickly the night had passed. He remarked that using the mask had given him the best sleep he could ever remember. John went home and shared with Marie what the study had confirmed: he had a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea.
The sleep specialist at the center still had to review and certify the data from John’s study. The results were then sent to John’s primary doctor. They showed that he had stopped breathing 127 times before being given the CPAP. This caused his oxygen level to only be 65% instead of the normal range of 90% to 98%.
His doctor wrote an order for John to get a CPAP machine. Within another week, John had been fitted for a mask and was using a CPAP machine at home.
It took John a little while to get used to sleeping with the machine. The mask felt a little awkward at first, and the machine made a constant humming noise.
Marie told him that the humming was music to her ears compared to his snoring. But once John got used to it, he began sleeping like never before.
Now the machine even goes with him when he has to travel out of town. People at the office have noticed that he seems to be happier and has more energy. For the first time that he can remember, he actually feels refreshed when he wakes up most mornings.
Both John and Marie are finally finding joy in being able to share a good night of sleep together.
Reviewed by Norman J. Wilder, MD
Updated on May 11, 2006