Snoring: Bad Habit Or Sleep Apnoea?
For years I've been a snorer, insomniac & over sleeper rolled into one forever-sleepy woman. A relatable situation for many women, I’m sure (as much as we try to blame the snoring on our counterpart!).
But do we all know that these may be more than just habits, that they can actually be symptoms of a serious underlying medical condition?
Nope, neither did I until I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) & found to be stopping breathing 89 times an hour (!) in my sleep.
And how did this come to light? Because, during a particularly bad bout of exhaustion, I fell asleep at the wheel while stopped at the traffic lights only to be beeped awake by the driver behind when the lights turned green.
All pretty terrifying stuff, right! And I'm sharing my experience not as a sob story but simply to raise awareness of what I now understand is quite a common condition that some of my fellow snoring insomniacs may also be unknowingly living with.
Like many other women, my issues had always been swept under the carpet as night time habits stemming from stressful daytimes or "cute" little sleep quirks of mine for my husband to lovingly mock me for, but after my ordeal, I went straight to my GP who fast-tracked me to a sleep clinic for further investigation.
To cut my waffle short, my sleep study showed crazy scary results & I was given a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to sleep with, which has now improved to me stopping breathing on average less than twice an hour. Anything less than 10 is classed as "normal" so I got my happily ever after & many a good night sleep at last - hurrah!
But for the rest of us, how do we know if our sleep habits require a cup of camomile tea & a swift "shut your face" when your partner complains about your snoring or a clinical sleep study & the use of nightly breathing apparatus?
First of all, if you suffer with more than one of these tips – many of which your partner will be more aware of than you are yourself – it’s worth paying attention:
Dry mouth & throat
Feeling of choking
Jerky body movements
Lots of tossing & turning restlessness
Restless sleep with frequent wake-ups
Struggling to breathe or even stopping breathing
Too many night time toilet trips
OSA can affect any of us but medical research shows that if we’re women in later stages of pregnancy, are past our menopause or are obese with a larger neck size of 17” or more, we’re more likely to have sleep issues beyond daft piggy noises.
There are things we can do ourselves prior to seeking medical attention to try tackle or lessen the effects of sleep apnoea, such as losing a few pounds or cutting down our alcohol consumption. Because, sadly, that cheeky glass of wine we think will help aid a restful night isn’t the medicine we need (sorry girls!).
But it is important to take this stuff seriously if you’re ticking off a few of these boxes. As well as the undeniable exhaustion negatively affecting our day-to-day work & family lives, OSA can lead to further health problems from high blood pressure to strokes & heart attacks & even death if severe cases are left untreated.
If you think you might have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, there’s a simple test you can run online to assess your sleep habits over a variety of daily situations like sitting & reading, sitting down to watch TV, sitting to rest after a meal &, my own Kryptonite, sitting in traffic.
Known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), this test shows how likely you are to fall asleep in these situations by assigning a score to each task & likelihood & guides you to your overall tally as below:
0-5 = Low to normal
6-10 = Normal
11-12 = Mild excessive
12-15 = Moderate excessive
16-24 = Severe excessive
Of course there are other facts of life that can affect our sleep for a whole host of different reasons beyond any of this sleep apnoea lark & a bout of insomnia or over sleeping isn’t an instant diagnosis. But, if you score over 10 on the ESS, talk to your GP.
It might be that you just get a bit of advice & a slap on the wrists if you enjoy a drink or, like me, you’re on the heavier side but it could also be the diagnosis of a lifetime.
My experience wasn’t the most fun (to put it lightly) but, since being diagnosed with OSA & given medical use of a CPAP machine, I feel like a new woman; I no longer live my life in a zombie-like state of exhaustion & confusion, I don’t spend my nights tossing & turning or running for wee breaks every hour & I now have such a normal sleep pattern that I can tell the embarrassing snoring stories about my husband instead of always being the sleepy punch line of his anecdotes. Life is great again! And it would be even more so if my tale helped to help other potential Obstructive Sleep Apnoea sufferers in getting the diagnosis & treatment they don’t even know they need.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dani Crater is the Manchester based, fat-and-happy, thirtysomething wife of a pro-wrestler whose blog, The Unseasoned Wag, is the relatable learning curve of how to wife & how to life.
To read more from Dani check out her blog: The Unseasoned Wag
To follow Dani and her journey check out her instagram: @mrsdanicrater88