A few weeks ago, I was reminded of the small miracle presented by Jim's CPAP. Over a decade ago, a few years into our marriage, I thought I was going to lose my mind or have to move into a separate bedroom.
Jim snored the weird cadence of a malfunctioning buzz saw. While most spouses might respond with a gentle nudge, I would shove him until he moved into a non-snoring position. This happened dozens of times each night.
The biggest mystery was why Jim, for all his snore-generating behavior, was even less rested than me. He was disconcertingly falling asleep at stoplights and any time life paused into quiet.
I was showing the confusion and insanity of sleep deprivation and Jim seemed to have narcolepsy.
My dad noticed Jim falling asleep all the time and suggested Jim go for a sleep study. Our physician decided the same thing when Jim told him how he hadn't been sleeping well for a very long time.
The test results showed that Jim's constant morning headaches, dry mouth, snoring, and agonizingly poor sleep were all due to the fact he quit breathing regularly throughout the night. The constant struggle for air kept him from ever falling into a deep sleep while short periods of oxygen deprivation put him at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It turns out that, shoving injuries were some of the smallest threats he faced.
Jim was placed on CPAP, and after finding the right mask, we both started getting real sleep. Jim said the first day after using his CPAP felt like recovering from a long illness.
Since Jim's diagnosis many members of his family have also been diagnosed with sleep apnea. It turns out their nose and throat structure makes them more susceptible to sleep apnea.
Very recently, Jim noticed a twenty-something friend falling asleep at a stoplight. After talking to Jim our friend was also diagnosed with apnea.
I don't think many people in our generation are aware of sleep apnea which is scary considering how it can contribute to heart attacks and strokes.
If your partner's snoring or gasping seems atypical, you should probably read Mayo Clinic's guide to sleep apnea (actual medical information written by professionals). Jim is happy to reply to comments or email. He is an apnea awareness evangelist since his diagnosis and treatment dramatically improved the quality of his life.