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Wednesday, 6 April 2005
REM isn't a band
Topic: Day to Day
Dad, who was extremely hard of hearing, never admitted to it. Mom, on the other hand, wore her age like a badge and used it as an excuse for everything. There's a line somwehere between blindly refusing to accept the consequences of growing older, and surrendering to it. I'm determined to find that line. As part of this, I've been trying -- despite working too many hours -- to get out and actually get exercise. Of late I've mostly only managed it on weekend hikes with my friend Skip. But the rainy weather of the past month or so has put the kibosh on that, alas!

Being over 40 now I'm trying to take better care of myself in general. As such, I've been trying to take preventative action on anything health-wise that seems off. I recently had dermatological surgery to get rid of some things on my scalp (the medical name of which is a mile long and I can't recall offhand), which were benign but of which I thought better safe than sorry. I've also noticed that I've been feeling increasingly run down, and even after a solid night's sleep, I often feel like I haven't slept. Boyfriends past have told me that I sometimes stop breathing for a minute or so at a time while sleeping, which I seem to recall my father doing. I mentioned all this to my doctor this week and he said it sounds like I have a classic case of sleep apnea, so he sent me to a sleep clinic.

There's not much to say about the clinic, other than to say they put a zillion sensors on me and put me to bed, and recorded a thousand pages of data from EEGs and blood oxygen levels to breath analysis and even if I had leg twitches while sleeping.

I am Locutus of Borg... or it's 7 a.m. at the sleep clinic

The official results go to my doctor on Monday, so I'll have to do a follow-up with him. But the technician at the clinic said that I did exhibit apnea in the second half of the night (the constricted breathing), so we'll see what the recommendation on a next step is. The funny thing was that since she not only recorded this data but watched me via camera all night, she was able to tell me in which sleeping positions the apnea occured, and in which positions I snored or didn't snore. Right side good, left side bad!

Apnea is a problem for a couple of reasons. One, it's now believed to be a serious contributor to heart failure. Second, it distrupts the normal sleep cycle. The way it was described to me is as follows. You go into REM sleep and your voluntary muscle control switches off. When this happens an apnea sufferer may end up where some point in the airway actually closes, so even though the lungs are trying to draw a breath, no air comes in. So, after a minute or so the brain goes "hey!" and kicks you out of REM sleep so the voluntary muscles turn back on and you can move or swallow or do whatever it is that clears the airway. Trouble is, this can happen over and over in the night, repeatly kicking you out of REM sleep. So even though you're sleeping, you're not deep you sleep but yet you don't. This airway constriction also can cause the lungs to work hard to draw a breath and make your heart rate go up, so you actually can wake up exhausted because those organs have been getting more of a workout while you're asleep than when you're awake, which is why the medical community suspects a correlation between apnea and the high instance of heart attacks that happen at 4-5 in the morning during sleep.

That went on longer than I meant it to. Anyway. let's see what the doc says and what I need to do to fix it.

Guess I'll try to sleep on my right side tonight and see if I feel more rested. How to keep myself from rolling over...hmmm...

Posted by molyneaux at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:28 PM PDT
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