Do you remember the last time you slept well throughout the night? How about the last time you woke up refreshed with energy to last all day? It is safe to say the vast majority of Americans can’t say yes to either of these questions, but for an estimated 12 million Americans, their sleep is disrupted on a nightly basis due to sleep apnea, a condition that can lead to serious health complications.
In her mid-20s, Heather Binkley Morrow felt something was wrong when she would wake in the morning with pain. “I would often wake up with splitting headaches,” she says. “I even made an appointment with my PCP to figure out what was causing them.”
Not sure of the real culprit, Heather had an idea her sleep disruption throughout the night did not help. “I was fully waking up at least a dozen times per night and tossing and turning half the night trying to get back to sleep,” she recalls. On top of headaches, fatigue plagued her throughout the day, leaving her feeling “blah” nearly all the time. “I would almost fall asleep in the shower, at my work desk and definitely while I couch-lounged in the evening,” Heather explains. “It was also a bit socially embarrassing at work because I would not be able to control my constant yawning during meetings. I wasn’t bored – just always exhausted!”
It was then she scheduled an appointment with a Dr. Kevin Lewis at Oklahoma Heart Institute, still not thinking this could be at all related to sleep apnea. “It never even crossed my mind,” she says. “I thought sleep apnea was ‘the snoring disease’. I went to see Dr. Lewis because I was having unusual sleep behaviors like talking, reaching out and waking up frequently. I was very surprised when the diagnosis was sleep apnea after my first sleep study. After reading more about sleep apnea, however, it made complete sense.”
It has been six weeks since Heather was diagnosed with sleep apnea and fitted with a CPAP mask. The impact on her sleep and energy, she says, was almost instant. “It’s incredible the difference it has made in my quality of life in such a short amount of time,” she adds. Heather is happy to be feeling better, but her husband is also happy she is sleeping more soundly. “Since I started using CPAP, much to the delight of my husband, if I wake up, I usually don’t even remember and quickly fall back to sleep.”
Heather admits adjusting to sleeping with the CPAP mask takes some getting used to, however, she advises others to talk to their health care provider and other CPAP users if they are struggling finding the right fit or mask. “My body became used to the mask,” Heather admits. “It may sound strange, but I love putting my mask on now. It means there is a peaceful and restful night of sleep in store for me.”
A solution to sleep apnea means more than restful sleep and more energy. Researchers continue to study the long-term impact on cardiovascular health as well as other health conditions. For Heather, treating her sleep apnea is added peace of mind. “I never knew just how linked cardiovascular wellness and sleep are,” she says. “If I feel this much better after only six weeks, I cannot imagine the implications of healthy sleep for my lifetime. I’m so thankful for the wonderful sleep team at Oklahoma Heart Institute!”