It all started one day in December during my senior year of high school; I realized I could no longer stop ignoring the bad morning headaches and fatigue I have been experiencing for the past eight months. It was hard to focus, my grades had dropped from being at the top of my class, and I didn't have clarity in my day to day activities.  I was feeling horrible, it didn't make sense.

That day I decided to schedule an appointment with my doctor. I told him exactly what was going on with my headaches. He immediately sent me for an MRI of my brain and referred me to a neurologist. That's when my journey began.

Soon after I went to see the neurologist. She said that the MRI is completely normal, however, she recommended a sleep study to make sure I didn't have sleep apnea. This left me feeling very thankful and relieved that I didn't have a brain tumor or anything like that. Nevertheless, I still didn't know what was causing the headaches, sleepiness, and fatigue so I proceeded to go through with scheduling the sleep study. Along with this, my doctor ordered an array of blood tests to rule out other causes of fatigue. These all came back normal.

Weeks later it was time for my sleep study. I came to the clinic and they started by hooking up many electrodes to my head in order to monitor my brain waves (EEG). After this, they showed me to my room where they hooked up electrodes to my limbs and strapped bands around my chest. Just like at home, it was hard to fall asleep, but eventually, I did. Throughout the night I woke up many times, again also like usual. Finally, I woke up early in the morning with headaches and left the clinic for school.

About a month later I got the results from the study. It stated that I had sleep disordered breathing and that it was recommended that I consider surgery or CPAP. After seeing this I quickly went into denial. I could not see myself getting surgery or wearing that "stupid mask" all night. When trying to sleep and when waking up in the middle of the night my nose would always be stuffy or clogged. So irrationally, I blamed it all on my nose. I believed my stuffy nose was the sole cause of my sleep apnea. For the next year, I began to rely on nasal sprays like Flonase, Patanase, and Astelin along with medications like Allegra and Claritin for my breathing. Additionally, I would use exercises, medication, and ice, to try to control the headaches. This worked for some time, however, eventually, my symptoms began to worsen. By the end of that year, I was in college extremely tired most of the day and barely focusing or staying awake during lectures. I ended up withdrawing from college.

These events were a serious wake-up call and soon after withdrawing, I got a CPAP machine along with a mandibular advancement device(MAD). The combination of these made a significant difference. I no longer needed to use any medications, my nose cleared, and I was less tired although still sleepy. The only problem was that I could only use the CPAP at lower pressures because I would develop bloating and stomach pains at higher pressures. Thus CPAP alone could not really treat the OSA. That being said, adding the MAD along with the CPAP allowed for these treatments to work.

If you are curious about what happened next on my journey, take a look at the next article: Sleep Surgery Consultation at Stanford