If I weren’t married, I wouldn’t have even noticed a problem. I felt like I was getting enough sleep. I wasn’t losing productivity at work. But while my chronic snoring didn’t seem to be causing me any problems, it was driving my wife crazy. Eventually, the angry wife, the elbows to the gut, and the waking up in bed alone led me to the doctor. When I first mentioned snoring to my general practitioner, he referred me to an ENT, an ear, nose and throat doctor, who suggested I try nasal strips and sleeping on my side with a tennis ball attached to the back of my shirt. Snoring is worse when you sleep on your back; the idea is that attaching something to the backside of your shirt might discourage you from lying in that position. But I continued to have problems: loud snores, sharp elbows, tired wife. My doctor ultimately called in a sleep study, an assessment of your brain activity and body movement while you sleep overnight at a lab set up specifically for these kinds of examinations. The doctors at the sleep lab monitor your sleep cycle, oxygen levels, and heart and breathing rates to help diagnose a variety of sleep disorders. When I received the report a few days after my sleep study, I learned I have sleep apnea—the musculature in my throat obstructs my upper airway repeatedly throughout the night. In a 5-minute period, I wasn’t breathing about half the time. Literally not breathing. Depriving your brain of oxygen like that can lead to serious health events like a stroke. I got fitted for a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine and was on my way. But life with the CPAP wasn’t easy and wasn’t working with my lifestyle. I resisted. So when a distant member of the family heard about my situation and recommended I see an ENT who had fixed his sleep apnea surgically, it sounded like an attractive solution. I met this second ENT and had two procedures: a deviated septum repair that was meant to straighten out my nasal passages, and a uvulectomy—removal of the uvula—to help clear out the airway. It was painful, but the surgery seemed to work for about eight years. Then the snoring came back worse than ever. Connecting With a Sleep Specialist In those eight years, I had switched primary care doctors. When I brought up the snoring problem to my new doctor, he didn’t refer me to an ENT; he sent me to Dr. Scott Leibowitz, a sleep specialist he really trusted within the same hospital system. From the start, I could tell Dr. Leibowitz was both credible and personable, and I still see him today. It was also clear he was not a believer in any gimmicky surgical solution for sleep apnea. He explained that the musculature surrounding the airway changes over time. So, if you have a propensity to snore, chances are any procedure to clear out the airway is only going to serve as a temporary fix. In retrospect, I should have skipped the surgery. It was discouraging because I thought I had conquered the problem, but then here I was having to do another sleep study and go back on the CPAP. I had been reluctant to do the sleep study the first time for several reasons: spending the night away from family, being strapped up to all the equipment, and knowing somebody would be watching me from the next room. But for the second study, the staff prepared me well, and I slept through the night. My advice for anyone preparing for a sleep study is to view it as an overnight business trip. It’s a one-night investment that will put you on the right path. As for CPAP machines, there are many options. And the designs are improving with smaller, quieter, and higher-tech models coming out all the time. My first CPAP was an over-the-nose, triangle-shaped mask. But now I use one that’s just a pair of plastic pillows that sit inside the nostrils. The key is to find one that fits well and creates a strong seal. If air leaks out when you turn in bed, that defeats the purpose—and a leaking CPAP sounds almost as bad as snoring. If you have sleep apnea, using a CPAP machine is going to leave you feeling better rested, healthier, and happier. At some point, committing to one just becomes a no-brainer—both for you and for your partner. It took me some time to make that commitment myself. But by connecting with a sleep specialist who has held me accountable to the CPAP, managing my sleep apnea has become just another part of my routine.