Sleep Apnea | Causes Symptoms Treatment

Sleep Apnea Can Kill

By John T Jones, Ph.D.

It’s been over a dozen years since I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

I was watching television one evening and saw a fat guy who was treated for Sleep Apnea. I didn’t know what Sleep Apnea was but I knew that the fat guy and I had some things in common.

I was always falling asleep at my desk. I often had to pull off the rode to take a nap right in the middle of the day. I had knocked the mirror off my VW van while driving past our town park a few days before.

I had problems.

I went to the Deborah Heart and Lung Hospital in Browns Mills, NJ.

There I received the most complete physical examination of my life. I was scheduled for a sleep test. The test was to be in two steps. The first night, I was to be evaluated for sleep apnea. The second night, I was to be fitted with a CPAP unit (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: a reverse vacuum cleaner that controls breathing air flow) that would allow me to breath without snoring.

When I was a kid, my brother wrote a Christmas poem for me. I was hurt by the poem. It said I snored like a B-17!

When I was working as a leader in the scouting program, I use to sleep away from the boys. On a trip to Wyoming, we stopped at a military base for the night. The boys slept in the gymnasium and I slept out in the hallway which had wall of brick. During the night I heard the roar of a tyrannosaurus rex. I sat up and found that I had just blurted out one of my snorts. I laughed.

On one trip, I slept separate from the boys and it’s good I did.

It was on a winter campout in Iowa. The boys and my two assistant scoutmasters slept in a large room and I slept in the kitchen. In the middle of the night I woke up knowing that something was wrong. I went into the room where the others were sleeping and was greeted by smoke!

I turned on the lights, opened the doors, opened the window, woke my assistants and then tried to wake the boys. We finally got them all up, but two or three were very ill.

If I had not awakened them, they would all have died. That was the only night I was glad I couldn’t sleep soundly. (In Korea I always was afraid that my snoring would alert the Chinese to my position. We seldom slept at night.)

During the first test I immediately started to snore like a B-17 and the oxygen level in my blood, according to the nurse, was zero!

The nurse ended the test, and put me on a CPAP unit.

I had the first remembered uninterrupted sleep of my life.

I woke at 5:30 a.m. after being on the unit for one hour and forty-five minutes. I had never been so awake so early in the morning in all my life. I drove to McDonalds across the street, grabbed something to eat, and headed for work, a drive of about two hours.

I was still hyper when I got to work. I looked at my desk. It was piled with action items, some a month old.

I said, “What a mess!”

My secretary said, “Well, clean it up!”

I was finished by 2:00 p.m. I had all the stuff on my secretary’s desk. It took her two weeks to process it.

I left the research laboratory and headed for the factory. I was slapping everybody on the back and having a great time.

When I got home, I found I didn’t need sleep. I was reading my old college text through most of the night. I didn’t need any sleep for two and one-half days!

My boss caught me on the factory floor a couple of days later and said, “You’ve got to slow down. You are going to have a heart attack.” That night I called my oldest son who is a neurosurgeon. I told him that I had the CPAP unit and that I was only sleeping a couple of hours a night. I needed to slow down.

He told me that my hypothalamus was not use to all that oxygen. He said, “Stay in bed for at least five hours until things get back to normal.”

In the past, on long family vacations, I learned that I could drive for hours on end if I could get through the first day of driving. Sleep was actually killing me. It was the worst thing I could do before I got the CPAP unit.

In college, I was always sleeping in class. That was embarrassing in the classes that had only three students.

I had the same problems at work after I graduated.

When I went back to graduate school five years later, things were even worse. I don’t know how I ever got through the program. I had to study standing up, a solution I learned in U. S. Army schools.

Things continued that way when we lived in Iowa where I was teaching engineering at Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!), California, and then Pennsylvania. It didn’t go away in New Jersey (until I saw that television program). It cared nothing about state lines.

Sleep apnea can kill you. It can also kill your brain cells.

It can shut down your short-term memory. That is what happened to me. Now that I’m in old age, people don’t notice it. They expect it. But it made my life miserable in college when I was taking classes that required rote memory.

I think that I was poor student in my youth because of sleep apnea. I was always too tired to do my school work. I loved to study. I tried to read every book in our branch library, but I was always fighting fatigue.

I was a lousy farm worker.

To tell you the truth, I hate the CPAP unit at times. Sometimes I fight the headgear all night long. But I always somehow get enough sleep that I don’t fall asleep during the day (unless I pig out on a big meal) and I don’t ever get tired while driving.

I’m glad that I’m not a threat to others on the highway.

Surgery is an alternative to the CPAP unit. Once you have a CPAP unit, you find that they are all over the place. One of my friends had surgery because he got tired of fighting the unit.

Three of my sons have sleep apnea, not all of the same variety. Some of my grandchildren have it too. It is hereditary.

My number three son had the surgery. It was partially successful and he will be operated on again. I have no such choice. My doctor in Arizona said I was too old and not in good enough health to have such surgery.

Now that I have an aortic valve from a generous pig in my chest, maybe I could have successful surgery, perhaps by LASER. But I’m not going to have it because it would be too painful for this old man.

Fortunately for you, if you have a sleep problem, there are sleep clinics all over the country. It is big business.

If you have a sleep problem, get help.

It could save your life!

Copyright©John T. Jones, Ph.D. 2005

About the Author: John T. Jones, Ph.D. ( a retired R&D engineer and VP of a Fortune 500 company. He is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering), poetry, etc. Former editor of international trade magazine. Jones is Executive Representative of International Wealth Success.

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