Sleep apnea is a condition in which the sufferer stops breathing while he or she sleeps, often thirty or more times per hour. There are two common forms; obstructive apnea and central apnea. Central apnea is much less common and results mostly when the brain just sort of stops to breathe. Obstructive apnea is more common and results when, for one reason or another, the airway collapses in the throat, preventing the sufferer from drawing breath. Most commonly, this collapse occurs concurrently with the muscle atonia resulting from entering REM sleep. As the sufferer stops breathing, the blood oxygen level and blood pressure drop rapidly. The brain, though unconscious, detects this as a life threatening event and rouses the sleeper. This arousal is often extremely brief and not even noticed by the poor sleeper. However, because it interrupts the most restful and restorative part of the sleep cycle, the REM sleep, the victim wakes up in the morning feeling completely unrefreshed. The sensation is not entirely unlike a hangover, and is often accompanied by disorientation, dizziness, and headaches. The health effects of this disease are numerous, and include fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, lowered energy levels, slow metabolism, difficulty losing weight or weight gain, depression, irritability, and sudden, unexplained death.
I complained earlier about the mechanisms of the health system with respects to treatment of apnea patients. Knowing full well the above litany of side effects, and having experienced several of them (excepting death), I was quite anxious to start treatment. Little did I know that it would be a full six months inbetween my doctor's first inkling that I might have apnea and my actual treatment for it.
The results of my two sleep studies were very clear. Firstly, I did in fact suffer obstructive sleep apnea, with episodes approximately 45 times an hour during REM sleep, and blood oxygen falling to 85% of normal. Secondly, it was determined that my condition was alleviated by CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) treatment, wherein a mask is used to provide air pressure into the airway in order to prop open the collapsed structures in the throat.
So now, I have a little machine that whirrs, and an odd-looking mask which I wear every night while I sleep. Honestly, it has made a tremendous difference. I'm not nearly so tired and irritable now, and I wake up in the morning actually feeling better than when I went to sleep. Quite a remarkable thing, in fact. So much so that I even look forward to sleep now, instead of dreading the awful feelings the next day. It makes those two-hour afternoon meetings ever so slightly less tedious and irritating.
So now you, my oh-so-frequent readers, know the outcome of that whole story arc. At least for now, anyway. If there are further developments on the apnea front, I'll let you know.
One of these days, I'm going to have some fairly long and deeply scathing rants on the subjects of a) the Employee Fitness Center, and b) how Micromanagement makes everyone more productive (except for everyone). For tonight, however, I am in much too good of a mood to get that good head of bile worked up just before bed. Tomorrow morning, I get the license plate for my motorcycle, and this weekend I may just leave the neighborhood on it. (I've been 'road testing' it inside the neighborhood, roaring up and down the streets endlessly, just itching for the chance to get on an open road and see if sixth gear still does what it used to.)
P.S. Tomorrow is Hawaiian shirt day. Monday, they are moving my desk (again). I have 5 managers. I write over thiry status reports a week. Does this sound familiar?