a girl with sleep apnea asleep on a book while doing homework

Sleep Apnea and College: Being Diagnosed at 20 Years Old

I had my suspicions that I had obstructive sleep apnea for a while, but I kept putting the thoughts out of my mind. I thought to myself, “It’s just snoring...so what if it is loud!”

Also, I honestly thought most people woke up feeling like they had just went to sleep a minute ago, with a headache, and a dry mouth.

Signs that something was wrong

I started to have a very hard time sitting through my lectures and doing my homework each night. Despite being a good student, I found myself falling asleep in class and falling asleep every 15 minutes doing my homework! Even if I went to sleep early the night before. Pure exhaustion. But yet, I still kept denying it was a problem for me.

The final straw breaks in Utah

My final kick in the direction to get a test was when I was on a service trip with a group of peers in the middle of nowhere in Utah. After the first night, they all gathered over breakfast to talk about the “wild animal making loud, scary noises” last night outside the townhouse.

I was mortified, there was no animal making noises last night. It was me. They were talking about my snoring. I never admitted it was my snoring even after we took a group trip to the dollar store for everyone to buy earplugs. Needless to say, I did not sleep the rest of the week!

Getting my diagnosis and CPAP machine

I realized I needed to do something. I had heard of sleep apnea, but I never applied that knowledge to my life. Like I said, I thought everyone “slept” that way. I finally spoke to my doctor and completed a sleep study. Then before I knew it, I was a college student with a sleep apnea machine!

All the doctors helping me with my machine kept telling me, “Wow, everyone is going to be so jealous of this machine, it is the newest one on the market!” I appreciated their sentiments to make me feel better. But, I was pretty certain that no one in my dorm or at my college was going to be jealous that I had to sleep with a machine that made me sound like Darth Vader and look like an elephant.

An adjustment worth getting used to

After the first night wearing it, I felt 95 percent better. I woke up feeling more refreshed than I had in as long as I could remember.

I was now able to sit through my classes again and complete my homework without falling asleep every 15 minutes. And my suite mates didn’t hear any snoring!! It was definitely an adjustment to get used to: the mask on my face and using a machine every night. But to me, it was so worth it.

I felt that I was way too young to be feeling so lethargic and tired every day. I was so happy to reach this space within myself. Once I did, it no longer bothered me how odd it was. Because at that point, I was able to laugh with them at the fact that it was wild that I was in college wearing a sleep machine. They always told me that their uncle and grandfather have the same thing! I needed the CPAP machine!

Putting my health first

I understand that my friends will probably never know what it feels like to be so tired you could sleep standing up. Or how frustrating it was to wake up 5 to 7 times an hour, every hour, every night. And that’s okay. I believe that those who really stand by you and care about you will understand.

I believe that your health always comes first and that you deserve to feel well-rested and ready to start your day. Now, I am 27 years old. When I look back at this experience, I can still feel the apprehension I felt. But, I still believe that it was so worth it!

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