a young with sleep apnea man sleeping in his bed, snoring loudly while his phone alarm goes off loudly

Living With Sleep Apnea and Not Using a CPAP

If you read my previous article, you’ll know that I was first diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea at the age of 18. I was getting ready to start my freshman year away at college and had no intention of bringing my CPAP with me to college.

Outside of using my CPAP during my sleep study I really had no way to gauge the benefits of using one on a nightly basis. How I wish I had the first-hand knowledge that I have now.

Roommates and snoring

Living with a roommate was a challenge. My snoring was so bad that my roommates throughout my college years would find another place to sleep or constantly wake me up during the night. This is something I always felt bad about. I always try to be someone who is very easy to get along with.

Snoring was not something I intentionally did, but looking back now it was intentional because of my refusal to wear the CPAP.

One funny story was my childhood friend and I roomed together for a year. He was on the ice hockey team. Our room had bunk beds. He would sleep with one his hockey sticks and when I would wake him up with my snoring he would retaliate and start banging the bunk bed with his hockey stick until I woke up. Most times I would fall back to sleep before he could put his hockey stick down.

Sleeping through my alarm

Another problem for me was never “hearing” my alarm go off in the morning. My alarm clock would go off and I would obviously turn it off but have no recollection of it. In order to remedy this, I started placing my alarm clock on the other side of the room so that it would force me to get up and out of bed in order to shut it off.

This technique worked for a while but then I would start tuning out my alarm and could actually sleep through it. Obviously, the people who lived with me in college didn’t appreciate this. While I am not a doctor, my assumption is that my body wasn’t getting the proper night’s sleep due to my apneas.

Trouble concentrating

When I was up and awake doing things throughout the day I was usually fine. Sometimes in class, I would struggle to keep my eyes open. I was always drinking caffeine throughout the day to help keep me awake.

When it came time to sit down and study, my eyes would struggle to focus. Sitting in a quiet room reading would usually put me to sleep, especially if it was the end of the day. The lack of sleep would make it hard for concentrating.

Struggling to stay awake at my first job

Getting through college with sleep apnea and not using CPAP was difficult, but I did it. Starting a job began a new set of challenges. This was no longer school, this was the real world where sleeping on the job would most likely mean termination.

My first job was inside sales, where I was sitting for the majority of the day making phone calls. Usually, after lunch would be the hardest for me to concentrate. There were days where it was a struggle to not just lay my head down and fall asleep.

Coffee became my best friend. 4 to 5 cups of coffee every afternoon would be a normal routine. I also found snacking on apples would help me from falling asleep.  Obviously, eating apples would only happen in-between phone calls.

Difficulty staying awake while driving

What really started to alarm me was driving at night. During my teen years, I never felt sleepy while driving, but as I got into my 20’s I would have nights where I really fought to stay awake.

Looking back now I understand that it’s a result of not using my CPAP. I obviously wasn’t getting the proper rest at night and my body was starting to struggle as a result during the day.

What a difference CPAP makes

My hope is that my story and symptoms resonate with someone who is as stubborn as I was. I am mostly Irish, so the term “Thick-Headed Irishman” has always suited me. What I can tell you now after using a CPAP for the last 18 plus years, is that I wished I started using it when I was first diagnosed.

Lack of proper rest can have so many negative side effects in our daily lives. In the last 18 years, I have noticed countless benefits from wearing my CPAP. Most importantly, I am more alert and am able to function at a high level as a result of the proper sleep that my CPAP affords me.

If you have ever experienced any of these symptoms, please go consult a doctor. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea don’t be like me, start using your CPAP ASAP.

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