Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Do I Have Apnea? Let Me Sleep on It

I couldn’t have asked for a more timely article to appear in the newspaper. A day before I am to meet with a specialist on sleep apnea testing at Mount Sinai Hospital, The New York Times printed an article comparing the experience of one of its staff writers to an in-hospital overnight test with a new home version (http://nyti.ms/1nOF0nZ). 

I had already met with a colleague who assured me (if that is the right term) I was a prime suspect for sleep apnea, a condition “characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to several minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.”

For one, I snore a lot. Second, my uvula (it’s not as “dirty” as it sounds—it’s the teardrop piece of your body suspended at the back of the upper palate) was larger than normal. When lying down, my uvula inhibits the flow of air. Air vibrating around the uvula can cause snoring. Third, in the past, when napping, I sometimes was startled into alertness with the sensation I had stopped breathing for a moment. 

Four out of 10 adults snore, but when your bedmate finds it interferes with her sleep, it’s time to do something about it, if possible. The first doctor assured me (there’s that word again) something could be done, but only after a test confirmed I indeed suffered from sleep apnea.  

Surgery is an option I will not consider, as it is not always successful. Instead, I could wind up wearing an appliance while asleep that projects the lower jaw forward, creating a wider air pathway as well as encouraging more nasal and less oral breathing. I already wear an appliance on my lower teeth to protect my molars from grinding away enamel, so I don’t expect any resistance to that remedy if it is prescribed.

Few events in my life aren’t blog worthy—heck, it’s cheaper than therapy—so you can look forward to finding out how my snoring issue is resolved, to Gilda’s satisfaction, we both hope.