Everyone has to work on their sleep density. Sleep quality not quantity is key.
If you wake up tired or you snore or both; the likelihood that your sleep quality is suffering is extremely high. If you do snore, have ever been told to sleep in another room due to snoring or are not sure but think you may snore - Get an appointment with a Sleep Specialist!
It is never an unnecessary medical expense and if the ENT tells you that you do not have sleep apnea, that's great news!
A Sleep Specialist is typically an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Physician. If you're looking for a good doc, Howard Herman at ENT of GA is the ENT that helped me get my sleep apnea sorted out.
Onboarding as a new patient is pretty similar to that of your PCP or any other doctor's office, past medical history, family history, etc. but they’ll ask you to fill out a questionnaire called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. If your score is 11 or higher you move into a higher risk category.
The general circumference of your neck can also affect where you fall on this scale. A male neck of 17+ inches or female neck of 16+ inches automatically pushes you into the moderate risk category simply because there is more tissue in the neck that can obstruct your airway when you sleep.
The examination performed by the ENT typically involves them looking up your nose, viewing your sinuses, look at your tonsils, as well as other tissues of the nose and throat.
Depending on the findings of the examination a decision will be made as to whether you need to perform a sleep study. The home sleep study has a small learning curve associated with it.
Imagine a headband for spelunking or running in the dark but with a nasal cannula attached to it. Super attractive but really, it’s a neat piece of medical equipment. Once you get it on and get to sleep, the device is going to measure a multitude of things. Sleep position, how much you move, your blood oxygen content, decibel levels of the noise you’re making, your heart rate, do you snore more on your back, left vs right side, etc. All of this data is important and very revealing but the one piece that stands out more than the others is the number of “events” you’re having per hour. An ‘event’ is categorized as when you stop breathing for longer than 10 seconds. Don’t worry, it happens, it's normal and if it occurs fewer than 5 times per hour – Congratulations, no apnea.
However, there are abnormal ranges that are classified as mild, moderate and severe.
Mild Apnea – 5-14 events per hour
Moderate Apnea – 14-29 per hour
Severe Apnea – 30 or more per hour
For reference, when I talked with the ENT, some of my complaints were:
Waking up in a pool of sweat regardless of room temperature
An intense headache upon waking that resolved after a few deep breaths
A general sensation of a low-grade adrenaline rush, like a mini fight or flight response
His response to my descriptions was that I was basically having a fight or flight response EVERY NIGHT as my body struggled to get enough oxygen. Like I was being gently strangled as I slept. My number of events per hour was 60 and my blood oxygen dipped into the low 80% (if your % dips below 90% you require supplemental oxygen). Super scary stuff according to the doctor.
I had to some nasal obstructions and scar tissue addressed via surgery and I was ultimately prescribed a CPAP which after about 7-10 days of getting used to it, I can't imagine not having it. I went from sleeping 10 hours and feeling awful (pre-sleep study) to sleeping for 4-5 hours on a CPAP to feeling rested and energized.
Now I have to address the odd but slightly understandable stigma that comes with the use of a CPAP. It's not sexy. I wish I had gotten my CPAP 20+ years ago knowing what I know now but in that same thought I realize what it would have done to my dating life. Middle aged men and women, young twenty something guys and gals, single, dating, married or other. GET. OVER. THE. CPAP. STIGMA. Use it without shame, it is for improved sleep.
But realize that better sleep results in better recovery which results in more energy which ultimately results in more time for extracurricular activities in the bedroom. So indirectly, a CPAP will probably boost your sex life not hinder it.
In saying that, I encourage EVERYONE and ANYONE, regardless of age or sex, to get a sleep study if they feel the slightest bit off in regard to how well the sleep and recover. Even if it doesn't result in the prescription of a CPAP, it may reveal another reason as to why your sleep is being affected.
If you are already a CPAP user and need a resource for equipment and parts being mailed directly to you, check out https://cpapsetc.com/.