Like many mothers I am forever on the go. From rushing in the morning to get my daughter and I prepared for the day, to preparing for events and meetings at work, and then sorting through laundry and helping my daughter with her homework in the evenings. By the time I put her to bed I’m ready to knock out – I have positively no energy left for anything. Pair that with an interrupted night’s sleep, and it’s no wonder I’m fatigued all.the.damn.time.
The last time I can remember sleeping through the night was back in 2007. Yup, that’s right. This Mom hasn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep in over seven years. At first I was sure all the stressors of juggling work, school, and motherhood were the reasons I wasn’t able to sleep at night. As a highly anxious person I never am fully able to relax and drift off to sleepyland. After several sleeping medications failed me I was referred to a sleep specialist and neurologist, who after various testing and a sleep study diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea in 2009.
While many are able to sleep through the night soundly, those like me who suffer from sleep apnea don’t have that luxury. “Apnea” in Greek translates to “without breath” and those with apnea experience pauses in their breathing during sleep, their airways don’t stay open and it signals their brain to wake up. This scary pattern happens to me five to eight times a night and it can take me up to an hour to get back to sleep. As you can imagine I never wake up feeling rested or refreshed; instead I’m grumpy, annoyed and exhausted. When obstructive sleep apnea is left untreated it can have serious side effects – many of which I’m experiencing now.
Since being diagnosed my symptoms from having untreated apnea have worsened, even though my apnea is considered ‘mild’. Any mom knows any disruption in sleep is dangerous – for everyone. The chronic exhaustion has led to a disinterest in being social; I have difficulty remembering experiences and words. Combine that with being highly irritable and anxious, an increase in weight, and feeling depressed – I’m a ticking time bomb. Most weekends I don’t want to be bothered and want to curl up in my bed. Other risks for obstructive apnea include high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.