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Sleep apnea and my big fat tongue.

For the last few nights I’ve been having some of the most refreshing sleep, and the clearest, most vivid dreams of my entire life, and I have this incredible new reserve of energy. It’s all because I found out recently that I’ve got sleep apnea, and I got fitted with this special mouthpiece that keeps my airway clear while I’m sleeping. This has apparently been a huge problem most of my life that I’m really just starting to become aware of.

I’ve always snored like a demon farting into a tuba, but I always just assumed it was because my nose has been broken a bunch of times and the cartilage inside it is all twisted. What really made me think about it differently was that my friend Joey was being treated for sleep apnea, and when I fell asleep next to him on the plane he said it sounded really bad, like I was gasping for air sometimes. Before that I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but when he started telling me what the effects of getting no air while you’re asleep are, and how much better he was feeling now since he started getting treatment for it, I decided to stop being such a stubborn douche and listen.
For whatever reason I just had it in my head that sleep apnea was something that only over weight people had to worry about. I just snored. I thought it couldn’t be a real “problem.”
Now that I look back on it I can’t see why I didn’t think there was something wrong earlier. There was many a time when I did nothing unusually strenuous, got a full 8 hours sleep, but when I woke up I still looked and felt like I was recovering from an Amy Winehouse evening.

sleepy2

After talking to Joey, the way I looked at it was, fuck it… it doesn’t hurt to just go talk to the doctor and see what he says. I had been thinking about getting my nose cleaned out for a while because I had mistakenly thought that was my problem, so I thought worst case scenario I’ll just go ahead and do that.
What the doctor explained kind of tripped me out, because I never even knew what the real cause for snoring is. What happens is that your tongue slides back in your throat and it blocks your air passage. It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny or fat; it’s all about how your tongue blocks your air passage. Well it turns out that I’ve got a big fat tongue, and that sucker blocks off my air passage like a motherfucker.

tongue

The doctor makes these mouthpieces that keep your tongue from sliding back and blocking your air, so the first thing they did was fit me for it, and then prescribe a sleep study for it so that they can see how bad I snore.
It was pretty weird, I showed up at this hospital, and they bring me into this little patient sleep room with a bed and computer. Then they connected all these electrodes on me like a fucking science fiction movie.

bed

sleep harness

They monitored my breathing while I somehow managed to pass out, and then they woke me up and sent me home in the morning.
When I got the results back I was fucking shocked. It turns out that my air is getting cut off when I snore for as much as 18 seconds at a time, all night long while I sleep.
The doctor was shocked when she went over the results. She said it was pretty incredible that I was active as I am, and that I managed to stay in good shape even though I had this serious sleep problem. She assured me that once I started wearing my mouthpiece I would have a big increase in energy. I believed her, but the results are way more dramatic than I thought they would be.

mouthpiece

I’ve been using it for about a week now, and I feel like a wet heavy coat has been magically lifted off my head and body. It’s amazing. I have energy all day long that seems to stay pretty much even throughout the day. I’ve NEVER had that.
I’ve always had bursts of energy followed by periods of laziness, followed by coffee.
Now all of a sudden I feel like a valve has been turned on in my body and this new life force is pouring out freely again.
It’s fucking nuts.

The really crazy thing is my dreams. They’re bright and vivid, and I can remember a great deal of them. That’s never been the case before. I can hardly remember any noteworthy dreams from the past few years, but I’ve had a half a dozen from this past week that are clear as day in my memory. And they seem to be in color.
I’ve heard that you dream in black and white, but that your mind decides to add color later when you’re recalling it, but in at least one of these dreams I remember being aware that I was dreaming, and thinking about how amazing the red drapes were in the room that I was in.
Emotions in my recent dreams have been so much more realistic than they’ve been in my past dreams, and when someone I know enters my dreams now it’s not as simple as a normal part of my life, like a regular character in my mind’s movie just showing their face, but rather a very deep inventory of all of the emotions that I’ve ever experienced with that person.
An ex girlfriend was in my dreams the other night, and I couldn’t move to the next phase of the dream until I experience whole gamut of past emotions with her, from laughter to honest conversation, to lust, to frustration, to sadness… it all plaid out like a checklist of potential experiences with this person. And the crazy thing is that I seem to be aware that it’s a dream.
At one point in the dream she stopped interacting with me and became someone I was watching detached. Like I had moved away, and was watching the whole scene from a distance.

Before I was wearing this mouthpiece my dreams would seem to hold to a pattern of some emotion, but lots of blurry memories and hard to follow narrative.
Now that I’m sleeping undisturbed for possibly the first time in my adult life, it’s like something in my mind has just turned on while I’m asleep. Like a whole new world of the dream time has opened up. It’s really kind of surprising that it’s so intense.

My whole point in writing this blog, was that if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would never believe that something could have such a big effect on the way I feel.
If there’s anyone out there reading this, and you’ve been told you’ve got a snoring problem, do yourself a HUGE favor and get that shit taken care of.