Some people think that sleepiness and fatigue are their own fault, but, like George, they could be suffering from a sleep disorder.
George, a 52-year-old male, is married to a loving wife and is also father to a four-year-old. He feels better than he’s felt in at least 40 years and has a new lease on life. However, for many decades George and his wife struggled through the debilitating side-effects of his sleep disorder.
In 1993, after years’ worth of complaints about his snoring from his wife, George was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Their lives took a dark turn. As a result of the disorder, George would suffer from sudden and unpredictable sleep attacks, as well as intense fatigue.
Over the years he developed depression and gained a significant amount of weight. His memory faculties began to decline, and he was wholly unable to concentrate. Every day was an uphill battle.
Even as a child, George remembers suffering from perpetual tiredness. He describes how pictures of him when he was young showed dark circles under his eyes—a common physical sign of sleep deprivation. No matter how much sleep he got, he’d still be tired. This is because sleep apnea continuously wakes sufferers during the night, resulting in an inferior quality of sleep.
As a career teacher, George explains how challenging it was for him to stay awake and alert during classes. He was responsible for a total of 450 students. The stress of it became too much, that he sadly had to resign eventually.
Much like anyone who is unaware that they have a disorder, George never thought to have a check-up as he felt that the problem was of his own making.
For the next few decades, George suffered through a divorce, failing at his own business venture and losing a few sought-after jobs. With the support of his second wife, he underwent various sleep studies and tried treatment ranging from nasal sprays to surgery, but none of it worked. George’s symptoms worsened, and he became so depressed that his family thought he didn’t love them anymore.
But then everything changed. When George first tried to use a CPAP machine, he could not tolerate it as he suffers from claustrophobia. However, a patient and a caring nurse helped him to overcome the fear, and eventually, he was able to use the machine to significant effect.
Within one month, George started a new job where he was promoted to a supervisor in 11 months. He received multiple bonuses for his hard work and was consistently scoring outstandingly in performance evaluations. One of his proudest moments was when his boss promoted him and said, “I wish I had three of you.”
That’s when he knew that he had beaten sleep apnea and had taken back control of his life.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders affecting as many as 1 in 10 Australians. Doctors believe that if undiagnosed cases are counted the accurate figure could be significantly higher.
The good news is that there are very successful therapies to treat sleep apnea that are helping millions of people around the world to achieve better sleep, and, as it happens, it saves their lives.
CPAP machines are not the answer for everyone suffering from sleep apnea. There are alternatives to explore that have shown similar, if not equal success in their effectiveness. From machines that employ different mechanisms to non-invasive surgeries, speaking to a healthcare professional will undoubtedly open the door to a better night’s rest, and probably a much higher quality of life.