Last month I spent a night at a sleep clinic in downtown Toronto with a gazillion wires attached to my body. Making an appointment hadn’t occurred to me until my BFF suggested I rule out any sleep issues after my gasping woke her up in the middle of the night during a girls’ getaway.
I usually aim for seven or eight hours of sleep per night. That night at the clinic I slept for about six, so a little less than normal but still not bad given the unusual circumstances.
Last week, I got my sleep test results. Given the six hours I’d slept, I didn’t think they’d be able to detect any sleep issues even if I had them. I’d slept like a log, or so I thought. As it turns out, though, I didn’t have a restful night at all. In fact, I stopped breathing an average of 28.5 times an hour. Conclusion: I have moderate sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
“Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep. These breathing pauses or “apneas” usually last 10 to 30 seconds and can happen many times throughout the night.” (Public Health Agency of Canada)
There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea, which is what I have. Basically, the throat muscles and soft tissue in the back of the throat get so relaxed, they block the airway.
As I learned during my follow-up consultation, sleep issues don’t just impact your sleep. “For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems.” (National Sleep Foundation)
Here’s the crazy thing (and the reason I’m sharing this story).
For the past few months, I’ve been feeling unfocused, unproductive and uncreative. I’ve started having mild anxiety attacks.
Most days, I wake up after seven or eight hours of sleep only to feel tired a couple of hours later. I can nap at the drop of a hat. Even when client demands are low and I have several hours to pour into my personal writing, I end up spinning around in circles all day before hitting the mattress with little to show for the energy I’ve expended.
Still, I never once stopped to question why I’m such a walking disaster!
I just accepted my low energy and lack of enthusiasm as a non-negotiable new normal instead of putting up a fight. Sound familiar, anyone?
The symptoms were there, and I ignored them.
I’m willing to bet you’ve done the same, especially if you’re fifty or older.
Being in your fifties is tricky. Pick a symptom, raise it with your girlfriends over coffee, and someone is bound to say: “Me, too. It’s probably a menopause thing!”
Anxiety, forgetfulness, sleep issues — these are indeed all common symptoms of menopause, but that doesn’t mean they’re not symptoms of something else; something that can and should be treated. All too often we dismiss messages our bodies are trying to give us when what we need to do is listen and respond.
So do yourself a favour.
Give yourself a quick body scan now. Inside and out. Is there anything out of the norm that’s been persistently (if only mildly) bothering you for a while? Has a new ache or pain come to visit and refused to leave? Has your old enthusiasm for life morphed into indifference? Do you lose patience more easily than you used to?
If the answer is yes, don’t assume, like I did, that this [fill-in-the-blank] has to be your new, non-negotiable normal. Look into it. Maybe it can’t be addressed but maybe it can. You’ll never know until you enquire — and knowing is good.
In my case, knowing means I can now get fitted with a CPAP mask that will help ensure I breathe all night, with few interruptions so that I actually wake up well-rested. How dreamy does that sound, not to mention sexy?
Viv for today xo
Before you go …
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