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Lost Count of the Sheep

A year ago last January, I asked my doctor if I should take a test for sleep apnea. I have been plagued by terrible insomnia most of my life, which I always thought had to do with trauma. I had lots of nightmares as a child. Well, I thought, that’s what happens when you lose a father and a brother at an early age. And then of course I was sexually abused, and plagued by lots of nighttime anxieties and triggering episodes until my early 40’s. And finally, there was the snoring husband. Ernie doesn’t snore nearly as much now that he’s sober, but I don’t really know for sure because we don’t share a bedroom anymore. We made that decision long ago after many years of my moving from room to room, even from floor to floor, in pursuit of nighttime quiet. Plus, I knew the only way we would survive retirement was to set up separate quarters, and we’ve done that. Also, did I mention I have really bad sinuses? I’ve been plagued by congestion and drainage since I was a kid. No, it’s not an allergy! It’s not seasonal, it’s ALL YEAR ROUND!

I had been reading about the new apnea tests that could be done at home with a wrist device and sensors. My doctor said go for it, and after a telehealth visit with a sleep specialist, yes, I have apnea. A fairly mild case, but my oxygenation numbers dip too low during the mini wake-ups. The sleep doctor said CPAP machines were stuck in the supply chain, along with practically everything else, and suggested I try a dental appliance instead. So off I went to the sleep dentist to be scanned, fitted and adjusted.

I had lots of concerns about wearing an appliance at night. Shades of all that orthodontic treatment in my teens! However, I had fewer problems than I anticipated, and the dentist and team were very good. Listened to all my concerns and made good suggestions. Then I had a mini-epiphany and asked the dentist, “How much of all this is due to the fact that I have a small jaw?” And he replied, “All of it.”

So please take note, all you apnea-challenged folks out there, it’s not about your weight, or your drinking, or your smoking, or any of the other bad habits you may indulge. It’s about anatomy! Sure, you can aggravate your apnea by smoking, drinking too much, and weighing too much, but you didn’t cause it. It’s your anatomy! Turns out that in addition to my small jaw, I have a vaulted palate, extremely large tonsils and adenoids, a big tongue and nasal linings that collapse when I inhale. How am I still alive?!?

Unfortunately, the dental appliance only helped a little, and next week I begin the process of being fitted for a CPAP machine. Have no idea how long that will take. These days it seems like I’m sleeping pretty well, but that’s in comparison to all the problems I used to have. I have no idea what my bedtime future holds, but it can’t be much worse than what I’ve already lived through. And it would be nice to be a little less tired. More energy for writing and podcasting!

I sure hope there aren’t many people out there who’ve been through as much as I have in pursuit of a decent night’s sleep. If it’s supposed to be so natural, and so necessary, why does it have to be so hard?

Lights out. I’m going to bed.


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