Category Archives: Health

My First Sleep Test, Part 2: Thoughts on Sleep Apnea and Other Stuff

I’ve learned a bunch of things from the responses I received when I posted about my first experience with a sleep test.

First, I learned that I should have explained what a sleep test is — not everyone knew. A “polysomnography” or sleep study is primarily intended to determine whether or not the subject has sleep apnea. “Obstructive sleep apnea” occurs when your throat muscles relax when you are sleeping, obstructing your airways, causing your breathing to stop and start while you are asleep. It is usually associated with snoring – those who have heard someone with sleep apnea will recognize the silence in the middle of a snoring session followed by a huge intake of breath in an extended snort.

Sleep apnea can lead to all kinds of cardiovascular problems and other health issues, as well as daytime sleepiness. Researchers have recently identified a link between sleep apnea and an increased risk of dementia. (As I told my son, who pointed this study out to me, nothing is more likely to get seniors to comply with a health recommendation than the threat of dementia.) The major snoring associated with the condition also causes distress to those who have to sleep next to it (or, in really bad cases, anywhere in the same house).

A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine corrects the problem: it involves a face mask and a steady stream of air. A friend of mine has pointed out that APAP (automatic positive air pressure) machines are now available. These adjust to the particular sleeper’s breathing patterns rather than releasing a continuous stream of air. An internet search reveals that there are also BPAP machines (!. They will eventually take over the whole alphabet!) that increase air pressure when you inhale, and reduce it when you exhale.

Since those who have sleep apnea don’t get enough restful sleep, they are often tired the next day. If you have a sleep test and are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may not be legally allowed to drive unless you are using a CPAP machine, because of the danger that you might fall asleep at the wheel. Therefore, if you have sleep apnea, by using a CPAP machine you may be avoiding a ticket, saving your own life, preserving your brain, and reducing the risk of running your vehicle into other people and objects. Up to nine percent of adults have been diagnosed with sleep apnea but it is likely that many more have it and are undiagnosed. Therefore, having a sleep test when indicated is a Very Good Idea and my whining post should not discourage you. End of Public Service Announcement, but here’s more if you want it: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obstructive-sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352090

Here are other (related) things I have learned in recent days:

  1. In the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, several of my Facebook friends have had “remote” sleep tests where they attach monitors to themselves at home and these are tracked remotely from the sleep lab at the hospital (or wherever it is located). At least those sleep-study subjects get to sleep in their own beds. I don’t know why they don’t do this in Ontario.
  2. People in the United Kingdom don’t seem to be sent for this test as often as people in North America. Several Facebook friends in the U.K. had never heard of a sleep test, while most of those who responded from North America had.
  3. A lot of people I know have had the test, and a lot of people have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are now using CPAP machines. After they got used to them, most users love them because they sleep so much better with them, and they feel more rested during the day. I’m guessing that many of their sleep partners also love them: in addition to eliminating snoring, CPAP machines are great “white-noise” makers, as I can personally attest.
  4. I wish I had stock in a CPAP company and, now that William Shatner is promoting them, CPAP Machine Sanitizing Systems might be a good investment too. (Not the sanitizing machines themselves: they’re too expensive and likely not covered by insurance. I mean stock in the company that makes them.)

Finally, here is a video of Phyllis Diller — to whom I referred in my previous post — sharing some early-1970s humour and looking sort of the way I did on Monday night hair wise, except that she has no wires.