Forum · Do I have sleep apnea? (My story)

Write a Reply
9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 8 months ago

Hello everyone. Here is my story. Any advice is very much appreciated during this tough time in my life.

In mid-September 2016 a rather stressful event occurred at work and this was followed by a few mornings of waking up too early and ending up exhausted throughout the day. A bit of anxiety if you will.

My normal sleep time has always been 10p-6a, but I would be waking up around 5am instead. After about a week I began to get very frustrated, and by the beginning of October I had started in with driving myself insane. I purchased new pillows which did nothing, and that was just the start. Over the next two months it would continue… I bought a white noise machine. Tried melatonin. Got blood work done. Began drinking sleepy time and other herbal teas before bed. Blacked out my room as much as possible. Bought a brand new pair of sheets. Bought a book on how to sleep better. And lastly, read every piece of internet research possible on what could be wrong with me.

Throughout these two months, the early wakeups progressed to horrible 3am wakeups. When these would occur I’d fall back asleep after about a half hour or so, then sometimes wake up at the 6am alarm, sometimes 5am again. I was a walking zombie at work, and was becoming physically ill. My life was a fog and consumed by what I now felt was a sleep disorder. I canceled plans, gave up on dating, stopped going to the gym and missed out on other things, quite frankly Bc I was too shot to function properly.

Finally at the end of November I had enough and went to a sleep doctor and told him I couldn’t fix whatever was going on. He told me he thinks I had “situational insomnia” from the work event and that triggered anxiety and my sleep problems. He did say that it should not be lasting too much longer. He said its been 2.5 months. If its 5-6 months in, then there’s a bigger problem. He also briefly mentioned that sleep apnea was a possibility, but I insisted that's unlikely as this bad sleeping began after the stressful event. It should be very much noted that within a month after the mid September stressful event, everything was fine at my job again and there was no more stress.

But anyway, as hard as it was to believe that 90% of nights like CLOCKWORK I was waking up around 3am, I did feel somewhat anxious in general, and accepted what he told me. It was just hard to believe that a person’s brain, mine especially, could work like this and affect my sleep like it was supposedly doing to me almost EVERY single night, and ruining my life.

One week later I had a revelation. Between what he told me and after reading up on some new material I found online, it seemed as if the answer was simple… STOP worrying so much. Accept the problem for right now. Things like that. Immediately, something began happening. I began sleeping better. The 3am wakeups stopped and soon it would only be the early morning wakeups. I built on this and shortly after, by December 9th 2016 or so, I was sleeping normally again!! The rest of 2016 went by fine, with me not believing how mentally sick I’d made MYSELF over my insomnia. It turned out, at least I thought, that my nonstop worrying was only fueling my anxiety and messing with my brain.

This was until around New Years. January 1st and 2nd to be exact, when a few bad nights of sleep had returned. 5am wakeups that left me foggy again for the first time in three weeks. I was upset, and wondering why in the world this returned. Somehow, someway, before I knew it, by mid January, I was back in the cycle of bad sleeping/insomnia. By the end of January, the 3am horrors had even returned. I was devastated. Quickly, I told myself to stop worrying and that was what caused this in the beginning. But something just wasn’t working this time. Now in February, it seemed as if my anxiety returned and decided it wasn’t going to leave as easily this time. This was a horror for me. Zombie days returned, and my lifeless self would get home from work plopping on the bed trying to figure out how to get rid of this FOREVER, but at the same time trying to tell my brain to just relax. Back to the internet I went, but this time there were no melatonin pills or sleepy tea or any of that junk. I beat this naturally before and I knew I could do it again, or could i?

It was now already the end of February, and just like that, for another two months, I was sleeping poorly again. Finally I decided to try the one thing I never seemed to try and that was going on a strict sleep routine (something I had read about). Instead of going to sleep when I felt completely exhausted at 9pm or even 8:30pm, I would return to my normal bedtime of 10pm EVERY single night. Finally, I had some progress. The 3am wakeups became more rare and again, it only became about the 5am wakeups. Soon I was sleeping until 5:30am and then sometimes very close to my alarm at 6am! But by mid-March I was going back and forth it seemed, and for the next month it was clear, I was just not returning to normal sleep. My best case scenario’s would be falling asleep at my normal bedtime of 10-1030, and then waking up around 5, and going in and out the last hour. For someone who has always needed a good 8 hours of sleep, this left me going to work exhausted as per usual, although the good news was that this second wave of insomnia was not as bad as the first. I was shot during the day, but not like I was at the end of 2016 when I let the anxiety completely consume my life. In the rare event in the last few months that I've woken at 3am, I would just turn over and try and relax. Many times I wouldn't even LOOK at my clock.

So by the end of March this has been going on for so long that I began having to put light makeup under my eyes to cover the purple bags. That's right, a 32 year old man having to put on makeup. Bc honestly, aside from those three perfect weeks in December, this was going on now for over SIX MONTHS. Now a month later at the end of April, things are still the same. I feel like I have SOME form of control over whatever my sleep disorder is, but the days of waking up completely refreshed are few and far in between.

I finally decided to return to the sleep doctor who now suddenly wants me to do a sleep study, claiming that since it has been going on this long, sleep apnea is actually a very good possibility. I told him but for my entire life, while never a great sleeper I admit, before September 2016 and that stressful event, I never experienced insomnia. He said he understands but needs to rule this out, and I may have had sleep apnea all along but the insomnia has now only maximized what one experiences during sleep apnea, and how now I'm simply more "aware" of my awakenings during the night.

I have no clue. All I do know is that I’m 6’2 very thin at 145lbs and to my knowledge a light snorer and certainly cannot fall asleep easily anywhere so the chances of sleep apnea being the culprit would truly surprise me. From what everyone has read here, do you actually think sleep apnea is a possibility??

99 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Ruby +0 points · 8 months ago

The majority of us are not doctors so we really should not try to diagnose you. BUT, it sounds like you have tried everything physically possible to make your sleep situation better. All the things like new pillows, white noise, strict sleep times, etc., were good ways to try to get better sleep. I'm not sure if you had insomnia or had simply "taught" yourself subconsciously to wake up at a certain time. Sometimes when we wake up at the same time for a couple of nights, we worry that it will continue and by golly, it does! We simply conditioned ourselves to wake at the same time. That may not be true for you but then it might.

The worst thing we can do is lie in bed (once we wake up) and worry about getting back to sleep. If you wake up with a specific worry like getting bills paid or getting a project done then ask yourself...can I do something about it RIGHT NOW? If you can, then get up and do it. If you can't, then tell yourself that you will do it when you wake up. It doesn't always work but keep at it and it may help.

As for the sleep study, it is a shame that your doctor didn't go ahead and schedule you for one when you first went to him. At this point, what do you have to lose in doing one? It will either say you don't have sleep apnea or other sleep issue or it will show that you do. If you don't, then look for other reasons. If you do, maybe getting a machine will help. I did not snore either but my breathing went very shallow which caused my oxygen levels to drop. Just because you don't snore or snore lightly does not rule out sleep apnea. Give it a go and let us know what happens. If you are diagnosed, learn all you can about the disease and treatment options. Ask questions of everyone, don't be shy! Best of luck to you.

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 8 months ago

Thank you very much for your kind words. Just curious, if in the (unlikely) event that i do have sleep apnea, is a special mouthpiece an option these days? The doctor explained it all to me, how my tongue might be obstructing my airway and that causes me to wake up during the night, etc. I have read a few success stories, celebrity Joe Rogan in particular, who says the mouthpiece completely changed their lives and they now have 100x more energy after sleep.

99 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Ruby +0 points · 8 months ago

There are options out there. In the CPAP world itself, there are nasal pillows, masks that cover just your nose and ones that cover both nose and mouth. There are oral appliances that you can use that are fitted to your specific mouth structure. There is an implanted device that can be used. I don't have any experience beyond my mask but I have talked to people who use the other options. Just like with the mask, there are success stories and failure stories. You have to do a lot of homework and research to decide what might be your best choice. Good luck in your search for quality sleep.

51 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] GregariousMagentaRoseCaterpillar4081 +0 points · 7 months ago

I see nothing in your story that would lead me to believe you have sleep apnea. I think you have anxiety. Why not talk to your doctor about something to help with sleep and anxiety? Klonopin helps me sleep and helps me with my anxiety. Some people do well on amitriptylin for sleep. It is an old antidepressant that aids sleep as a side effect. I think there are more possibilities so talk to your doctor.

3 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] ResourcefulSlateGrayKookabura7697 +0 points · 7 months ago

Have you been tested for thyroid dysfunction?

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 7 months ago

Hello again everyone. Back here with an update and it may be a shocking one to some. I just received the results of my sleep study and according to my doctor I have "mild sleep apnea". On the phone he says it is not enough to make me come back for a 2nd sleep study and is not enough to have to use a CPAP machine but i should come back for a follow up appointment where we can discuss "treatment options". He said it is "worse on your back" which i found odd since I only sleep on my side.

I am in absolute disbelief and don't know what to think. If I had sleep apnea wouldn't i be waking up at OTHER times in the night and not just the usual 3(sometimes 4) am like clockwork? And what about that weird three week phase where I suddenly thought I beat my insomnia back in December?

All that aside, I must admit that in a weird way i kept thinking there is still a good chance this was something physical and not mental as waking up at 3am like clockwork night after night after night just seemed surreal to me, even on days where I was very relaxed an made sure to practice good sleep hygeine. As noted in my original post I don't think i was ever the best sleeper (had a bit of a history of feeling groggy 1-2 times a week, probably bc of bad sleep hygeine i thought) but never in a million years would i think i had any form of sleep apnea. My fear is that its hardly anything much and he might just be calling it "mild" sleep apnea, I don't know.

All I do know as stated in my original post is my Insomnia did NOT begin until after a stressful event that took place in my life in September 2016, but the doc told me that this anxiety i developed bc of that event may have just made me more "aware" of my night time awakenings when they would now happen. Basically he's saying i would always wake up at night like this, only now after developing some anxiety i started "noticing" them more and staying awake once they happened.

What does everyone think of this? So ALL along I never really had anxiety then? All the internet research, books read, melatonin pills popped, etc were all for nothing???? And what are the treatment options for mild sleep apnea anyway??? A mouthpiece? Losing weight? I'm 145 lbs! lol

Also, to respond to the last post, I actually do have a touch of Hypothyroidism. Diagnosed in 2011. Doctor suggested Synthroid but understood when i said i didnt feel it was necessary right now.

51 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] GregariousMagentaRoseCaterpillar4081 +0 points · 7 months ago

What was your number on the apnea index? I hope they gave you a copy of your report. Did the doctor offer any ideas on what they want you to do? I have friend with mild apnea and she has to take Ambien to help. That seems odd to me but I looked it up and it is used for mild central apnea. I have figured out since I started using myair app that apneas under 5 per hour are considered normal. So I guess everyone can actually have sleep apnea but not always need treatment. Are you still having the same issues and wake early? My doctor told me that unless you need to lose 100lbs or more, it may not help to lose weight. I am not sure about that because my nephew lost 35 and he says he stopped his cpap. However, he may just have stopped it because I don't think he had a doctor tell him to stop.

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 7 months ago

He did not give me a number over the phone but I will request the report at the appointment (in two more weeks.....) He also gave no ideas over the phone. Honestly he seemed like the typical doc who just wanted to end the call as soon as possible and then make me schedule ANOTHER appointment. I really can't deal with this ongoing saga anymore.

As far as the same issues yes, absolutely, although in the last week or so i've been in a "better" phase of waking at 5-520am or so instead of the 3/4am ordeals. Still makes me feel exhausted everyday though. Exhausted as I'm typing this with the typical purple bags under my eyes. Starting to really dig deep now and wonder what it could be if its something physical. I'm reading that insomnia/sleep issues can easily be a symptom of hypothyroidism. My last TSH level was 4.85 which is only slightly out of range. But who knows, maybe it affects me worse. Then again, i was diagnosed 7 years ago now and only started having my insomnia 7 months ago.

I feel lost at this point.

51 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] GregariousMagentaRoseCaterpillar4081 +0 points · 7 months ago

That is annoying that he has you coming back in two weeks. You want help now! When I had my sleep test, the doctor didn't even call me. She just signed an order for my cpap machine and the people who provide them called me instead and had me pick up my machine with days of my results coming back. Keep us updated and good luck getting the rest you need.

625 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] wiredgeorge +0 points · 7 months ago Sleep Enthusiast

Self education is great and leads to better health outcomes but self diagnosis may just be stressful. Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I blamed getting up a 3-5 times per night to drinking too many fluids prior to bed. I think I have since figured out that when you sleep in a shallow state due to apnea, you tend to pop up thinking you have to go when in actuality, you really didn't.

You paid for a sleep study either directly or indirectly. Insist on a copy of the sleep study report and then start looking up at the terms and what the values are relative to the terms. When you talk to this doctor, you will then be in a better position to decide what to do next.

Everyone who has any medical issue can easily look up the symptoms and self-diagnose; perhaps incorrectly so see what the sleep doc says and then talk with your primary care physician regarding the concerns you have regarding thyroid issues and the like as a generalist will be more likely to point you in the correct direction and not a specialist in most cases.

You will also hear about optimal amount of sleep but there is a large variance in how much an individual needs. 8 hours is the old bench mark but I sleep 5 hours tops and wake up 4:30-5:00 am every morning. I feel great with 5 hours sleep and no one can tell me I would feel better with a lot more sleep. If you wake at 3AM, what do you do?

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 7 months ago

Yes waiting AGAIN it is extremely annoying and only adds to my stress. This isn’t some blood test to talk about improving my diet or something, this is something that is affecting me pretty much every minute of every day. I waited a month for the hell that was a sleep study and now I have to pretty much wait over another month for a follow up appointment to discuss the “treatment” which based on everything I read, will likely just be the doc telling me to eat healthier and sleep on my side as much as I can. WiredGeorge thanks for your words, but with regards to my primary care doc and my slight hypothyroidism, there is nothing that will be done aside from him suggesting Synthroid which he has twice in the past, which most of us know is the medication you must go on for the rest of your life, every single day. I’m desperate at this point, but I still just have a hard time believing this is anything but anxiety since it began after serious stress. If my thyroid IS the issue, why wasn’t I dealing with insomnia years before this? As noted above, I was diagnosed in 2011. When I do wake up at 3am, now days I just try and remain calm and I typically fall back asleep within 45 minutes to an hour. Sometimes I look at the clock, sometimes I don’t. I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter anymore. I’m fully aware that I’m still waking up around that time and this is still a big problem. This morning I woke at 4:55am and couldn’t fall back asleep, and last night I couldn’t have gone to sleep any more calmly. This all continues to fascinate me.

99 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Ruby +0 points · 7 months ago

Mild sleep apnea is still sleep apnea and should be treated. A touch of hypothyroidism still needs to be treated. Taking a pill for the rest of your life is no big deal if it is doing what is it intended to do and you are better. Insomnia isn't always a part of thyroid disease so that may be why you didn't suffer with insomnia years ago. You may have several health issues that are combining to cause you to lose sleep or it could be insomnia is the culprit. Often when we wake at the same time each night, we have programmed ourselves to do so. We worry about it and "poof" it happens. It is also hard to deprogram ourselves if that is the case. You need to get your test results and learn what they mean in order to know what has to be done. Doctors may be reluctant to prescribe medications if your test results aren't severe but that does not mean you don't need to be treated.

If you think this is all stress related, then work on your anxiety either by medication or therapy. If that doesn't work then check out the other issues you have. But decide to do something that will help you. Good luck and let us know how you are and what happens!

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +1 point · 7 months ago

Yes I know all about how its hard to deprogram yourself from waking up in the middle of the night but this has simply gone on too long now. You would think eventually by default I would have started to go back to normal. I have tried all the basic sleep hygiene methods, read books on it, etc. I can't live like this anymore.. and i know, Insomnia pros will tell me saying stuff like that shows I still have anxiety, but trust me when I say I reached very calm/non anxious points and still continued to have problems. I can say that I have NOT slept through the night completely 10p-6a now in almost FIVE months. Every single night has consisted of either a 3am-ish wakeup or a "too early" 5am-ish wake up. If I had sleep apnea that was truly bad enough to affect my sleep, don't you think that its odd how its always the SAME wakeup times for the better part of 8 months now? Isn't it odd how i've never woken up at 12am or 1am? EVER?

And with regards to my hypothyroidism.. I only feel it should be treated if its a problem. For years, it never affected me much and I even had a second opinion doctor tell me that Synthroid isn't a necessity right now if I don't feel it is, especially seeing as how my levels are only SLIGHTLY off. Of course if you told me my thyroid was the cause of my insomnia, i'd be on the pill starting TONIGHT. Synthroid isn't a joke though. Its a rather big deal and big committment. Its not something you just "try" really. So I dont think you can blame me for trying to rule out EVERYTHING else before i considered that.

My latest, and honestly what feels like it could be last attempt at trying something is me now ordering a $77 de-snore/sleep apnea help Mouthpiece. Comes in a few days. I figured hey, what not.

99 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Ruby +0 points · 7 months ago

I am sorry if you thought I was dismissing your concerns or thoughts. I am not you and you are the only one who truly knows your own body. I was just trying to see if I could help somewhat. I do hope you find relief with this mouthpiece. Getting the sleep you need is so very important and you are certainly looking at options. Best of luck.

8 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] UnderstandingTanPeafowl8163 +0 points · 6 months ago

Michael- your symptoms mirror mine almost exactly. During the week when I go to work I have this 2AM waking and can't get back to sleep, and I stress about having to wake up at 6am, yet on weekends where I know I can sleep in, I feel great. I do however snore terribly, and have been diagnosed with mild apnea. I tried the over the counter snore device, but they didn't work so I went to a dentist who had a customer one made for me. I tolerate it well, but am still in the same mode of exhausted during the week and rested on weekends..Like you, I go through cycles of this stuff. So not sure if along with mild apnea this is a mental or physical thing?

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 6 months ago

Hey everyone. Back here with a big update. Had my follow up appt yesterday. Basically the doc showed me the results (which I have a copy of) which states that I have “mild obstructive sleep apnea”. It states that I have “arousals” 6.8 times an hour due to snoring and 4.9 times an hour due to respiratory. So technically I guess this means I’m having arousals almost 12 times an hour. These aren’t actual “awakenings” but from what I have read people with as few as 5 arousals a night can be affected by chronic fatigue. It should also be noted that my overall sleep “efficiency” was 92%. Truth is I can’t really understand this stuff well and this doc is one that I really can’t seem to communicate well with so I didn’t bother pushing him as he already seemed to have one foot out the door as he prescribed me a mouthpiece that a special dentist would make for me to try.

The bottom line of all bottom lines here is, if you read my entire story, is that I am just absolutely totally confused. My entire life, while not a GREAT sleeper, all I know is that I never had any serious issue with sleep. 8 months ago after a STRESSFUL EVENT, I began having my middle of the night awakenings and all I EVER read about and thought was that this was insomnia/anxiety. When I found myself finally relaxing and becoming calm and this STILL just wouldn’t go away, I thought well maybe it really is in fact something else. Next thing I know, me a 145lb 6’2 32 year old man is actually diagnosed with mild sleep apnea, and now I don’t know what to think at all.

To verify, the doc thinks anxiety WAS tied into all of this, and bc of that my underlining sleep apnea it became more apparent. Something to that effect at least. What does everyone think? It should be interesting to note that over the last 2 weeks I’ve suddenly been sleeping noticeably better, but as we all know and as I stated initially, this could just be another phase. The doc also bashed any online purchase of a mouthpiece saying “none of them work.” Typical doctor talk it seems like, only caring about the specialist who would make me one I guess.

51 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] GregariousMagentaRoseCaterpillar4081 +0 points · 6 months ago

Even with my cpap, I still get up to 7 events per hour some nights. Seems really mild to me and I think not connected to your waking. Are they putting you a cpap? If they do and your early waking stops great, but I think I would ask for some help sleeping if not. Like an anxiety pill or something along those lines. If you had help sleeping, I suspect just a short term use would get you past that habit of waking then. Your body has a real habit developed now. Almost every day for weeks now, I have woken at 5:15 to use the bathroom. Exact same time for days and not a thing to do with my apnea.

625 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] wiredgeorge +0 points · 6 months ago Sleep Enthusiast

Seven events an hour is too many and your sleep isn't as deep as it could be. You have the CPAP going but something needs to be tweeked to get that AHI down as low as possible. Do you monitor your sleep results daily? If not, keeping track of AHI and mask leaks and how many times you take off the mask during night might prove useful in providing direction. It could also be your prescription needs to be tweeked... more pressure or less pressure, that sort of thing. Seven events an hour surely can't let you remain in deep REM sleep through the night. As far as the 5:15 AM wake ups? Geesh, my missus and I get up every morning at 4:50AM and I generally get between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 hours sleep and feel great and never get up during the night since going on therapy. I think it is due to having very very low AHI and sleeping deeper.

9 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Michael90 +0 points · 6 months ago

No I am not doing cPAP. He suggesting trying the mouthpiece.

Believe me if I had to guess, regardless of what this doctor said, andas wild as it sounds for over 8 months now, anxiety is probably the culprit. There is no coincidence that this all began after a super stressful event in my life.

But this random mild sleep apnea diagnosis is a whole other monkey wrench thrown into the mix that may finally make me lose my mind, so i don't know.

51 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] GregariousMagentaRoseCaterpillar4081 +0 points · 6 months ago

I hope the mouthpiece works for you. There is a lot of good information on those in this forum. Did you ask your doctor for medication? I have a friend with mild apnea and her doctor put her on Ambien. I did a search and found that some people do that. I have no idea how it helps apnea, but it may be the central apnea type, not sure. Best wishes you get this figured out

99 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] Ruby +0 points · 6 months ago

Here's what I think. The stressful event could have played havoc with your sleep in several ways, some of which might have played out now. But the bottom line is that you are not sleeping well. So you have to figure out what is going on by trying one thing at a time. Sleep medication may get you to sleep and even keep you asleep but it may not affect the number of arousals you have each night. As you said, most of the time people aren't aware that they are having these and they DO affect your sleep. The only way you know (without another sleep study) is by how you feel the next morning. Personally I would try the mouthpiece first. If it works as it should then your arousals should decrease which helps you sleep better. But you have to give it time--it isn't a quick fix because you aren't used to wearing one.

The part that stands out to me in your posts is that you don't want to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. You had the sleep study done and it showed issues. It isn't a random diagnosis but a real one based on the study. It is very possible that you have had sleep apnea for awhile and didn't know it. That was certainly my story. I did NOT want to wear a mask and use a CPAP machine! But after learning all the problems that can be caused by NOT using it, I changed my mind. I wish I could help you more but all I can do is read your posts and answer the best I can.

In any case, you have a right to have your doctor answer your questions. If he does not want to take the time to explain or support you, then maybe you should find another doctor.

625 posts
Was this reply useful? Learn more...
   
[-] wiredgeorge +0 points · 6 months ago Sleep Enthusiast

Michael90, At this point, go with the doc's suggestion for an oral appliance. This will mitigate the snoring and apnea events. When these are down, you will sleep more deeply and perhaps if you are still affected by anxiety, talking with a professional would be a great idea to help you overcome the anxiety issue brought on by stress. There are many ways stress that induces anxiety can be overcome without the use of drugs so if it were me, I would move in that direction if possible.

Please be advised that these posts may contain sensitive material or unsolicited medical advice. MyApnea.Org does not endorse the content of these posts. The information provided on this site is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for advice from a health care professional who has evaluated you.