Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing at night while you sleep, just for a few seconds at a time. Then, because your body wants to keep you alive, you wake up (even just a little). Once you fall back asleep, the cycle begins again. A disruption in sleep is harmful for anyone. Over time, sleep apnea causes more than "just" drowsiness during the day (while driving, in a meeting, in public). No, it doesn't stop there--people with sleep apnea run a greater risk of developing heart problems and diabetes.

This is supposed to be a funny blog, so what's funny about sleep apnea?

Well, there's this mask that blows air into your throat (or nose) from a machine called a CPAP or BiPap. The upshot is that the airway is kept open by the force of the machine. However, wearing this mask makes anyone look like the elephant man. Tres Sportif! Sometimes having a humidifier along with the machine (to humidify the air) is more "pleasant". However, when using the humidifier, the moisture can build up in the tube that brings the air to the mask, and that condensation can suddenly whoosh! down into your nose or mouth unexpectedly. Talk about a rude awakening, water up your nose. Not suprisingly, most people don't like air forced up their noses all night, every night, for the rest of time.

So, many people seek an alternative to this CPAP craziness. The doctors have to be able to do something, right? Well, yes. They can remove your tonsils and uvula, prescribe a mouthpiece that moves your lower jaw forward, and even extend your jaw with a fairly gruesome sounding procedure. All of these methods serve the same purpose: to keep the airway open during sleep. However, what it all comes down to is extra tissue in the throat. In layman's terms, that means fat in the neck!

So, now, I went to this clinic called the Alternatives to CPAP clinic. For four hours I was poked and x-rayed. I even had a foot-long strawlike camera threaded down my nose. Yowie! But when each doctor explained what he or she could do, the upshot was that my being overweight made any of these alternative treatments fairly ineffective and that I needed to lose weight before any of them would work. Did I mention that losing weight can sometimes cure apnea altogether?

So, they can't do anything for me, after four hours of this examination and expensive tests. If this is the case, why didn't they tell me this before? They could have asked my height and weight, gotten out their little calculators, and figured out I was half butterfat before the whole rigamarole. Damn, people, I'm looking for something to help me get enough sleep so that I can get more exercise, so that I can lose weight, so that I can get better sleep in order to exercise and lose weight?! This is a chicken and egg thing.

What people who are not very overweight never seem to understand is that it is easier said than done (losing weight). Especially after many diets and exercise programs that you just can't stick with, or that become too hard to maintain. If it was easy, or even moderately difficult to lose weight, that would have been my first alternative! Having sleep apnea makes you tired during the day. This is a hindrance to extensive aerobicizing. Bah!

So anyway, it is this vicious circle, sleep apnea and obesity. One often comes with the other. So why did I need expensive tests to diagnose this darn thing?

I wish there was a way for America to take obesity more seriously than just demeaning and reporting on "the problem". Understand that an addiction to food is just as difficult as an addiction to any drug. So, why aren't there fully-paid treatment programs for me to rehab like poor Amy Whinehouse? She's a brilliant singer, but geez!

I won't bore you with the details of my dietary and exercise quest, like some blogs (yech, who would ever want to read about my lunch of broccoli and hummus!?). But I may write about being fat in America again. I know, cry me a river, when there's people out there without homes, food, or reliable childcare. But this affects me.

Hmmm, sorry that wasn't so funny. I live for cupcakes goshdarnit!!


FranIAm said...

Oh Rion. I do not have apnea but I used to. I have had some success with weight loss- but basically what I am saying is that I was grossly fat and now I am simply fat.

Many people don't get it. It is hard to lose weight and the sleep thing and weight are so interconnected.

I am with you sister.

Rion said...

Thank you for the empathy, you're sweet. I would be very happy to trim down to most people's worst nightmare of fatness. Yep, a size 18 would be fantastic for me. Big, hearty, Irish peasant bones!

And, happy update!

The doctor called and said they decided to try an oral appliance after all. Whee! I'm sure that can't be too comfortable, but I'll try it!