I remember hearing my dad snore through my bedroom wall. It was loud. So loud! We used to laugh about it and tease him. He said he had always snored like that and I just couldn’t imagine how my mom slept through it. Little did I know she wasn’t and it wasn’t because of the noise volume.
She listening for when he stopped breathing. She was too terrified to fall asleep.
It wasn’t until continuously feeling exhausted after a full night’s sleep and then actually falling asleep during a business meeting my dad thought it was time to get checked out.
The diagnosis – sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder in adults where sleep is disrupted by pauses in breath. These pauses or ‘apneas’ can last a few seconds to minutes and can happen 5 to 30 times in just an hour. These shallow breaths or pauses cause disruptions in sleep and forces you to shift from deep sleep into light sleep therefore the quality of sleep one get’s throughout the night isn’t fully restorative. This can explain the exhaustion my father was feeling. Sleep apnea is the leading cause in adult daytime exhaustion and sleepiness and can also affect children.
Generally the individual doesn’t realize this is happening throughout the night and it’s normally a witness that makes them aware of it. The individual may show symptoms for years or even decades before taking action. My dad snored as loud as he did for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that he was diagnosed. He had simply got used to his fatigue throughout the day.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive (the most common) where the apnea is caused by the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing and closing while the individual sleeps, central sleep apnea where there are no blockages but the brain struggles to tell the muscles to breath, and mixed (both obstructive and central). All three can thankfully be diagnosed and treated. Diagnosis can only be made through a professional sleep study, typically done in a sleep clinic and your family Doctor must refer you. My dad now uses a CPAP machine and the difference in his vitality is amazing. He can’t and won’t sleep without it. Both he and my mom are both getting the quality of sleep they need now.
There needs to be more awareness of this disorder as left untreated, sleep apnea can cause serious life threatening consequences like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, weight gain, diabetes, and can affect ones day-to-day with memory problems, depression, job impairment, and an increase in risk of car accidents.
If you feel that you could be suffering from sleep apnea go see your doctor for the next steps. You can also test yourself here. If your child continuously snores or suffers from chronic mouth breathing my recommendation is to video tape them sleeping and bring it to your Doctors. They can then review it and assess whether or not your child needs a sleep study done and refer you accordingly.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime