Sleep Apnea, My Road to Dementia
While researching something other than dementia, I had an "ah-ha" moment; in a flash everything from the last ten years of my life came together and I realized, for the first time, what probably has been the root of my major health problems, especially my dementia-SLEEP APNEA.
At least ten years ago, I fell asleep at the wheel of my car. I was less than two miles from home. At twelve thirty in the afternoon, I was returning from Vacation Bible School where I had spent an active morning teaching. In the back seat, I had precious cargo, my only grandchild and a young niece. I can remember singing children's hymns with them as we made our way home. And then it happened. Suddenly, an impenetrable sleepiness hit me. I put down the window, sang a little louder. We had only a little way to go; I knew we'd be okay. And then, I heard someone next to me blow their horn three times. It jarred me awake in time to avoid hitting the car in front of me which had put on its brakes. I had fallen asleep-just THAT fast! I call it "My Three Horn Wake up Call" and give all credit to the Lord for having saved me. How many of us notice the driver next to us? How many would notice that driver was nodding away, asleep at the wheel? I truly believe it was divine intervention.
I went to the doctor to get checked out. Because I snore, it was decided that I might have a sleep disorder. I underwent a sleep study, but the decision was made that I did NOT have a sleep disorder. Blood work confirmed that I had diabetes. Two years ago, I had another sleep study; it proved that I do indeed have sleep apnea. I believe I have had sleep apnea for all these ten years.
My moment of enlightenment came while doing research on sleep apnea. I found that sleep apnea has significant consequences unless it is caught and treated. Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, heart attack, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, headaches, stroke (TIA's), and diabetes. (I have high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, TIA's, and diabetes...5 out of 8!) Sleep apnea is also a leading cause of work related accidents, daytime drowsiness, and motor vehicle crashes. (I had daytime drowsiness and fell asleep driving!) It's not hard to see how I can relate sleep apnea to my health problems!
I am writing about this because the public and healthcare professionals are mostly in the dark where sleep apnea is concerned. The vast majority of cases remain undiagnosed-a tragic mistake! I am also writing about sleep apnea because I know there are readers out there who are living with this condition right now and don't know it. Or they are caring for someone with dementia who may have the disorder and it is not being treated. With my past history, this subject is of utmost importance to me. In my next blog, I will delve further into sleep apnea: what it is and how it can be treated.