Beauty-Sleep vs. Stigma: Breaking the Silence

After the recent passing of a friend from a pulmonary embolism, I decided to speak up because it forced me to think about my own mortality. In completing the final draft of this post, I realized the potential importance of what I had written; perhaps my friend’s passing not only saved my life, but the following insights may also save yours.

“Sleep Apnea can contribute to recurring pulmonary embolism.”
Science Daily

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I asked myself a question this evening. “What would happen if I posted a photo of me wearing my new CPAP (for sleep apnea) on a dating site?” Instead, I’ll post it here—privately—between you and me. ;)

Surely I jest! TMI! To overshare is an insane proposition—or is it? This thought is a campy gesture of a more severe disorder, which does not discriminate against fitness level, sex, age, or weight.

Sleeplessness is a 32 billion dollar a year industry. Sleep apnea affects 18 million people, yet few are aware of its devastation. A recent study showed that 1 in 15 Americans are at an 8% risk, and African Americans were at a 17% increased risk. Many cases go undiagnosed. Sleep apnea affects both male and females, but men are at the most significant risk.

So let’s talk about it, and perhaps, you will be motivated to schedule an appointment with an Otolaryngologist this week.

Take note: It is a matter of life or death, and many die yearly from pulmonary and cardiac failure as a result of sleep apnea.

Bringin’ Sexy Back with the Sound of Silence

I’m putting aside my ego and putting my “CPAP mask on” for the sake of your awareness. The stigma attached to snoring is not pretty!

I decided to let my guard down by announcing that I have sleep apnea. Do you have any idea how many individuals you already know are keeping this dirty little secret to themselves? Be it male or female, one can feel like an outcast, and feelings of rejection are genuine. By outing myself, I imagine that I’m limiting future relationships. For a long time, I felt mortified about my situation and thought I’d die if others knew! Hmm, so death is the ultimate sacrifice for upholding an image.

“I would die for you, darlin’ if you want me to!”
—Prince

Can we talk about the stigma? Laying down all the bravado, I decided to begin an intimate conversation with an icebreaker about my sleep apnea. Much to my surprise, I have engaged in very candid, engaging, and funny conversations about this topic. Come on; snoring is funny, right? Whether you have been told so or not, there are many of us already in this underground secret society! Let’s not go underground, attempting to conceal this grim reality.

Let’s Shakeup Sleeping Beauty

“I’m not snoring, just dreaming that I’m a motorcycle!”

So, I put a mask on it. All kidding aside, this is no laughing matter! Listen up! The underlying cause of sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing. The heart can ultimately stop beating while this happens. So please get yourself or your partner diagnosed before it’s too late. There are treatments AND various solutions to fit your lifestyle. Cumulative side effects increase the more prolonged apnea goes undiagnosed. Sleeplessness, worsening or onset of ADHD, brain fog and memory loss, heart arrhythmias, depression, and overall malaise can feel like the frustrating new norm.

Quentin Tarantino depicted beautiful women “sleeping ugly” and “sawing logs” in his latest movie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” I thought to myself, “OMG! He went there!” It gave me more of a reason to take a laughable moment and ponder. I believe it would have been quite enlightening and had more impact if the women were wearing a CPAP! Perhaps Quentin may have been going for a half-hearted chuckle from his experience! However, who reflects on danger when we can laugh? Does everyone snore—eventually? Since he targeted women, I was elated! If a woman’s sleep habits made it onto the big screen, maybe it’s worth addressing not just the physical stigma but relationship problems that ensue.

Stigma

The Scarlett “S” (Snorer) does not have to determine your worth—not to be confused with “schnorrer” (Yiddish for moocher). In my case, I was affectionately called “snorey-snores-snores.” It was cute for a while, but the unrelenting disruption of one’s sleep haven eventually turns vindictive and ugly.

Kudos to anyone putting up with a “Hoover” at his or her side. It’s all fun and games until we’re the center of the joke. Women are idealized as soft, snuggly, SILENT angelic beauties of dreamland. Not me! I’m in beast mode in bed—like during my workouts. Who wants their flaws exposed at night when we have enough to work on during the day? This hang-up has plagued my psyche. I’m reminded of an SNL skit called, Daily Affirmations by Stuart Smalley (Al Franken):

“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!”

Relationships

Sleep apnea can erode the fabric of a love relationship. I know since I was first introduced to my partner’s family as, “She’s cute, but the snoring might be a deal-breaker!” I laughed nervously, thinking, “Is my snoring really a deal-breaker?” I love funny stuff except when the truth gets revealed like a drunken announcement at a party, and this wasn’t funny or at a party.

Words tell a story. “Erosion starts at the core of a relationship void of truth” —Kipling

Musical Beds

I realized we had fallen into a “sleep divorce.” After a kiss goodnight, I went one way, and my partner went another—down the hall into another room to sleep. Let’s face it; sleeplessness is exhausting—no matter the cause. However, if the cause is sleep apnea, we have options.

He didn’t snore when he met you, you sucked the air right out of him he’s just trying to survive the night.
—Simbad

Some couples in their 20’s and 30’s can accept their “sleep divorce” lovingly and in stride. Their stories suggest that quality of sleep is more important to them than sleeping together. Personal well-being, quality of life, better productivity at jobs, higher tolerance with kids all stem from healthy sleep. So they keep the flames burning by kissing each other goodnight and heading to their respective rooms. However, at what risk?

Solutions

Your snoring may be the cause of a more serious problem like sleep apnea. Do your research. See a physician and request a sleep study. If diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will likely benefit from one of the common remedies, depending on your severity, such as an oral device, or CPAP machine. Earplugs or an extra bedroom may help a couple get some sleep tonight, but for our long-term health and the health of our loved ones, let’s treat this serious condition with the attention it deserves.

Visit PubMed for the most current studies and research for sleep apnea!.