My name is Lisa, little Lisa, little’un, or wee one, as I’m usually referred to by friends and family, or even, “that little lass with the loud mouth”, as I’ve also been fondly referred to by my acquaintances. I have a confession to make; I’m a snorer. But that’s not all, I raise the rafters, sound like a train, and snore like a pig or any other animal you can think of, I’m it, and I do it well. As well as snoring I had a habit of falling asleep in the most embarrassing places at the most embarrassing times, I can tell you a few stories about that, but first of all let me tell you why I see it as a confession.
Well my long suffering husband and I run a Bed & Breakfast in the bracing seaside town of Skegness. My husband cooks breakfast and I serve it. While doing this I have often had comments like, “I heard your husband snoring last night”, and similar. Then one day a nice lady looked at me pityingly, while gently patting my hand, and whispered to me: “I’m married to a snorer sweetie so I sympathise with you, the sleepless nights, thinking he’s stopped breathing and waking up just to nudge him so he breathes, those gaps can be very frightening dear so I know what it’s like. You should really get him to see someone about that for both your sakes”. I blushed and thanked her for the concern and advice, as I did whenever anyone else had made similar comments, but the truth was…….. I’m the one that they heard. I was too ashamed to admit this; I mean petite ladies like myself are not supposed to snore are they? It’s supposed to be middle aged men that are overweight isn’t it, just like only overweight people have high cholesterol. This not true either, I’ve always been slim but here I am with both of these problems.
My husband had often complained about my snoring keeping him up, how tired he was, and was now talking about us having separate rooms. I was a little shocked about this and didn’t know the impact it was having on him, after all he had always known I was snorer! Back when I was 18 years old my husband and I were courting we’d had a couple of dates, then two weeks after we’d first met I was invited to dinner with his family. I was a little nervous, but excited that his family wanted to meet me. I went along to dinner and afterwards we settled down to watch a film in the lounge. All the family where there including his sister, her husband, and their children, it was so relaxing and I was really enjoying myself. The next thing I remember was being woken up as no one could hear the television because I’d fallen asleep and was snoring so loudly! I was sooo embarrassed I asked him to call me a cab, thanking his family for their hospitality, and went home. I was so upset because I really liked this one, but didn’t really expect him to call me again after that.
Now here we are 25 years 2 children and a grandchild later and he wants to have separate rooms, the first step to a relationship break down in my mind. I really didn’t want this so I plucked up the courage to speak to my GP about it. The GP also told me that this may have been a contributing factor to the TIA (mini stroke) I had suffered and that I should have come to see him earlier, he then referred me to Dr Oko’s clinic.
That was three years ago now and I’m at the point where I can see that, one, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and two, the wasted time I spent being ashamed could have been spent getting treatment earlier and improving my health and quality of life for myself and my family. I mean, I’ve had my children wake me when I’ve woken them up in the night with the snoring, and I’ve tried to hold down working full time, raising a family, and running a business, while being tired all the time. I’ve fallen asleep at dinner parties, at training courses, while assessing people in their own homes, and have been judged as being bad mannered or rude for doing this. It had been a great family joke that, “our Lisa can fall asleep on a washing line in a storm”, and it’s true, I could. But until seeing Dr Oko I had never realised that it was also affecting my health and wellbeing and that of those close to me.
I had tried all the old wives remedies; tennis ball stuffed in my night wear; pillow behind me, etc. But none worked because it didn’t matter how I slept, if I laid on my back, front, side, or even sat up; I will still snore. I tried things on the roof of my mouth, the strips across the bridge of my nose, the olbus oil under my pillow, the plug-ins; been there done that, I still snore. I met with Mr Oko and he went through a few options with me.
I slept over at the sleeping clinic and we discussed what the problem was and what treatment might work for me. First I had the mouth guard, I had this fitted and tried it for a few nights. I hated it and couldn’t get on with it all. Then I had an operation, they straightened my nose (thanks for that!), took my tonsils out, and lasered the extra flesh from the roof of my mouth. I was quite sore after this but had placed all my hopes on it, rather a drastic move but the outcome was going to be worth it, or so I thought. That wasn’t the case at all, I had a vascular bleed 10 days after the op, it was quite scary and I was in a lot of pain, but it would all be worth it, wouldn’t it ?
NO is the answer to that, it wasn’t. It didn’t work and I was now desperate. As well as making all this noise when I slept I also now made noises when I ate, I often choked on drinks, and had a garden pea come out of my nose one time, and the snoring had gotten worse. What to do now? Mr Oko, however, never lost hope, he again asked me about the cpap machine. Me, all I could see was Darth Vader from the star wars films, and my husband’s face when he saw it!
Mr Oko reminded me of my health and gave me time to weigh up the pros and cons. I did, and agreed to give it a try. I tried the mask that went over your mouth and nose first. I hated it, I struggled to sleep with it on, and if I moved the air escaped and made my eyes sore. When I did fall asleep it woke me up when I turned over as it moved, so I felt panicked and took it off. I kept trying but couldn’t get on with it. Next time I tried one on that was smaller, it just covered my nose, this wasn’t much better again, I would get sore eyes, cold-like symptoms, and felt I was getting less sleep and feeling even more tired.
Next I tried the full face mask so I didn’t get sore eyes, and it was less likely to move if I turned over. Still it didn’t work, so now as well as being tired, keeping my husband awake, and being short tempered, I was feeling like a failure. Mr Oko must also have been losing patience with me, I mean how hard can it be? I just want to sleep, why did I have to be so awkward?
Eventually, Mr Oko gave me a new mask to go with the latest, “Lisa I don’t think you grasp how important this is”, lecture. This mask was much less intrusive, a tiny little thing that fits to my nostrils, and I took Mr Oko’s advice to try and desensitise myself to it. I wore it while watching TV and reading, my family would joke about it, and instead of it being my nightmare, it turned into a fun thing. My granddaughter even asks about it now, and asks if she can have one. I have since redoubled my efforts and got over the stigma of wearing it with the support of my family (a unique type of support that only my lot would do; sneaking pics and sending them to me, modelling in it, and laughing about it)
I think it has actually changed my life, I am sleeping better now (not that I ever had a problem sleeping), by that I mean the sleep I’m getting is better quality, I wake feeling better, more refreshed, I’m not falling asleep in the day, or sleeping 16 hours and still waking up tired. I’m getting on with life now and not worrying about dropping off in public places, and looking forward to taking the card to my next appointment with Dr Oko and finally having my last sleepover at the clinic wearing my mask so he can see we did it. We did it as a team if you like, me, Dr Oko, and my family. I don’t wear it every night, sometimes my granddaughter stays over and sleeps with me, I’d hate to frighten her in the night if she wakes, but on the whole I think I’m getting there. I’m not quite full of beans yet but I’m getting there, well, as much as be expected at my age anyway!