Was it daylight savings time? ©

On the eve of the Daylight Savings Time changeover I couldn’t sleep well at all. I kept waking up and looking at the clock; it seemed like the night was lasting forever. This is really unusual for me. Most times I sleep like a baby all night long to the point where my wife accuses me of something or other to which I usually retort “I’ve just got a clear conscience”! Please note that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not guilty though!

So was it the daylight time changeover that was keeping me awake? No, it had nothing to do with it at all, nor did my conscience. It had to do with sleep apnea. When I woke up at 5 AM my wife woke as well and asked “Why aren’t you wearing your CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask”?

Aha, the light finally went on! That’s why I couldn’t sleep.

So what exactly is sleep apnea? It’s a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain — and the rest of the body — may not get enough oxygen.

Several years ago I had no idea that I had this condition except for the fact that my wife told me I would stop breathing while sleeping and wake her up. I finally consulted my doctor who then ordered a formal sleep study to confirm it, which it did. A sleep study consists of going to a sleep study center, often in a local hospital, and being “wired up” so you can be monitored while you sleep.

What are the symptoms? If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, including:

The thing that really got my attention and finally made me act on my wife’s prodding was the irregular heartbeats which I was experiencing. And when the cardiologist told me that sleep apnea was a primary causal factor, I finally relented and had the study done.

If you’re experiencing chronic fatigue, daytime drowsiness, and/or some of the above symptoms, you may have sleep apnea, especially if you have one or more of these risk factors:

Being male

Being overweight

Being over age 40

Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)

Nasal obstruction, or sinus problems

But don’t get side tracked if you don’t have some of these risk factors. For example, the sleep technician who worked on me told me that her patients include almost as many women as men.

So what is the treatment? To my knowledge there isn’t a cure for sleep apnea but there is an effective treatment using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device when you sleep. This consists of a mask that you wear over your nose during sleep that pressurizes your airway to keep it from collapsing while you sleep.

But does it work? It sure does, not only in my experience but several of my friends with the same condition have had similar good results. If you suffer from fitful sleep, or if your spouse tells you that you do, consult your doctor about it.

It may be sleep apnea, not your conscience!

Thanks for reading All About Seniors…..see you next week!

Photo: our Granddaughter Adele – sleeping like a baby this weekend at “The Farm”

Bill Milby is a Director of Visiting Angels® of Central Georgia, a non-medical, living assistance service for seniors. If you have questions or comments about this column you can reach him at william.mercylink@gmail.com

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