Choking on My Own Face — The Diagnosis

TAGS: nap, REM, depression, sleep study, chokin on my face, sleep apnea, cpap, dave kirschen, powerlifting

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About a week after my sleep study, it was time to go back to my doctor and get my results. Based on the initial feedback from Claus, the creepy sleep-study tech, I was reasonably confident that I qualified for the CPAP. My fiancée thought I was delusional to have even the slightest doubt.

After sitting in the doctor’s waiting room for an hour next to a pissed-off 50-something Jersey Housewives-looking chick, it was time to see the damage.

And the verdict is…(drum roll)…

I have sleep apnea.

And it’s worse than I thought.

Because it’s a sleep study, and not, say a cat scan, I didn’t expect my doctor to get all solemn, take a deep breath, and ask me to “sit down” before delivering the news. But I certainly didn’t expect laughter either.

PART 1: Choking on My Own Face

Doc: “Wow! Oh boy, yep, that’s sleep apnea alright!”

After this remarkable display of bedside manner, and calling the nurse over to “check this shit out” (I might be paraphrasing here), he read me some stats.

My Stats

Over the course of time I actually spent asleep, I averaged 56 obstructive events per hour. This basically means that I woke myself up to some degree just about every minute. Not quite Rhodestown numbers, but pretty damn bad.

A normal person will experience five stages of sleep, with the fifth being the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. This fifth stage is the one most critical for recovery, especially for strength athletes. Over the course of my study, I never even got past stage two, and spent most of the night ping-ponging between stages one and two. This means that while I can easily remain unconscious for the duration of the night, I’m not getting the restorative benefits of deep sleep.

After hearing these results, I really have no idea how I’ve been able to train, compete and even progress given the lack of recovery. My doctor was impressed that I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel and hit a tree on my way to the office.

I honestly did not expect things to be anywhere near this bad. Hell, I’m not even all that big! But after thinking about it for a moment, a lot of things started to make sense.

The Signs

I’ve never been much of a morning person, and I tend to stay drowsy for a good hour or so after dragging myself out of bed. Getting to bed earlier or sleeping later never seems to make much of a difference. I’m just as groggy waking up at 5AM, as I am sleeping until noon. If I have something important I need to be up early for, I’ll typically need to set five or more alarms. By midday, I’m reaching for my trusty can of Spike.

I’ll also experience long periods of low productivity at work. I’ll still take care of my responsibilities and I do, for the most part, enjoy my job, but I often find myself just eking out the minimum to keep the executives off my back. I’ve always been somewhat in awe of co-workers who always seem motivated and ambitious, while I’m counting down the hours until I can take a nap.

I’ve even gone through periods of what I considered mild depression. It never got to the point where I was suicidal or anything, but there were significant stretches of time where I couldn't honestly consider myself a happy person. These feelings were at their worst a couple of years ago when I was working 60+ hour weeks.

All of the above instances seem to get worse when I’m heavier, but they never seem to go away completely.

The Next Step

So, now that I’ve got a diagnosis, the next step will be to spend another night with my murderous-looking nocturnal friend Claus, this time with the CPAP. Given the difficulty I had falling asleep last time, my doctor offered to hook me up with a Lunesta for my troubles. Score!

Hopefully, I’ll adapt to the CPAP quickly, and I’ll be able to start feeling better soon.

Stay tuned.


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