Several readers responded to my recent column on how to keep from nodding off during afternoon seminars. Some were concerned about my health and suggested that I see a sleep doctor.
Elizabeth Classen, a family practice physician assistant in Newton, Kans., reached out to one of my bosses.
"Hello! I just read Ron Smith's commentary, 'How to avoid nodding off in seminars,' in the 3-12-2020 Southwest Farm Press. His article perfectly describes sleep apnea symptoms. I would like to send him an article or just encourage him to touch base with his family doctor.
"Sleep apnea, untreated, can cause a host of health issues as well as daytime sleepiness. It is rather easily diagnosed and treated."
I appreciate her concern and responded.
Elizabeth, "Thank you for your concern. I do have sleep apnea and have been on a BI-PAP machine since last summer. I sleep well now. That column was a whole lot of tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at myself for losing concentration at seminars. It’s nothing new. Even when I was younger, those afternoon sessions following a big lunch were sleepers. I had the same issue in basic training, as a matter of fact, but always had a kindly drill instructor nearby to yell in my ear to perk me up.
"I do understand the importance of adequate sleep and the problems with sleep apnea. I have not gotten to the point where I am crazy about my machine, but I do know that I sleep better. Thank you again for your concern."
She included these links to access more information about sleep apnea.
At home self-questionnaire (Epworth scale): https://www.healthline.com/health/epworth-sleepiness-scale.
Health effects of apnea: https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-apnea/effects-on-body#1.
Another reader also suggested that I consider a sleep apparatus. I assured him that I am using one.
That column was a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating explanation of a situation many of us who routinely attend day-long seminars experience. I've witnessed others struggle to keep their eyes open, too. Often, it has less to do with the presentation than with the hearty lunch or the late dinner the night before.
However, if that column can serve to inform folks about what can be a serious health issue, it's worth a follow-up.
I resisted seeing a sleep doctor for several years, dreading the drudgery of linking myself to a machine every night. My wife convinced me to see the doctor.
It took several months and multiple adjustments, including switching from a C-Pap to a Bi-Pap, to see full benefits. I sleep better, rarely get up in the night, and no longer snore, which Pat appreciates. She sleeps better, too.
I have mixed feelings about the machine. I don't like being tethered to it; it reminds me that I am getting older. But I sleep better. As for my seminar attention span, we'll see.