Okay, so I snore. 😉
The problem is, it’s more than just snoring. Apparently I’ve been diagnosed with moderate to high Sleep Apnea (pauses in breathing) with periods of Hypopnea (abnormally shallow breathing), both of which cause a disruption in the levels of blood oxygen. I also have periods of “mysterious” (unexplained) lowering of blood oxygen that are not specifically correlated with the above two conditions. I’ve linked to Wikipedia for anyone wanting more technical info.
Here’s a lovely little graphic, I just know you’re going to appreciate. 😉 Basically, what is happening, is that my breathing sometimes becomes obstructed (the snoring part) when the back of the tongue and soft palate relax too much against the airway, thus closing it off. Eventually, the brain decides it needs oxygen and begins to insist a bit and forces an intake of air, that then will rattle against the throat and cause the snoring sound.
Keep in mind that while apnea is often accompanied by snoring, snoring does not necessarily mean that there is apnea. There are many other causes of snoring. In my case, some, but not all of the apnea “events” are related to snoring, or obstruction. The others are related to shallow breathing.
I’ve been aware of the shallow breathing for awhile now – it happens during the day, too. When I’m concentrated on something, like typing this post, my breathing can slow down to be almost imperceptible. It’s shallow, slow, and sometimes simply pauses, even though I’m awake. I can be doing something and become vaguely aware that I’m not breathing, or breathing very shallowly, at which point I will take a deep breath and continue on with whatever I was doing.
That’s why I wanted to do the sleep study, because I figure if I’m doing that during the day, what might be happening at night? Well, now I know.
My oxygen levels are de-saturating during the night. I have the report with all the charts and levels, and a pattern becomes visible, shallow respiration, oxygen goes down, heart rate increases and at some point, the depth of sleep is interrupted, it rises toward waking, and I start breathing more deeply and oxygen goes back up.
Apparently, though, this is happening too often and the oxygen is remaining too low and the increases in heart rate are not good for the heart, and the lack of oxygen isn’t good for the brain, and the disrupted sleep is not good for anything.
Lol, that’s a lot of “not good”s in there, huh? But there is treatment. It’s called a CPAP, and it’s a kind of mask one wears at night that forces airflow into the mouth and nostrils to keep the air passage open. I’m getting one set up for me next Friday. I’ve been told it’s hard to get used to, and some people cannot adapt, but others can. There are also several kinds of masks, so if one doesn’t work, another might. I know it looks cumbersome, but hey, at least I don’t have to have an oxygen tank, right? This is just air flow. Hopefully by keeping my air passage open, it will help increase the oxygen flow to the blood.
I’m a little bit concerned about the unexplained incidents of low oxygen, though, and may ask my doctor to refer me to a LungDoc and let him look at the sleep study and maybe do a daytime oxygen monitoring to see what’s happening. But I may wait and see how this goes first. One thing at a time.
Anyway, there is good news to all this. It could explain some of my fatigue during the day, even some of my fuzzy thinking and a lot of other minor things I’ve been attributing to simple ageing, or to my meds, etc. Apparently, even my eyesight might improve, because one of the symptoms listed for the low oxygen levels was eye fatigue. Imagine that.
I’m actually looking forward to giving it a try to see if it improves how I feel in general. I’ve got a week to wait before I can try it, but I’m hoping for the best. Meanwhile, I figure a few deep breathing exercises during the day might be helpful, and certainly can’t hurt. Come on, along with me:
Get oxygenated. It’s good for you!