Snoring Tent Mates and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Rodger Morris (rodger@FISHNET.NET)
Sun, 8 Feb 1998 09:52:46 -0800
I urge all whose snoring is so loud that they must sleep away from
the rest of the troop to seek a medical evaluation for possible
obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA). Read on:
I was one of those whose snoring literally scared new Scouts. They
thought a bear was invading the campsite. At first, it was funny and
became a troop joke. Over the next 20 years, it got gradually worse.
I used to try to camp at _least_ 50 yards, and preferably 100 yards away
from everybody else. I was always tired, and I struggled to stay awake
during the day. Now, I don't snore, and I experience no more than normal
tiredness. But, before I arrived at this happy state of affairs, I almost
I have something called:
"Severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome"
Snoring is caused by a partial blockage of the airway in the throat.
About 25% of adult males snore, and it tends to get louder with
advancing age. About 4% of adult males develop OSA. Women get it too,
but it is much less prevalent in females than in males. This syndrome
has many symptoms, but the most noticable to the outside observer is
that of extremely loud snoring, punctuated by prolonged silences of
up to a minute or more where the snorer is not breathing, ended by and
an explosive gasping.
This syndrome can and does kill. The risk of heart attack and stroke
are tripled, and the risk of falling asleep at the wheel and dying
in an automobile crash is quintupled. In the meantime, the body takes
a fearful beating. It is reportedly one of the most underdiagnosed
treatble medical conditions in the USA today.
My crisis point came in July of 1994 whilst I was at summer camp with
my troop at Camp Kern, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Camp Kern is at
7000' (2100m) elevation.
We arrived Sunday afternoon. By Wednesday morning, I was so exhausted
that I was falling asleep whenever I sat down, and my ankles had swollen
to almost the size of my calf muscles. I was worried that I might be
developing pulmonary edema. I went to the camp physician at the health
lodge. He checked me out and told me that my lungs were clear of fluid
buildup and suggested that I see a physician after I returned home. We
departed Camp kern on Saturday. On Monday, I scheduled a doctor's
After undergoing a "polysomnogram", wherein one is wired up with all
manner of sensors and monitored by a computer, I learned that I stopped
breathing 109 times per hour, that I was breathing on the average 22 seconds
out of every forty, that I stopped breathing for over a minute at a time,
that my peripheral oxygen level was down to 65% (90% to 95% is normal,
and 75% would trigger a "code blue" emergency medical intervention in a
hospital), that my heart was going arrythmic, that my heartbeat was revving
up and down between 70 and 130 beats per minute all night, that I was
getting almost no rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and that I was getting
zero Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep.
A subsequent ultrasound of my heart showed that it was greatly enlarged
because of how hard it had been working, but that I hadn't developed
congestive heart failure.
I had two surgeries to remove airway obstructions. The first was to
correct a badly deviated nasal septum and the second was to remove my
tonsils (which were so large they were touching in the middle of my throat)
and to remove the uvula and a half centimeter of my soft palate. I also
have a "Constant Positive Airway Pressure" (CPAP) machine to keep my airway
open whilst I sleep.
This machine is portable, and I have camped with my troop for up to a
week at a time with it. I run it off a marine deep cycle battery fitted
with an AC to DC inverter.
The medical intervention needed for OSA is usually not so extensive. Some
milder cases may be alleviated simply by losing weight. However, OSA is
not always caused by obesity.
One of my nieces (5 years old) is of normal weight and has a mild case of
OSA. A few years ago, the 10 year old son of a friend of mine (also of
normal weight for his height) needed surgery for a deviated nasal septum
after he was diagnosed with OSA. This also greatly alleviated his problem
of being inattentive in school. The poor little guy was simply exhausted
all the time.
OSA was unknown in the 1960s, but my loud snoring and gasping whilst I was
asleep was a topic of family conversation from the time I was 13 years old.
(At age 15, I was 5' 10" tall [1m 72cm] and weighed 135 pounds [61kg]).
This subject came up a few years ago here on SCOUTS-L, and there were a
surprising number of folks here who have this medical condition and are
still active in the outdoor program.
I hope this message may be of some assistance to some Scouter out there
who has OSA but is unaware of it.
Yours in Scouting,
Rodger Morris <email@example.com>
Asst. Scoutmaster, Troop 808 Wood Badge 416-18
Ventura County Council at Philmont, 1973
Camarillo, California, USA "I used to be a Beaver..."
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City