Post Script. This was posted in 2011. It is now 2015. I did, indeed, have apnea - a painful night in the sleep lab proved this. I have been successfully treated with a mouth appliance that forces my tongue forward and thus opens the breathing passage (see the description of that here). It also stops my snoring, which the reluctant wife believes is worth the price of admission, which was pretty steep. The other common treatment is a CPAP machine. I tried this and, for me, it was like sleeping in a wind tunnel. Maybe I would have gotten used to it in time, but thankfully the appliance has worked.
A couple of other things I have learned. About a year after I began treatment, I looked back at my ratings of my sleep and my health when I sought treatment. I was in bad shape, but once I got better I forgot how bad it was. I was having heart palpitations and significant problems with attention and concentration. A year later, I recalled that when prompted, but really had lost track of it. I think that happens with our patients who are doing better and sometimes don't remember how bad it was when they weren't.
My sleep is not perfect now. Especially when I am distressed about things at work, it can get pretty bad. But I can also analyze my dreams, work on what is distressing me - which usually means facing something I would rather not - and the sleep will get better. And I don't have dreams about being trapped in small spaces. Just remembering them as I write this is enough to give me the Willies and to fear they will return, but they haven't. I couldn't process my dream life in the ways that I am now when the apnea was interfering with the sleep. Then the stress related disruptions were much larger and addressing the problems did not lead to a return to sleeping well. I think this, too, is part of the human condition. Our various difficulties tend to be additive. When we are not doing well in one area it contributes to difficulties elsewhere. Yet another reason to do a very wide ranging diagnostic work up to identify multiple possible contributors to the presenting symptoms.
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