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My Sleep Apnoea Journey

March 3rd, 2022 | Blog

I am a 56-year-old menopausal woman with a BMI of 25, and a long history of depression.

I was diagnosed with severe Obstructive Sleep Apnoea in November of last year 2021 after several years of visits to my GP about my dreadful snoring (just ask my family) and feeling exhausted when I woke in the morning and pretty much all the time. I had also done my own research and was horrified to learn that if left untreated, sleep apnoea can result in a number of health problems including hypertension, stroke, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the muscle tissue of the heart), heart failure, diabetes, obesity and heart attacks. It is known as the silent killer as patients with severe sleep apnoea die on average 10 years sooner than those without.

Things had got particularly challenging when I started experiencing Menopausal symptoms about 6 years ago, at the age of 50. Like many women, my symptoms included memory and concentration issues along with severe brain fog, which made me wonder if I might have early onset Dementia. My confidence was at an all-time low and I questioned whether I was up to doing my job.

I knew I had to do something, as my quality of life was suffering, so I asked my GP to arrange a telephone appointment with a Consultant who carried out a Sleep Apnoea assessment with me. He felt that I was a possible candidate for Sleep Apnoea and referred me to the Sleep Clinic at the beginning of last year, 2021. Several months later, I underwent a further assessment, where I was required to wear an oximeter (measures blood oxygen levels) to bed for two nights.

A follow up appointment was arranged for me to discuss my results with a Sleep Apnoea Nurse Specialist. She asked me a few questions, then proceeded to show me the results of my Oximeter test, which were rather shocking. According to the trace, I stopped breathing up to 50 times an hour during the night. I was very emotional to say the least, but so glad that I had acted on my instincts with my health being potentially at such serious risk.

I was given an appointment to be fitted with a CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) machine which I wear to bed every night. It has taken a while to get used to wearing a mask over my nose and mouth every night, but three months later things have improved. I don’t snore anymore, which is amazing, and I am feeling the benefits of getting a better nights’ sleep. The main thing for me is the long-term health benefits, which I am very pleased about.

Going forward, I have just started to reduce my anti-depressant medication which I have been taking for years and have subscribed to some Menopause supplements to help bridge the gap. Its early days, but I am determined to find a good balance for me and am looking forward to the summer, especially as I moved house last year and now have a lovely garden.

There are probably many more people who have undiagnosed Sleep Apnoea, so it feels important to increase awareness, particularly as the long-term health implications are huge. The cost of a CPAP machine is a few hundred pounds, which is minimal when offset against the expense of someone of developing a serious health condition in the future. How many people have died not knowing that a simple measure such as a CPAP machine could’ve saved their life??

The following link gives lots of useful info. about Sleep Apnoea, which would be good for anyone who suspects that they or someone they know could be at risk.

Obstructive sleep apnoea | British Lung Foundation (blf.org.uk)

Nita Dodd

Advanced Health Improvement Practitioner (Mental Health & Suicide Prevention)