What If Your Exhaustion Is Really a Sleep Disorder?

Sleep is hard to come by as a mom, especially in the early years. I knew being a parent would be exhausting, but I had no idea how much it would really affect me. Ever since I had my first baby I’ve felt the heavy weight of sleep deprivation that never seemed to let up. It even led to one of my most embarrassing moments where my mind was so scatterbrained I drove away with a gas pump. Sleep deprivation has affected everything from my mood, my energy level, and even my memory and ability to think clearly.

Over the years I have struggled with depression, and one of the symptoms of depression can be fatigue. I always assumed that the depression along with the struggles of waking up during the night and early in the mornings with little ones was the cause of my never-ending tiredness. I kept thinking one day things would get better.

I plugged along in life accepting the fact that I may always feel this way; that I may never feel rested again. At least, until the kids grew up and moved away. It wasn’t until this year that I discovered a new reason for my exhaustion: I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

I had an inkling that I may have sleep apnea because my husband kept telling me that along with my extremely loud snoring, he would hear me coughing and almost choking as I rolled restlessly in my sleep. But I didn’t want to think that a relatively young person would have this problem. And the idea of using a CPAP machine scared me. So I put it off.

I started seeing a new psychiatrist last Fall to adjust my medications. She did a very thorough assessment of all my symptoms and asked me tons of questions about each one. She spent a lot of time gathering information about my sleep habits and fatigue symptoms. At the end of the appointment, she suggested that I get a sleep study done to see if there were any physical reasons causing my fatigue, because what I was describing seemed to go beyond the typical depression symptoms.

sleep study equipment
All ready for my sleep study

She ordered an at-home sleep study for me which was all handled by my insurance. I received the sleep study kit in the mail with instructions on how to set up the device and wear it. I wore it for two nights in the comfort of my own home and sent it back in the mail to be processed. The results that were sent to my doctor shocked me: the test showed I had been waking up 18-20 time PER HOUR every night.

No wonder I was tired! I knew I had woken up some, but nowhere in my thoughts was the possibility that I was waking that much. Of course I felt tired all the time. I wasn’t able to recover from the day or gain much of the restorative benefits of sleep that we all need.

I was referred to a sleep center where I got set up with my CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the machine wasn’t nearly as big, as loud, or as restrictive as I had imagined. The staff at the sleep center showed my everything about the machine and fitted the headgear and everything for me.

CPAP machine
Getting fitted for my mask

I have used my machine almost every single night since I’ve gotten it, and it has made a huge difference. My sleep is more restful, and sleeping with the mask on is not a big deal at all. Once you fall asleep you don’t even notice it. In the beginning I would get all worked up about having to wear the mask, so the hardest part was making myself relax so I could fall asleep. But now it’s just part of my routine.

Some people ask me if it bothers my husband and the answer is no. He says it is much better than listening to me snore and cough all night and move restlessly in the bed.

Most importantly, I feel like I have taken a big step in taking charge of my health. The staff at the sleep center taught me about all the health risks of untreated sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and strain on your heart because your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. It also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, depression, and more.

sleep apnea effects
Sleep apnea effects. Image via shutterstock.com

The moral of the story is that sleep is extremely important and if you feel like your level of fatigue never improves and you don’t feel restored after a long night’s sleep, there may be something else going on. Even if you do not have sleep apnea, there are other sleep disorders that could be causing some of your symptoms.

Our health as mothers is vital to the rest of our family. We deserve to take care of ourselves. Our health has to be made a priority. Sometimes it’s hard to fit in those appointments in our schedule and make time for ourselves, but if we want to have the best chance possible of living a long and healthy life, we have to make it happen somehow.

So whatever that thing is you may be putting off…just do it. It’s so worth it.

Kristen Gardiner
Kristen is currently a stay-at-home mom to three wild boys, ages 9, 7, and 4. Kristen was born and raised in San Antonio & she and her husband recently moved their family to Allen in 2018 after a four-year stint in Oklahoma City. Kristen loves to write about motherhood, mental health, and child safety. She is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and has a passion for contributing hands-on car seat education to her community. In her spare time, she loves binging on Bravo shows while sipping a Diet Coke.  Share in the everyday highs, lows, and humor with Kristen at Driving Mom Crazy, and on Facebook or Instagram.

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