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Sleep Problems - You May Have Sleep Apnea

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Sleep Problems - You May Have Sleep Apnea

When I say “Sleep Apnea” do you automatically associate it with overweight men who snore? I did. Which is why I was shocked when I was diagnosed with it.   

Sleep apnea is abnormal breathing whilst sleeping where someone will stop breathing for periods of time. There are 2 kinds of sleep apnea. The first is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) where the airway is blocked and this is the most common. 


Then there is the less common Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)where your brain has a dysfunction in controlling breathing muscles which could cause shallow breathing.  

I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. 

Sleeping Problems

I always thought that I was just a “bad sleeper”. I didn’t wake up rested. And, because I ground my teeth, I’d also wake up with muscles that ached in my jaw, neck and shoulders. 


I’d wake up frequently. I blamed my early menopause due to my cancer drugs (tamoxifen). 


Napping was impossible for me. And I wasn’t particularly tired during the day. I’d wake up feeling like I’d been run over by a truck though. 


There would be so many things I’d try in order to just sleep well. These included good sleep hygiene, no caffeine after noon, reducing blue light, meditation, essential oils etc. The nights when I had a great night sleep I felt like a whole new person!


But it got worse, and I could definitely feel it affecting my day. 


In April 2021, I went in for my check up with my oncologist Dr Karmen Wong. I told her I was “just so exhausted”. The first thing she asked me was if I had sleep apnea? “Not that I know of!” I said. 


Nevertheless she referred me to a sleep specialist, Dr Jeeve. 

Sleep Study

Dr Jeeve had me complete a sleepiness questionnaire (you can do it here).


The score revealed that I probably didn’t have sleep apnea. And we also took other measurements like my neck - as this can be an indicator for fat blocking your airways. Again - my neck measurement didn’t raise any red flags. 


Nevertheless Dr Jeeve prescribed a Sleep Study. That night, someone came to my home and fitted me with sensors on my chest that was linked to a finger monitor. I went to sleep and the data was fed into a machine. 


The verdict? 


I had SEVERE sleep apnea! My breath was stopping on average 38 times per hour. And during REM (when your muscles are essentially told not to activate in your whole body) I stopped breathing over 50 times per hour. 

Dr Jeeve was stunned. He admitted that he didn’t think I’d have sleep apnea, and a severe case at that. 

CPAP Machine

I went to the Snore Solutions in Tanglin Shopping Centre and they let me borrow a CPAP machine. 


A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) delivers, well, continuous air into your lungs. There are many different types of fittings, some are full faced; some go over the nose; and the one I had was a “nasal pillow”. 


There are soft nasal tubes that sit just inside your nostril, and the air comes from the top of the tube which rests on top of your head. 


Like this photo. 


resmed cpap


Let's just say it out loud - it is a horrifically ridiculous looking get up.


I Felt Unattractive

That night I went home and cried buckets as I went to bed. I was horrified that I had this condition. And I felt like a downright Freak. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. 


My husband and daughters made me feel ok about it and the next day we had a good laugh about just how ridiculous it looked. 

Embracing that, helped me get through it. 


But I did wonder - why on earth did I have it? I didn’t have ANY of the conditions associated with it. 


We still aren’t sure why, but I may have a soft palate. And, seeing a medical Dentist who specialised in Bruxism helped shed some light. 


Dr David Tay is a specialist at T32 Dental here in Singapore. I went to see him not for my sleep apnea, but rather, something similar to a locked jaw. 


Around Christmas I found that I just couldn’t close my jaws shut. The back teeth weren’t touching. Eating was impossible, and my ears felt like I had an ear infection. I was miserable!


Dr Tay’s team managed to squeeze me in and gave me some wonderful tips on easing the pain while I waited for the day of my appointment (blow out your cheeks one at a time with your mouth shut). 


The consultation with Dr Tay took about 4 hours. He did all sorts of xrays, photographs and skin pulls and prods all to see if there was any referral pain, and what the state of my jaw was like. 


Well. The news wasn’t great!


Amongst other things, my cervical spine was more straight than it should be; my left nasal passage was narrower than my right; my lower jaw was pulled too far backwards - which could account for the obstruction when I slept. 


Seeing Dr David Tay is a whole blog on it’s own that I will definitely write one day. 


But the takeaway was - perhaps my bruxism and apnea were slightly related. 

Signs and Causes of Sleep Apnea

According to the Sleep Foundation typical signs of sleep Apnea are stopping breathing, snoring, suddenly gasping for breath. 


And the causes include obesity, nasal congestion, anatomical characteristics, family history, nasal congestion and hormone abnormalities. 


And here they talk about possible relationships between bruxism and sleep apnea. Teeth grinding could occur as a response to pauses in breath that happen. 


Do you know how long I’ve had bruxism? 


At least ten years. 


Ten years of possibly not sleeping well, and not getting enough oxygen. 

What Can You Do

If you snore or just feel tired, there’s a good reason to get a Sleep Study done. This is easy as it’s done at your home, but beware - most insurance companies do NOT cover for sleep conditions. I had to fork out over $1000 for this. 


My CPAP machine cost about $2000. But what’s $3000 when you can have better sleep and potentially live a longer life? 


There is a whole negative stigma about sleep apnea. In that, only obese people get it. I admit that was my thought too. But I’m a 49 year old not obese woman who does not fall asleep during the day. 


So that’s why I’m on a mission to destigmatise sleep apnea and wearing a CPAP machine. 


Dr Tay told me that many women are not compliant because, well, it’s ugly! They don’t want to wear it to bed. 


That’s the reason why American Insurance companies require a minimum of 4 hours compliance in order to be claimable. 


So  - here’s a video of me putting on my sleep mask.  Yes, it's awful looking. But I want to bring it out to the open so that others will get a Sleep Study done to rule out sleep apnea.


I have Sleep Apnea and I’m NOT afraid to admit it.  (Seriously though can they make it look less like we are part of a sci-fi movie??)

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