Sleep apnea is not common in my generation and it’s also not common in women. I’m led to believe it’s more common than we think, but it is under-diagnosed. Most people who I talk with about sleep apnea say “oh, my father in law has that!” or “I think my uncle uses a machine when he sleeps.” I know that sleep apnea isn’t the core of my blog, but I want to share my story in the hopes that it helps someone advocate for themselves and get the diagnosis that they need!
Basically my entire life, I’ve been a “high sleep needs” person. Even as an adult, I can sleep 9, 10, even 12 hours in a night and not feel rested. Well, as an adult, sleeping 12 hours and still feeling not rested is not normal. Napping all the time is not normal. I’ve brought it up as a concern to my physicians, but often I chalked it up to a symptom of depression combined with restless leg syndrome impacting my sleep.
A few years ago, my primary care physician suggested that I do a sleep study. It was at the end of the calendar year, and I was nowhere close to meeting my deductible. So I put it off, and then I got pregnant with Theo. Note to self: don’t put things off that impact your health!
At the beginning of 2021, I finally scheduled my sleep study. The good news is that now you don’t have to go to a sleep lab to do it. You can do your study right at home. I picked up the equipment from a sleep lab, and brought it home to complete my sleep test.
The equipment consisted of a large watch-looking device, an oxygen sensor, and a sensor for your chest. You put on the “watch,” put the sensor on your chest, and the oxygen sensor on your finger. It’s all connected to the watch with wires that you feed through your pajama sleeve or under your pajamas and was a non-issue for me. But, I can sleep anywhere, any time, wearing any sort of contraption. The most annoying part was sleeping with something large on my wrist. The chest sensor was super sticky, but I still put a piece of medical tape over it just in case. I didn’t want to have to do my sleep test twice!
Once you get in bed and ready for sleep for the night, you hit the start button on the watch, and the sensors begin collecting data. There is no off button, so in the morning all I did was remove the equipment, package it back up, and drop it off at the sleep lab so they could get it sanitized for the next patient.
About a week later, the sleep clinic called with my results and I was diagnosed with mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They told me that I had 12.3 breathing events per hour. I’ll translate that for you: on average, I stopped breathing for 10 or more seconds 12.3 times per hour. This is on the higher end of mild OSA. Under 5 is considered normal, and over 15 is moderate. My blood oxygen saturation dipped as low as 82% throughout the night as well. That’s incredibly dangerous and I’m so lucky to have my diagnosis.
We always joke that Theo is slowly killing off my brain cells, when in reality, it’s probably the fact that my brain is deprived of oxygen when I sleep!
The next steps? Get fitted for a CPAP machine and begin treatment. I’ll share more about the CPAP process as well as how treatment is going in a future blog post!
Disclaimer: This blog post contains the authors researched opinions as well as actual experiences, and not one of a medical professional. Please consult to your medical professional for their official opinion on items referenced here, and defer to them in case of any conflict.