While I was sleeping, the technician watched me through a video camera; she could also talk to me, and I to her, if necessary. The electrodes monitored my brain waves, eye movements, breathing, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and muscle activity. After a night of nightmares about the sleep study, I woke at 5 a.m. to the technician standing next to the bed. She removed the electrodes (again, painless), and I drove home looking like Medusa and smelling like an auto mechanic.
The results indicated that my snoring was moderate to severe, and I awakened 10 times an hour, which is considered "significant." I scheduled an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist who told me my septum was deviated and my turbinates (nasal bones) were enlarged. Upon her suggestion, I scheduled surgery for a few months later for septoplasty and "trimming" of my turbinates.
Other less invasive methods for treating sleep apnea are losing weight, sleeping only on the side, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol for several hours before sleep, and not taking sleeping pills or tranquilizers. Dental appliances are helpful for some people, as are masks that apply continuous air pressure during the night. For those who have severe sleep apnea, other forms of surgery that alter the soft tissue of the throat and palate are used, and, in life-threatening situations, tracheostomy can be used.
The Sleep Apnea Surgery and Recovery
The surgery was quick, easy, outpatient, and done while I was under general anesthesia. Pain medication took away the post-operative pain, but I was very uncomfortable. For about two weeks I had to walk with my head held higher than normal, to bend from the knee (or risk a searing pain in my face), and I could not exercise or do anything strenuous. The pain was mild to moderate. Also, I was not allowed to blow my nose , and during the healing process that's all I wanted to do. In the months to follow, my nose was tender, swollen and drippy, and mucus coursed down the back of my throat.
How I Sleep Today
It's been a little more than a year since the surgery. My husband rarely wakes me now, and I rarely wake him! In fact, he's only heard me snore once and I had a cold at the time. Even when my allergies flared up last year, for the first time I could still breathe out of both nostrils, day and night. Overall, everything simply flows a little more smoothly. Perhaps most significantly, I wake up rested each morning, after years of wondering why I always felt tired.