Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cycling and the Case of a Sleep Disorder

Since my 20's, I have snored. 

Growing up, my Dad snored awfully (I mean, really bad) and I am told my brother snores (I don't know if it's true, but so my Dad tells me).

Over the years I have been an intense coffee drinker for reasons other than I just love the taste of coffee.  I have used it as a hard drug, and when epinephrine was legal (meth's cousin), I even took that. It is awful to think that you "need" something like caffeine, but in my case I did. Since college, I have always been rushing around - and since my late 20's with my insurance career, I am constantly on the go, hustling... meeting clients and trying to make a dime here and there. I usually start work at 6:00am - 7:00am, and usually come home from seeing my last client at 10:00pm. I work my riding in my schedule in the early afternoons. This is an extremely busy life that I have grown accustomed to. 

I am now coming on 38yrs. old and, until recently, I felt like this life was wearing on me. I was extremely depressed - the most depressed I have ever been in my life - and riding felt more like a chore than a passion. I started to despise my job, the financial/career choices I've made, and I started to question my place in life. This was unlike me.

We had a death in the family and I had to put down my beloved dog, Rocky

Thank goodness I have a great wife, an awesome family, and some great riding friends... life could have ended and I wouldn't have cared. I am usually a positive person - but a rain of negativity started to fill my head. My riding and my job performance suffered and declined rapidly.

Accompanied with the depression was extreme fatigue. Dizziness, tiredness, and the constant feeling that I needed to nap. I would go out to ride, and felt like collapsing and sleeping right there on the trail. I would use caffeine to try and stay awake, but that didn't help. This compounded the problem, because when I got home from a ride, I would want to nap, but couldn't due to the caffeine. 

In August, I met with my doctor to discuss my health and my blood pressure (which is high and I take a medication for). I started to tell him what I was experiencing, and without hesitation, he says "You sound like a classic case of sleep apnea..."

I've heard of this, and even witnessed an awful case when I had to room up with another insurance agent while traveling. He snored so much, I had to use ear plugs, and he would get up out of bed very often due to - what sounded like - him choking. It was horrible to witness and I couldn't imagine how it would be to live like that. The sleep deprivation would make life extremely difficult to bear.

After my doctor told me that I may have a sleep disorder, everything I was feeling started to make sense. Lack of drive, depression, high blood pressure, constant fatigue and tiredness, etc. So, I made an appointment with a specialist and soon after got my CPAP machine to treat my apnea.

They found that I stopped breathing 22 times per hour. I had asked him if this was a weight issue, and he said it wasn't (I'm not obese). He said that it was my tongue falling and blocking my airway as I entered REM state. Therefore, I was never able to achieve a deep sleep. Essentially, I was choking myself awake!

I have been using my machine for exactly 30 days, and everything - I mean EVERYTHING - has changed. Depression has gone away, I am no longer sleepy (unless it's from working too hard), job performance has improved, and notably, my athletic performance has improved. My blood pressure reduced, and I may even be able to get off my medication. 

Since this is my bike blog, let's talk athletic performance.

August was my first full month of using Strava. That month I logged:

September, I logged:

October, I logged:

November was my first full month of using my CPAP machine. This is a result of getting a full night's sleep, going into sleep R.E.M. mode and waking up refreshed. This was also without the aid of caffeine, energy drinks or any other stimulant:

Out of all four months, I had the least activities, but yet shattered ALL my personal records. I don't believe this is luck, diet, or some sort of "go get 'em" mentality change. There really is only one difference, and that is the treatment of my sleep disorder!

I am a much happier camper now. My outlook is way more positive, work is picking up, and things are changing for the better. 2012 was an incredibly tough year for us, but I'm glad I got this taken care of. 

The lesson I wanted to share with you internet'ers is - go to the doctor for your regular check ups. Get blood work done with a full physical. Don't wait until you feel bad or sick, and ask him/her questions. This simple CPAP machine gave me a much more higher quality of life - on and off the bike.

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