An Up Close and Personal Account of Having Sleep Apnea

An Up Close and Personal Account of Having Sleep Apnea


This column is about sleep apnea. To be precise, my obstructive sleep apnea. I’m not going to apologize for writing about something that’s quite personal. I’m on a bit of a mission actually.

Sleep apnea is relatively common, about 5 per centĀ of the adult population are estimated to suffer from it to some degree, but it is just as commonly undiagnosed. This condition is dangerous to the health of the sufferer, and can have fatal consequences when drivers with the condition fall asleep at the wheel.

Here’s what happened to me. As I progressed through my sixth decade I realised I felt tired all the time. On a couple of occasions, I had to take extended time off work, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Fatigue and stress made me crave unhealthy carbohydrates and reduced my will power to zero. I put on weight.

And, apologies for the detail, visiting the lavatory during the night became annoyingly frequent. I often woke with pounding headaches. I nodded off to sleep in front of the television in the evening, or over a pile of student papers anytime and even on short journeys, as a passenger, I’d drop off. Luckily I never experienced sleepiness when driving.

I wondered, was this just part of getting older? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if day-to-day niggles are normal or ominous. But together, these symptoms were beginning to have a serious impact on my daily life.

I, and my GP, and eventually, a couple of other specialists, tried to find out what was going on. It was suggested I have a test for sleep apnea. I was horrified. It couldn’t be sleep apnea. I knew I snored because my husband Steve sometimes complained, but I recoiled from the idea. Only the elderly and massively overweight got sleep apnea – that couldn’t be me!

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