The experiences of Mark, 64, are likely to be familiar to men who drive for a living: After he turned forty, he noticed that when he was driving the bus, fatigue increased strangely. The work was irregular, and the night’s sleep could sometimes be just a few hours long. When he was driving, he occasionally dozed off in traffic lights and took some small snoozes during the day. Precision at work was not always at the level required by the profession and sometimes he hit the edges of the sidewalk. He was fortunate, nothing serious happened. At home, the family said they heard snoring every night, and there were significant breathing breaks.
The cause of fatigue and drowsiness was finally resolved in the spring of 1995. Sleep apnea diagnosis was clear, breathing breaks were as long as two minutes long. The doctor told that driving must be discontinued and sent him on sick leave. The employer did not take the driver’s trouble first seriously and doubted that he was just lazy. The doctor called the employer right away and told about the seriousness of the matter. For a professional driver, sleep apnea is a problem that needs to be taken seriously.
The treatment of sleep apnea started with CPAP, which he says still has some kind of love-hate relationship. Of course, there is no pleasure in the existence of chronic disease, but on the other hand, the discomfort stays under control with treatment. During 20 years, he has seen a significant development in CPAP equipment. The devices are a lot smaller and have become much easier to use. At the beginning, the masks were tied in place with a cap like headgear. His wife figured out to replace the cap with black elastic straps, which the nurses were eager to review during their visits. Initially, Mark experimented with a full-face mask, but it caused panicking when the breathing with it failed. He used a nose mask for a long time, but now he is a happy user of a pillows mask. From the early and very loud machines, he has a reminiscent of a whistling sound in his left ear. Because of the whistling sound, he likes to keep the radio on during the day, so that tinnitus won’t hurt so badly. The discomfort also prevented a reliable hearing test in the left ear because he was unable to distinguish the auditory signal from the tinnitus tone.
Today Mark is a happy pensioner and sleeps well. It is quite a change from the previous two hours of sleep. The knees are in poor condition due to osteoarthritis, but he has not yet reached the surgery table. Doctors are waiting for the weight to drop before making the final surgery decision. There is still a challenge. Mark has told about his sleep apnea openly and, in addition to Facebook, has written articles in a professional magazine. There has been a lot of feedback on the articles, and many drivers have been able to start looking for treatment for their fatigue.
More sleep apnea stories
Experiences with sleep apnea: Matt, age 46
Matt, 46, is one of the members of a support group, who is considering the importance of the peer support group and commends the group for their good affection and advice:
“There’s no need to explain here how bad and chronic sleeping has been for several years. I have noticed that only a few outsider realizes it. I’ve been using the CPAP machine for about 4 weeks and little by little it helps: yawning is over and it’s easier to get up from bed in the mornings. The colors of life are clearer and less sleep is needed.
Sometimes I think about what would have happened if this sleep apnea had been detected 5–6 years ago right from the start. There have been feelings of sadness, what if-feelings, anger – why me? I lost one good job because of sleep apnea. When I received the device, I didn’t use it for 4-5 months, that is, in a way I denied chronic sleep apnea, I was ashamed of my illness and weakness. Maybe I was afraid of the device, do I have to use this device for the rest of my life? What will my children say?
I was helped when one of my friends who had slept with the device for five years praised the device as the best invention in the world and thus helped with the idea. Now the results start to appear slowly and I use the device regularly.
The support team has been a great help in a mentally difficult situation. The group gives advice, positivity and humor. Big thanks to the group. Untreated sleep apnea is a life-controlling, limiting and crippling factor. The group’s mental support is important as well as technical and medical. According to my own experience, a person suffering from sleep apnea is easily left out of mental support when he doesn’t know where to find it.
Now the treatment process is still in the beginning and has already started to affect, my mood is much better than earlier. I’ve been thinking, that I would like to meet other people with sleep apnea: exchange experiences, get to know, get and give advice and laugh together.”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Ella, age 45
Ella, 45, is happy to have found a suitable support group:
“I have been using the CPAP device now for a year. This year has been a lot of learning: The first four months went by learning and gradually feeling better. Already from the first week I stayed awake better at work and in traffic, although the operating hours on the machine were only about three to four hours a day.
Within six months, I felt brightened already and found the energy for weight loss. Although I would lose weight to ideal weight, I still do not believe our relationship with the machine will end, as I recognize that the symptoms of sleep apnea were already present in my childhood. From experience, I can say that really tired is not able to lose weight. Sleep apnea must first be treated to be able do things.”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Leo, age 63
Leo, 63, was first diagnosed with sleep apnea shortly before the turn of the millennium, and has been experiencing several stages of his ‘sleep apnea career’.
“Continuous nasal congestion and swelling of the throat caused by snoring made me get into sleep studies twenty years ago. It was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea. I had a surgery where excess tissue was removed from the soft palate and pharynx. Sleep apnea became mild and there was only little help from a short CPAP therapy experiment. Then I thought everything was okay. For me, this surgery brought significant relief to sleep for a long time.
Time passed and the problem returned. I slept badly and had constant sleep breaks. My wife noticed an increase in snoring and hence breathing breaks. I often woke up at night with my head and pillowcase wet.
I didn’t notice my sleep apnea affecting much of my life and my teacher’s job. There was some fatigue because of the poor quality of sleep, but not so much that it would have really affected me. Occasionally, on long trips, there was reasonably extreme fatigue when driving. The weight slightly increased and diabetes needed more drugs, but I’m not sure about their connection with sleep apnea.
In 2016, my diabetes doctor instructed new sleep tests when I told him about the quality of my sleep. This time, home test was made. The result was that I had severe sleep apnea (over 30 breaks per hour).
I had no symptoms during the day and there was no indication that my sleep apnea was getting worse, and the result of sleep apnea test that I had severe sleep apnea was a bit of a surprise. I knew I had sleep apnea to some extent, but I did not guess the severity of the disease.
Many of my acquaintances have talked about their sleepiness, but I do not know other people receiving treatment. Especially in the workplace, I talked with many and recommended going to sleep studies. I have not avoided the subject in any way and I’m been telling about it openly. Especially for colleagues, whose men, according to stories, need at least to go to sleep studies.
I got my CPAP machine after a few months of waiting. This time I was very positive about the machine and there was no problem starting the treatment. I got used to the mask and tubing quickly and I have been using the machine every night after I got it. CPAP is a blessed device, I would never give it away.
I feel good at the moment. I sleep much better than before starting the treatment. I use the activity tracker and the night’s movements have changed radically. Before treatment at night time, there were a lot of gray and blue lines (rotation and awakening). Now the night’s screen is pure white (peaceful sleep). Just going to the toilet breaks a peaceful sleep. Improvement is great.
Even though I didn’t felt particularly tired during the day before treatment, the change to the present is clearly noticeable. I am much more energetic. It is great that you don’t have to worry about sleeping.
For those who have sleep apnea or who suspect it, I would say – go to sleep studies and right now! Sleep test is now an easy procedure and can be done at home.
The difference to previous hospital studies with all the wires and computers is quite a bit. There’s no need to be afraid of the CPAP machine! Their noise level has become really quiet compared to older machines. It won’t disturb your own or your spouse’s sleep. ”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Nina, age 45
According to Nina, 45, sleep apnea is a tragically underdiagnosed disease.
“Two years ago I got a diagnosis after complaining about fatigue in occupational health care. I asked the doctor why a sporty and overall healthy person who sleeps a good night’s sleep can be absurdly tired?
I went to several blood tests and the values were always normal. Finally I asked the doctor if it could be sleep apnea. That time the answer was, it must be! As it was and the level of sleep apnea was already difficult. The symptom was severe fatigue.
I had read about sleep apnea, but I didn’t really think of it for myself. I got a CPAP device for treatment. The beginning of the treatment was not simple. First I didn’t manage to sleep with it at all. It took me three months before I could sleep with it normally. I am better now, daytime exhaustion is gone and sleep quality is good. Normal alertness feels great. Based on my own experience, I can say to those who suffer from unusual and prolonged fatigue that it is worth asking the doctor directly whether the possibility of sleep apnea is excluded.”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Jesse, age 38
Jesse, 38, sleep apnea was diagnosed in 2015.
“I asked to go to the sleep studies myself because there are several people with sleep apnea in my family. I felt depressing. There were several other reasons for this. I was at work all the time. I basically didn’t remember anything.
The most obvious symptom was that I couldn’t get up in the morning anymore. Three alarm clocks screaming in the morning and I managed to shut them down, so I wasn’t at all aware of it. I started constantly to get late for work and the like.
Poor sleep naturally affected work, I was otherwise absent. The employer was concerned and began to suspect that I had an alcohol problem. But I didn’t.
I suspected the sleep apnea because father, uncle and a dozen friends suffer from it. They urged me to get treatment. Heart problems are also common in the family, and they also have a role in the development of sleep apnea. I am stubborn and I didn’t seek help before the problems began to concretize. It would be nice to avoid heart problems, or at least slow down their formation.
Starting with CPAP therapy was easy and the treatment is brilliant. At the moment, I feel relatively normal. Recovery from depression will take its time. I would say that the problems are no longer related to sleep apnea, although the sleep apnea has a role in their development. In a relationship, it is a bit difficult when my spouse likes to sleep close to me.
As for sleep apnea, I would say that if it feels like it, go get help as soon as possible. The disadvantages of treatment are negligible compared to the benefits.
It may first feel tough that you have to sleep with a mask. But you don’t even understand how great it is when the treatment is okay and the life feels better. ”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Tom, age 40
Tom, 40, got the tools needed to treat sleep apnea in December 2016. His path to treatment was hard and complicated. He felt on several occasions with his fatigue that something was wrong, but the problem was not easily found.
“It started with a long-lasting tiredness, and then with clearer physical symptoms, then mental. Symptoms began many years ago, first as tiredness.
Then I began to wonder when I was active in the gym a couple of years ago, 4 to 6 times a week, and the development of results began to fade. The recovery began to take too long and the feeling of coping seemed to decrease all the time. Then I didn’t even suspect sleep apnea, even though I know one friend with sleep apnea. I just thought there was something normal recession. However, I continued to exercise. Next came the general depression and fatigue condition. At times I didn’t know if I was awake or asleep. The whole time I was tired and wasn’t interested in doing anything. Around 2014-2015 I got an activity tracker and I noticed that my sleep was broken.
At that time I was really tired all the time. At this point I went to see the occupational doctor. Blood tests were taken and various drugs were tested for many months. Sleep apnea was not suspected because I did not belong to a risk group and I was not overweight.
I never knew whether I was asleep or awake, sometimes I was scared at work to drive a forklift. My memory didn’t seem to work and nothing really inspired me. I almost lost my sexual desire. Everything required a great deal of effort to be able to and mentally confused in the final stage.
In late summer 2016, I started to study alongside work and it became quite clear that I don’t have enough energy to do both. Then I started to talk to the occupational doctor, if I tried apnea tests to get that thing checked. After the studies, I called for the results and I heard that I have moderate / severe sleep apnea. That is, about one and a half years after I first asked the doctor if it was possible.
At this point, I have slept the first ten nights with a CPAP device. The beginning was promising, then came a couple of worse nights in a row. Last night was okay again. At the moment, my condition is pretty ok. At least I know I’m awake.
For the other tired, I’d say that if there is any doubt about sleep apnea, stay firm with the doctors and demand to get to the tests. Don’t get yourself in a bad state. I know that my own mental and physical recovery will take months, if not even years. ”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Susanna, age 49
Susanna, 49, sleep apnea was diagnosed at an occupational doctor.
“I was tired and exhausted, even though I had been in the 80% working week for six months. My hair was also falling out.
Sleep apnea mostly affected my private life and my spare time when I couldn’t do anything. I was wondering about it, but I was gradually getting used to just doing nothing. Unfortunately, I had no doubt about sleep apnea, and I remember, for example, that on a few occasions I was asking the occupational doctor to find out what night’s heart palpitations could be. I now wonder how badly the matter was taken into consideration: it should have been clarified. It is also annoying that I had not really figured it out.
I didn’t know anything about sleep apnea, and I didn’t know anyone else suffering from it when I got the diagnosis. Now I know. CPAP treatment was started immediately. The beginning has been quite challenging, but little by little it has started to pan out. First, CPAP treatment helped a little, but now I find that fatigue is getting back.
Fortunately, my sleep apnea treatment has not affected my other life, and my husband, for example, is very understanding with my device. He says I don’t snore at all and that the device and the nights are amazingly quiet.
For other people with sleep apnea, I would like to say: Learn how to use the device, even if it doesn’t seem natural. It really helps. It’s also great that it’s a drug-free treatment! ”
Experiences with sleep apnea: Olga, age 43
Olga, 43, says she is a happily married woman working in the healthcare industry.
“Sleep apnea was diagnosed in August 2015. I had been suffering from sleeping problems for a long time, mostly from the morning awakenings, after which I could no longer sleep. If I had a morning shift at work, it was awful. If the night went really badly, I had to stay at home for the day. The three-shift work is hard, and I wanted to get out of that and hoped for a more relaxed life.
Sleep apnea was a familiar disorder and I’ve met a few of sleep apnea sufferers in my life, but we have never discussed about the illness. For me, the diagnosis came partly as a surprise. My husband had told me that I probably had breathing breaks, but I wasn’t sure. I was worried to hear the diagnosis. I was annoyed and angry. I received a letter from the clinic telling me about starting CPAP treatment. I still thought, maybe I don’t need to take that device, but actually I started CPAP treatment immediately.
With my husband’s help, we fixed the straps and learned how to use the machine. Without his support, I would have been really in trouble. The first nights were cumbersome, but I started to learn how to use the CPAP device and I got a few hours of sleep with the device and it felt wonderful. After using the device, probably for less than a week, I felt like a new person.
Previously I was rather lazy, I may not have felt tired, but I wasn’t just interested in anything. Moving the stairs was disgusting and didn’t care to walk anyway, unless forced to. Occasionally, I went jogging with my husband, but not very often. I always went to work by car, so I didn’t accumulate too many steps during the day. Sleep apnea progressed gradually. Marriage, over-eating and car rides to work caused weight gain and I suspect that sleep apnea has been a part of this.
When I received the device, I thought I’d have to use it for the rest of my life. My doctor said that even a small weight loss could help, but another doctor and many others told me I would never get rid of the CPAP device. However, I wanted to try and it was worth it.
At the moment, I have been without a CPAP machine for about two months and I feel fine. From time to time, I find myself sleeping worse than with the device, but I don’t see it as a big problem anymore. I am still trying to lose weight and like healthy life. Of course, life also includes festivities, chocolate, beer and everything related to it. However, it pays to be reasonable
Nowadays I’m working at two-shift work and I don’t miss three-shift work at all. For me 20 years was enough, night shifts are done for my part. It may also have played an important role in my sleep apnea.”
Sleep apnea experience: Julia, age 53
Julia, 53, says she has been diagnosed with sleep apnea a few weeks ago.
“My husband told me that I snore. I am active in sports and competing. One weekend my roommate told me I didn’t breathe at night! After that night I was so sick because I had a terrible headache. The last thing that made me go to the doctor was that my friend told me that she had sleep apnea and that she was being treated for it. I told her that I also “hold my breath” at night, and my colleague said that I might have sleep apnea. Sleep study was done and sleep apnea was confirmed.
In addition to fatigue and headaches, I have occasionally found it difficult to concentrate and I have clear memory breaks that led me to thinking about getting into memory studies. Now, however, I will first look into the effects of sleep apnea in these symptoms. I’ve also noticed that both my resting heart rate and blood pressure are sometimes elevated. I’ve been wondering about these signs of fatigue in the body and I’ve already been to the doctor because of these symptoms, but nothing alarming was found. Fatigue is clearly noticeable while driving. I’ve been thinking that my tiredness can be caused by decrease in blood sugar, but blood glucose levels are normal and the doctor thinks it cannot be the cause of fatigue.
At work I might forget names and words. I am a teacher and I have to talk quite a lot. Forgetting pupils’ names is unfortunate. I had to reduce activities on weekdays after work, because I really need to rest. I was part of a choir, but I had to leave that hobby because I can’t concentrate for two hours of singing in the evening. I can exercise, but recovery and rest no longer work the same way as before. I had no doubt about sleep apnea, I just thought that these are age-related symptoms.
A colleague had also told me about sleep apnea in the past. When he told me about this, I didn’t link the symptoms with myself. I hope I can try out the equipment to get help with sleep apnea. Although I have a mild sleep apnea, the symptoms are so damaging that I want to treat them properly. ”
Despite the mildness of sleep apnea, Julia received a CPAP device for her and this is how she writes about her experiences after less than a week of CPAP treatment:
“Good morning! This is amazing! Fortunately, sleep apnea was found and I got CPAP. I have slept for a week every night 6-9 hours and blood pressure levels are already a lot better. Fortunately, I didn’t take antihypertensive treatment! I still have some mask experiments to do.”
After two months, Julia says:
“At first, falling asleep was difficult with the device and I could only use it for 3-4 hours a night. I didn’t get the humidifier and the heater right away and I got a terrible rhinitis three times. The humidifier and heater in the device immediately helped with that inconvenience. I used melatonin for a week, after that I didn’t need it anymore. Currently I sleep about 7 hours every night with the device. I don’t even go to the bathroom at night. I feel a lot better than before CPAP treatment. All cardiac arrhythmias that I did not understand as a result of sleep apnea have come to an end. Blood pressure has dropped to normal. Concentration is easier and there are hardly any memory lapses anymore. I think I’ve also reduced daytime napping. The treatment of sleep apnea has removed the constant feeling that something is wrong with the body. ”
Sleep apnea experience: Nora, age 65
“I have been overweight throughout my adult life. Both hips are already been replaced years ago. Then, with arthralgia, I had to stay on a disability pension shortly before my 60s. Fatigue has been around for years. After my husband’s death, it seemed to increase and the pace of life became slower.
I noticed I fell asleep in the evening watching TV and the quality of sleep was poor with night sweats and intermittent sleep. At some point I began to suspect sleep apnea, but I did not seek treatment for it. In my mind, I was haunted by the troublesome sleep apnea equipment I saw with my husband, which he used to treat his own disorder ten years earlier. He never got used to his device and it probably influenced my attitude.
As you might guess, I got a diagnosis of moderate sleep apnea and a CPAP device. The idea of the device seemed uncomfortable and I didn’t start to get used to it at all. Even though I certainly had the highest possible treatment motivation at that time, I didn’t think I could get along with it. I took the mask off my face almost every night, often after a couple of hours of sleep, and then went on without it.
Gradually, usage hours has started to accumulate. After half a year of use, I feel that I am not so tired during the day than before. If I could get more hours of usage, I’d probably feel better. I decided to seek obesity surgery. It feels like I have the time and perhaps the energy to do something with my life.”