I admit it. I spent most of my adult life as a loud snorer ... LOUD.
I presumed that it was completely normal, because my dad snored so loud it shook things in the house. All that changed when I had a sleep test in 2004. I discovered that how I slept had me at death's door and I never suspected it.
How many other brothas think the exact same thing about snoring. I found that most men think that snoring is normal -- WRONG.
My Sleep Apnea Story
My life went like this, I was always tired, but powered through life tasks. I had trouble staying awake in the movies, in church, while reading or sitting still anywhere or anytime. I had to take naps before driving any distance, because I was notorious for nodding while driving. At least three years before being tested, I would wake up during night soaking wet, from my body going through the apnea process of stop breathing, choking awake, falling asleep and choking awake ... all night long. I don't know how my wife endured all those years of my snoring, scaring her when I stopped breathing ... Jesus. We were so miserable.
I got the courage to press my doctor to prescribe me a sleep test. I received a sleep clinic diagnosis that determined that my blood oxygenation level was 'beyond dead.' Normal levels are 94-100. Danger levels begins at 88-89. Fellas, I was at 53. In my sleep I stopped breathing over 150 times an hour. I was suffering from hypoxemia. In my case, this blood level status played out as Severe Sleep Apnea.
The Apnea Journey
Apnea is the cessation/pause of breathing or very shallow breathing during sleep. When the brain realizes it NEEDS more air it forces the heart to beat faster and breathing rate increases and the body reacts like it has been in a race.
I have personally experienced my brain/body/lungs demanding air as I would choke awake. This is critically dangerous. Sleep Apnea can contribute high blood pressure and major heart issues, including heart attacks. There is a debate about the relationship between strokes and sleep apnea. Ha! There's no debate in my mind. I talk to brothas all over the nation and more and more of them are getting tested, and finding that they can get help that will change their life.
My personal belief is that sleep apnea is a major factor in strokes among Black men. I contend that the medical community does not seem to want us to know how sleep apnea is negatively impacting our culture. Do you know a brotha that just dropped dead from a stroke or a heart attack? If so, ask someone close to them if they were a heavy snorer; if they ever stopped breathing while sleeping; or if they had any of the symptoms I described earlier.
Black and Latino brothas are leaving here at an alarming rate from strokes and heart attacks that can be directly related to apneic sleep governing their very lives.
The sleep test changed my life ... for the better. GET TESTED.
The testing process was super simple. I arrived on a Wednesday after Bible Class. The guy at the sleep clinic was former special forces in Ireland, Jim. He patiently explained to me everything that was going to happen (I guess he could see my apprehension). He introduced me to terms like CPAP and BIPAP and answered all my questions (you know I did some research before going). He hooked me up with lots of EKG type connectors. I was given a quiet clinical room with a single bed and he basically monitored my sleep. At about 6 am he woke me up. I thought I had just nodded off until he told me what time is was. I looked out the window ans saw daylight.
When I tell you that the test was one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my life, I mean it. For the first time in YEARS, I had slept for 8 straight hours. I felt the best I had in YEARS. Gentlemen, I could not remember the last time that I had slept more than 1-2 hours at a time. Do you know what that does to your body, mind and spirit? Sleep was destroying me. The Lord sparred my life. Oh my God. It was glorious. I felt more alive than I could ever remember.
I received a prescription for a BIPAP machine that I use until this day. I travel with it at all times. I use it every night, nap, whatever.
Why I am Telling You all of This
I have been telling anyone/everyone that I know about my apnea experience. SLEEP APNEA IS MORE THAN JUST A DISORDER -- IT IS KILLING BROTHAS. Some brothas I've talked to have listened and been tested and gotten the treatment that works for them. Others have not been tested and are not here any longer ............. I know that God spared my life.
Medically, I am not supposed be here. Spiritually, I am on a mission to serve as the Lord He leads me. I've lost 50+ pounds, exercise and de-stress regularly, and I've completely changed my food intake behavior. No more reflux meds, HBP meds, cholesterol meds. I am respecting His temple.
I pray that if you or anyone that you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, do what you gotta do to get them to be tested. DO IT. Please do it. I know a lot of brothas no longer have insurance, but be a pest to whomever until the test is done ... it could save your life or the life of someone you care about.