The Importance of Sleep, Part 1
Ever since becoming a mom, my constant mood is some form of tired. Drained, spent, exhausted; these are just some of the words I use when asked, “How are you?” Then when we decided to homeschool five years ago, my energy levels seemed to plummet even further. I simply assumed it was a product of getting older, having too much on my plate, or a combination of both. After a while I didn’t even think anything of it—that is until I started sleepwalking last summer. Yes, a 40-something-year-old was sleepwalking around her bedroom, getting bruised and disoriented all night long. Sleepwalking was a completely new activity to me, since I never did that as a child. When I approached my doctor, his first line of action was to get me on a Vitamin D supplement. My levels of Vitamin D were appallingly low, but even after a few months on the supplements, I was still sleepwalking and feeling exhausted every day. I also found myself falling asleep while reading to my girls and dosing while they worked on their school work.
The next step was to make an appointment with a pulmonary doctor for a referral to get a sleep study. It took months to get in with the doctor. His bedside manner was atrocious, but he was the key to unlocking my ability to have my insurance authorize a sleep study. I was extremely anxious to have the study. In many cases, the sleep study can be done at home. However, because I was sleepwalking, the doctor said I would have to have the sleep study done at a sleep center. My anxieties were a product of two things: I had not spent a night alone in over 15 years, and I would be at a strange place alone. I didn’t think I would be able to fall asleep, but apparently I was able to sleep enough for the tests to show that I have 119 apnea incidences in an hour. An incidence is when the patient snores or stops breathing. More than 5 incidences an hour is considered abnormal, and anything over 30 incidences is considered severe sleep apnea. Therefore, my apnea was off the charts. In my case, when I slept, I was not breathing more than I was breathing. As a result of not breathing, my oxygen went down to 70 from 100. This is a scary level. I wasn’t just tired from being a homeschooling mom, I was suffering from a much more serious problem: severe sleep apnea.
I went to the follow-up appointment at the sleep clinic and spent time trying out different sleep masks for a CPap machine (Cpap stands for continuous positive airway pressure). I knew others that used the machine, but I never really understood what it was and how it helped them sleep. At this visit I learned that sleep apnea is a progressive condition and can worsen over time. This is why I went from feeling tired as a new mom to completely drained 13 years later. Thankfully, I was blessed with a wonderful technician that was gentle and kind and spent time explaining how the CPap machine worked and how it is up to me to have a positive attitude regarding the usage of the machine. She believes that the machine is 100% effective, but that the patient has to keep an open mind and actually use the machine nightly for it to work. Technology has created the option for patients to use a variety of face masks, so that the CPap machine is no longer as cumbersome as it once was.
Some interesting sleep apnea facts I learned from the clinic:
• Sleep apnea is not age specific; it can affect someone at any age.
• Sleep apnea is not weight specific; although being overweight can make it worse.
• Both men and women are affected; it is more common in men.
• Sleep apnea is still greatly misunderstood by the medical community.
• One in 15 Americans suffers from sleep apnea.
Now it is the waiting game for me, as I wait to have my CPap machine delivered. I will write a part 2 to this article when I have had time to adjust to the machine itself. Wish me luck!
Michelle Martin was born into a musical family and has been teaching music for over 20 years. Besides teaching piano and voice, Michelle is a performer, a choir director, a writer, a composer, and a homeschool mom. Most recently she has published three music curricula through Schoolhouse Teachers. Music has always been a passion for Michelle, and she believes exposing a child to music is just as important as learning math or science. Michelle lives with her husband, Jim, two daughters, Zoe and Eva, and a myriad of furry and aquatic friends.