My Sleep Disorders (Part 1)

I was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea ( in April 2008. A polysomnogram (sleep study) showed that I struggled to breathe 150 times in 7 hours, which is an average of 20 times per hour. For the medically curious I've attached a file of the notes written by the attending at the follow up visit where I received the results of the study. Sleep apnea causes excessive daytime sleepiness and other health problems because every time you struggle to breath your brain comes out of deep sleep. Yet my health insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment. I recently went to a free clinic (lost my job due to my illness) to see if they could get me the prescribed treatment (it's called a CPAP machine). The doctor I saw recommended I sleep with a backpack on because he said that according to my sleep study most of my RERA’s (Respiratory Effort Related Arousals) occurred when I was sleeping on my back, and sleeping with a backpack on would hopefully stop this. I tried it and noticed that my drenching night sweats stopped when I started using the backpack. However it did not improve my exhaustion, and since it was exacerbating my already bad back pain, I switched to the tennis ball method (which involves sewing a tennis ball to the inside of a t-shirt and wearing it while you’re sleeping in order to achieve the same effect—you can’t comfortably sleep on your back), with the same results; no night sweats but still completely un-refreshing sleep. When they first diagnosed the sleep apnea and set me up to get fitted for the CPAP machine (before the insurance denied coverage), they (Gundersen Lutheran Sleep Medicine) said that after I had been using my CPAP for awhile, I would be scheduled for another sleep study in order to make sure that the machine was preventing the problem (makes sense). Because I have been using an alternative treatment for my apnea for the last few months, I think that I should get another sleep study to see if it is really helping. If the study shows that my RERA’s are reduced sufficiently while using the tennis ball method, then my exhaustion is probably being caused by something else. If the tennis ball method has not improved the problem…then my symptoms could be because of the continued apnea. The pulmonologists, my internist, and my psychiatrist have told me that the sleep disorder is a probable cause of the exhaustion. I think it’s a waste of time and money to continue my treatments (which aren’t working) when the solution could possibly be to just prevent me from stopping breathing in my sleep. There is also some evidence that prolonged sleep deprivation can cause a host of other symptoms, many of which also happen to be symptoms of fibromyalgia, which is one of my diagnoses. So, next time I see my internist, I will be petitioning for a referral to sleep medicine for a follow up sleep study…wish me luck!