It’s Not Where You Start: Sleepy Man

Originally published on It’s Not Where You Start.

I have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that prevents your air passages from staying open on their own while you sleep. For most people, your body deals with this situation by waking you up every time the passage collapses on itself, which in my case was close to 60 times a minute (that’s once a second!) when I try to sleep unassisted. When you wake up that often, you don’t necessarily feel conscious, but when you wake up “for real” in the morning, you feel as if you haven’t slept at all because, well, you haven’t.

There are generally two reasons why someone develops sleep apnea. Either they are massively obese — viewers of The Biggest Loser are familiar with the condition because it’s frequently listed among the reasons why being fat makes the contestants miserable — or their throats are just made that way. Sadly, I fall into the latter category. Each time I see my doctor, she begins a lecture about how I could lose a few pounds (and I know I could), but she stops herself short once she points her microscope at my throat, realizing that no matter what my weight, sleep apnea is my lot.

The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable. The bad news is that a) it’s not curable and b) the treatment is less than ideal. The treatment involves sleeping with a device that is essentially the bastard child of an air compressor and a humidifier, attached to my face via a mask that makes me look Darth Vader doing his best Hannibal Lechter impression. Makes for really sexy overnight dates, let me tell you. Sleeping with the mask on aslo means I wake up with marks on my face from the straps, and I have to be extra conscious of my skin care regimen lest I break out, which I do a lot.

[Mom, this is the part where you might want to stop reading.]

So why write about it here? Well, for one thing, had I not read of others experiences with sleep apnea on their blogs, I probably would never have connected my poor moods and lack of energy with the condition six years ago when I asked my doctor to order a sleep study for me. And, well, being back on the dating market, I haven’t quite figured out how/when to bring this up with new beaux. So far I haven’t schlepped the sleeping machine (which is about the size of a small toaster oven) to anyone’s house, but I also haven’t had a whole lot of overnight dates yet and one night without sleep is manageable. (And I haven’t brought any dates home, where at least the machine sitting next to my bed potentially opens up the conversation.)

One of the many things that was great about my previous relationship was that a) he was familiar with the whole sleep apnea deal because his dad had it and b) he made me feel really comfortable about the whole thing. Generally, there are enough insecurities whirling around the whole experience of going to bed with a new person, adding the whole “I need a machine to help me sleep and please don’t look at me because I hate the way I look while using it” thing isn’t super fun. So I’m a little curious how others out there in internet-land deal with this. I have no idea if there are any other sleep-apnea-sufferers even reading this thing, but I’m hoping that the beauty of tagging-and-twitter might help get this in front of some helpful eyes.

Oh my lord, am I suddenly looking to the internet for group therapy? Gentlemen, this is yet one more example of why I am anxious to get myself back into a long-term relationship. I appreciate the number of men who have wanted to go on dates with me, (and I’m not trying to brag when I say it has been somewhat staggering), but I get no joy out of the million little insecurities that get activated on every first date, every first kiss, every first everything else. Are there really people out there who enjoy this sort of thing?

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