It was 2004 when I started to feel extremely tired every day, to the point where I was actually falling asleep at work in the afternoon. My husband would wake me up every time my breathing stopped during the night. I found this extremely annoying as I felt that it added to my exhaustion, I now realise that he was preventing me from suffocating in my sleep. Despite these telltale symptoms, as well as a range of other health issues I had developed during that time, it still didn’t really occur to me that I was suffering from sleep apnoea. I felt that I didn’t fit the profile, after all I was not overweight or a man. Everybody knows that women don’t snore!
Finally, I went to see my doctor to get to the bottom of what was causing all these issues. I undertook a number of sleep studies in various locations including both private and public hospitals, as well as in the specialist’s private sleep clinic. Finally, I received the news that I had moderate sleep apnoea, waking on average 12 times per minute. My doctor advised a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine which works by continuously applying mild air pressure in order to keep the airways open. I was trialed on a veritable plethora of variations of the machine: full face masks, nasals masks and mouth-only masks. Eventually we settled on a full face CPAP machine, which gave me the best results in terms of decreasing my number of apnoea episodes.
While I was now able to breathe during the night and was finally getting enough sleep, I felt imprisoned by the bulky and noisy CPAP machine. Despite my discomfort with my new CPAP machine, my doctor didn’t present me with any alternatives and I had no idea that there were other options out there until I went to see a sleep technician at an outreach program offered by a business in a neighboring town. A local business specialising in sleep apnoea, where I had gone quite a few times had been appalling – their customer service was nonexistent and at times they were downright rude. They showed me a number of Mandible Advancement Splints (MAS) but made no recommendations about where I could go to actually get one. I felt I had no option other than to look further afield, and I started researching sleep specialists on the internet, which is where I eventually came across Dr Levi’s Sleep Clinic.
I sent an online enquiry to Dr Levi, not expecting to hear from anybody for weeks. To my complete surprise, Dr Levi himself called me back within a very short period of time and proceeded to have a long and in depth conversation with me about my sleep apnoea. During that conversation, for the first time ever, I felt that someone was actually listening to me and truly understood where I was coming from. I made an appointment to see Dr Levi in Sydney the next week and made my travel arrangements.
I was very impressed by my first consultation with Dr Levi, I felt valued as a person and I learned that there were in fact many viable alternatives to the CPAP. Dr Levi recommended the MAS for me, and I learned that this was the treatment he used for his own sleep apnoea at the time. This made me feel very comfortable in accepting this treatment option. An impression was taken of my jaw and teeth and then my device was fitted and I was given instructions to adjust the splint by turning the hinge twice every couple of days and to call Dr Levi with regular updates. I also kept a diary outlining my experience and reports from my husband about his impressions of how I was sleeping. I found that the MAS was equally effective as the CPAP I had been using for 8 years, but I experienced an amazing freedom, being able to sleep without the bulky machine. I rejoiced in not having to deal with the indentations and red marks the CPAP machine had left on my face which would take hours to disappear. I also found it easier to sleep without the noise from the CPAP machine. Since I had the MAS fitted, I have done an at-home sleep test using my device and equipment supplied by Dr Levi. The results were fantastic.
I am now completely satisfied with my sleep apnoea treatment and feel that I am looking after my health in the best way possible. If I could give any advice to others who are suffering from sleep apnoea or snoring it would be that there are alternatives to the CPAP machine and it is really worthwhile taking the time and effort to find the treatment that truly works for you, everybody is very different and it’s a matter of finding what works best in your particular case. It’s so important to have a clinician who truly cares for your wellbeing rather than accepting an option you aren’t completely happy with.