My Journey with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): From Heavy Snoring to Diagnosis and Treatment

Do you snore? If so, you're not alone. As someone who used to snore like a soprano, I understand the struggles that come with this seemingly harmless condition. However, I soon discovered that snoring could be more than just a nuisance – it could be a sign of a serious health issue called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In this blog post, I'll share my journey with OSA, from diagnosis to treatment, in the hope of raising awareness about this condition and helping others who may be struggling with it. 

It all started with my wife's complaints about my loud snoring, which she compared to a soprano performance with a vocal range from middle C to soprano C. I tried various over-the-counter products, such as nasal strips, but they didn't provide lasting relief. That's when I decided to seek medical advice and reached out to Premium Care in Singapore, a medical concierge service that connects patients with top doctors in the field.

Premium Care arranged a visit for me with a senior consultant ENT surgeon, Dr. Leong, who explained that snoring is often associated with sleep apnea, a condition where a person stops breathing while they sleep. Apart from disrupting sleep, untreated sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of sudden death during sleep, as well as other health issues like heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension.

During a nasal endoscopy, Dr. Leong identified that I had a deviated septum, which could be contributing to my snoring and sleep apnea.

To further evaluate the severity of my condition, he recommended a sleep study called Diagnostic Polysomnography Sleep Study. This study involved the use of an advanced device called Phillips Alice 6 LDx Diagnostic sleep system, which utilized various sensors like vibration, thermal, pressure, SPO2, and leg sensors to detect movement and brain waves during sleep. Contrary to popular belief, the sleep study didn't require me to sleep for a full 8 hours – a minimum of 4 hours was sufficient to generate accurate results. I underwent the sleep study overnight at Farrer Park Hospital, where I had a decent night's sleep with a wonderful view.

After a week, I received the study report, which showed two key metrics: the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) and the Respiratory Disturbance Index (RDI). AHI and RDI are a measurement used to indicate the number of times a person stops breathing (apnea) or has reduced airflow (hypopnea) per hour during sleep. It is a key parameter used in diagnosing the severity of sleep apnea. These metrics, ranging from 0 to 30, indicate the severity of sleep apnea. A score of 0 to 5 is considered normal, 5 to 15 is mild sleep apnea, 15 to 30 is moderate sleep apnea, and scores above 30 indicate severe sleep apnea. My results showed that on average, my AHI/RDI was 20.5, and during REM (deep sleep), it was a staggering 46.4!

Armed with this information, Dr. Leong discussed the treatment options with me, which included non-intrusive, semi-intrusive, and intrusive approaches. The non-intrusive option was to lose weight, as a healthy BMI could potentially reduce snoring. The intrusive approach involved a minor surgery to correct my deviated septum and widen my tonsils. For those who may not be suitable for or comfortable with surgical options, a semi-intrusive treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine during sleep. A CPAP machine uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open while you sleep, effectively preventing episodes of interrupted breathing and helping you breathe normally. The CPAP machine consists of a mask that fits over your nose or mouth, connected to a device that delivers the air pressure. The pressure is auto adjusted based on the severity of your sleep apnea conditions.

After discussing the options with Dr. Leong, I decided to try the semi-intrusive approach of using a CPAP machine. I was initially hesitant about wearing a mask during sleep, but I quickly realized the benefits outweighed the minor inconvenience. The improvement in my sleep quality was noticeable almost immediately. I woke up feeling more refreshed and energetic, and my wife also noticed a significant reduction in my snoring. 

In addition to using a CPAP machine, I also made lifestyle changes to support my treatment. I focused on losing weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet (still in progress as I write this), as excess weight can contribute to sleep apnea. I also made sure to practice good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants like caffeine close to bedtime, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine to promote restful sleep.

CPAP is effective but some find it uncomfortable. Oral appliance therapy is an alternative for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a custom-made mouthguard-like device that repositions the jaw and tongue to keep the airway open, reducing sleep apnea and snoring. It's appropriate for mild to severe cases when CPAP is not tolerated. DP Dental in Singapore specializes in custom-made oral appliances that are comfortable and effective, providing an alternative to CPAP for those who struggle with it.

As I look back on my journey with obstructive sleep apnea, I am reminded of the importance of prioritizing sleep health. It's easy to ignore the warning signs of snoring, interrupted sleep, and daytime sleepiness, but untreated sleep apnea can have serious consequences for our overall well-being. Thanks to the support of my doctor and the team at Premium Care in Singapore, I was able to receive a proper diagnosis and find an effective treatment plan that included using a CPAP machine and making lifestyle changes. Now, I sleep soundly indeed (pun intended), waking up feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle the day. I am grateful for the improvements in my health and the positive impact it has had on my life and the lives of those around me.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, I urge you to take action. Seek medical evaluation from Premium Care and DP Dental in Singapore, and explore treatment options that may be available to you. Don't let sleep apnea go untreated, as it can have serious consequences for your physical and mental health. As Dr Leong said, "TIRING MAN IS AN ANGRY MAN". Remember, quality sleep is essential for our overall well-being, and it's never too late to prioritize your sleep health and take control of your life.