Sleep Apnea

If you snore excessively, are restless at night, sleepy during the day, or wake up in the morning feeling horrible you need to get yourself checked out at a sleep clinic.  Do it for those who love you.  Depriving your brain oxygen for nearly one third of every day — which is how much you should be sleeping — is not a good thing.

In March of 2012 my wife told me my snoring was getting out of hand.  I did some research and discovered that snoring can be predictive of risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  OSA is when, while sleeping, you stop breathing for ten seconds or more.  This is called an episode.  My father’s OSA is caused when his uvula compromises his airway.  He has used a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine for years.

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Following a sleep study I was diagnosed with mild positional OSA.  When I sleep on my back I have 12 episodes per hour.  When I sleep on my side I have five episodes per hour.  Five to 14.9 events per hour are considered mild per the diagnostic criteria.

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I easily adjusted to using an automatic CPAP machine.  An automatic CPAP machine determines what air pressure you need and provides it.  My life improved immediately.  Suddenly I found myself sleeping uninterrupted for six to eight hours at a time.  It was funny because though I was now feeling better than ever upon waking my body was sore because it was not used to being motionless for long periods of time.  I could even view the data recorded by my CPAP and see how much air pressure I needed and how many episodes I had.  While using the CPAP I had two or less episodes per hour.

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What a CPAP user looks like.

After six months of using the machine I analyzed my data.  As a skinny guy at 72″ and 177lbs I only needed five cm of air pressure to keep my airway open.  Based upon my research this seemed to be an extremely low pressure.  Many CPAP users I know need between 12 and 18 cm.  One day I was looking in the mirror at my crooked nose and thought “I wonder if I have a deviated septum?  If so, I wonder if it was fixed if my nose could generate five cm of air on its own and cure my OSA?”  I scheduled to see an an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor in the morning and my sleep doctor in the afternoon.

What a CPAP User thinks they look like.

What a CPAP user thinks they look like.

The ENT told me I had the worst nose he had ever seen.  After reviewing my lifestyle the ENT hypothesized that since I was delivered with forceps I may have had my nose damaged on the day I was born.  Additionally, with boxing as my hobby I had probably experienced several broken noses over the years and not noticed.  The ENT gave me the party line of “surgery doesn’t fix OSA” because he had to but the fixed nose = five cm of air = no OSA hypothesis seemed logical to him.  Later that day I saw my sleep doctor.  He said that I may be the rare case where surgery fixes OSA.

If you keep fightin' Rock you're going to get sleep apnea!

If you keep fightin’ Rock you’re going to get sleep apnea!

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I had the surgery.  I recovered.  I had a second sleep study and now, in any position, have three episodes per hour.  My hypothesis worked.  Per the diagnostic criteria I no longer had OSA.  I had to give up boxing.  😦  My sleep doctor recommended I stop using my CPAP for two months then come back to see him.

The sleep study results were one thing.  Reality is another.  I was miserable without my CPAP.  My snoring was less than before surgery but still there.  I rolled around more at night.  I did not sleep for extended periods of time any more.  I no longer woke up feeling refreshed.  I told all of this to my doctor at the two month check-up and he asked me what I wanted to do.  I told him I wanted to keep using my CPAP.  He said “No problem.  I treat both the disease, and the patient.  If you want to continue using the CPAP I have no issue.”  I was relieved beyond words.

I am back on my machine now and loving life.  Is the mask mildly-obtrusive?  Yes.  Is the mild-obtrusiveness of the mask worth it to achieve a good night’s sleep which enables me to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed?  Yes.  Does a refreshed feeling enable me to have higher quality interaction with my family, co-workers, and ensure my workout sessions go well?  Yes.

“But wait,” you ask.  “What about boxing?”

It is with a heavy heart that I report I can do bag and mitt work but sparring is over.  One good thing about this entire experience with OSA and a deviated septum is that I am now exploring grappling arts that do not involve striking which I have neglected in the past.

mullins

 

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