A few years ago I realized that my husband had sleep apnea. I would sometimes hear him stop breathing in the middle of the night and then make a horrible choking/gasping sound when he started breathing again.
Around the same time, my snoring was getting louder and louder (according to my husband). He said he never heard me actually stop breathing, but the volume of noise I produced at night was louder than anything he’d ever heard me produce during the day, even when screaming at the kids. (Just kidding! )
We were both in our late 30s and both obese, with BMI’s of around 35. We knew that if we lost weight, our sleep apnea would probably improve, but after close to a year of failed attempts to lose weight, we realized we just needed to see our doctor and be checked for sleep apnea.
I had the first appointment with our GP. The doctor very helpfully told me, “Well, I COULD send you for a sleep study . . . they’d get you set up with a CPAP machine that you’d have to use for the rest of your life. OR, you could just lose weight.”
I told him I hadn’t had a lot of success with that and was concerned about being treated NOW.
He said that I were just determined enough to achieve a healthy weight, I could do it. He had another patient who had been obese, taking meds for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., but one day he just determined he was going to achieve a healthy weight, and he did it. And I could too.
(So much for evidence-based medicine.)
So, I went home and tried some more to lose weight, with predictable results. My husband was so discouraged by what the doctor had told me that he didn’t even make and appointment.
Another year went by. And then something happened to make us take charge of our own health. A couple in our church lost their son-in-law. The man had sleep apnea and used a CPAP machine every night, but he was at a friend’s house one Saturday afternoon watching a basketball game on TV, and of course he didn’t have his CPAP machine with him. And he happened to doze off while watching the game. AND HE JUST DIED.
Luckily, our insurance allowed us to visit a specialist without having to go through our GP. We both made appointments with an ENT doctor, who sent us both for sleep studies. My husband turns out to have VERY severe sleep apnea. “Severe” is defined as “stops breathing more than 30 times per hour.” My husband stops breathing 90 (!!!) times per hour! I, on the other hand, do not have sleep apnea exactly — I have sleep “hypopnea,” which means that my obstructive snoring do not cause me to actually stop breathing, but it causes my blood oxygen levels to decrease to a dangerously low level. The treatment is the same — CPAP machines for both of us. The machines work incredibly well and are comfortable.
So, it’s not sexy, but we both sleep with our masks on and sleep much better and aren’t going to die in our sleep now.
We no longer go to that GP.