Last month, my husband told me to talk to my doctor and request a sleep study, because I stopped breathing so often while I slept. The first step toward getting a sleep study, I soon learned, was to visit the otolaryngologist, commonly known as an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor.
The main part of the exam was a nasopharyngoscopy, which involves using a flexible fiberoptic scope that is snaked through one nostril to get a look at the nasal passages and the throat. It’s not the most pleasant procedure, but compared to procedures putting flexible scopes through other parts of the body, it’s not too bad.
They numb the nasal passages first by spraying an anesthetic up the nose, as well as spraying a decongestant to shrink the tissues (I suppose to allow more room for the scope). The doctor warned me that these medicines would taste awful, but after the initial grimace at the nasty taste, I found it really wasn’t more than somewhat unpleasant, and only lasted a few minutes.
My nose apparently looks just fine (unlike my husband’s, who turned out to have a deviated septum when they did this exam on him a number of years ago). But the opening in my throat through which the air must pass was narrow enough that the doctor said obstructive sleep apnea was very likely the cause of my excessive tiredness.
I left the office feeling pretty good. Partly because I now have a sleep study scheduled for December 3, which may lead to treatment to help me sleep better. But also because that decongestant and anesthetic had temporarily removed the low-level discomfort in my sinuses and throat that I’ve become so accustomed to that I barely notice it any more until it gets worse.
In the meantime, I intend to adopt one of the suggestions the doctor had for getting to sleep more easily. I had already resolved to cut back on my late evening snacks, after this morning’s open enrollment meeting at work, where they talked about how important it is to make behavioral changes to improve our health and reduce our health care costs. But I want something that helps me sleep, and a cup of warm Ovaltine every night sounds like a pretty good idea.