As you might assume from the title, this is primarily a bunch of common questions about sleep apnea being discussed at various lengths (from a few sentences to a few pages). Sleep apnea is one of those “newer” diseases, having first been officially identified/defined in the 1950, although its first appellation was “Pickwickian Syndrome”, based on the description of the (very public) sleeping patterns of a character in Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers.
Initially treatment for this was rather invasive … involving tracheostomy (putting a hole in the windpipe past the point of obstruction … which couldn't have been particularly popular. However, in 1981 the “continuous positive airway pressure” (CPAP) approach was developed, with a machine that pumps air past the point where, in sleep apnea, the base of the tongue presses against the soft palate, closing off the airway, keeping that channel open.
The core issue in sleep apnea is that when the base of the tongue relaxes against the soft palate, you can't get air … and as the CO2 raises in the blood stream, the brain starts sending out signals to get some oxygen in … waking up the sleeper. According to the author, 15-20 million people in the US suffer from this to some extent, and it ends up causing a whole array of health issues: cardiovascular (high blood pressure), metabolic (diabetes), and psychological (depression), let alone the mental strain of having frequently interrupted REM sleep. Of course, the snoring, gasping, aspects of the sleep apnea sufferer trying to get some oxygen also effects their partners … I'd been long exiled to the living room for sleeping, due to “snoring like a 747 on take-off” so that my wife could get some sleep.
I'd never suspected just how bad I had this … it turned out that I was waking up 58.6 times an hour before getting the CPAP machine, and since I've been using it (just a week or so at this point), that number has dropped to under 1 time per hour. Needless to say, the former number would indicate that I was getting no meaningful sleep, and probably had not had any noticeable REM sleep (or dreams) in a very long time.
There were some interesting bits and pieces in here … like the “STOP” guide for determining if one might have sleep apnea:
S - Do you Snore loudly?
T - Do you often feel Tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime?
O - Has anybody Observed you stop breathing during your sleep?
P - Do you have or are you being treated for high blood Pressure?
Of course, in the span of 20 questions, not everything's going to be covered, but this book (and I assume the non-abridged 100-question version moreso) does a good job of walking the reader from basic questions about recognizing the problem, defining the processes/symptoms, introducing the concepts around the CPAP machine, and answering key queries related to issues that might arise.
I feel fortunate that I've taken to this with little difficulty (I'm still finding myself having to get back up when I realize that I forgot to fill the reservoir for the built-in humidifier, but I assume that this will eventually become a “bed-time habit”), and look forward to the benefits (energy, weight loss, etc.) that everybody tells me comes with using the machine.
Again, the copy I have is a freebie from the clinic's literature rack, but the author's more extensive look at Questions & Answers About Sleep Apnea is still in print and available via the on-line big boys, and used copies can be had for as little as a penny plus shipping. If you or your partner have some of the red flags around sleep apnea, you might want to pick up a copy of this to familiarize yourself with the symptoms, hazards, and treatments.