June marks both Men’s Health Awareness Month as well as Father’s Day, which is the perfect time to show our love for all of the important men in our lives. This month is extra special for me because it is my father’s birth month. I was blessed with a hard working and honest man as a father who always put the wellbeing of his family ahead of his own health. I see no other gift better I could give to my father than taking care of him in return.

As family members, we are essential for a doctor to gain perspective on our loved ones health. Afterall, we see the physical manifestation of their internal discomforts. My father, a 51 year old man, has had high blood pressure and diabetes for the past fifteen years. Prior to his obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis, doctors couldn’t figure out what factors were leading to such drastic results. Managing diet, exercise and even stress didn't improve his condition. 

Exhausted from unfavorable results, my mother started sharing her observations of my father’s behaviours. Piecing together clues like water intake, bathroom frequency, visible physical changes, etc. only led to dead ends because we did not know what we were looking for. One habit we would always ignore or deem unimportant was his snoring. We weren’t aware that being able to hear your father all the way across the house may be normal but it  isn’t healthy.  

That’s just the thing. We don’t know enough about sleep apnea. First and foremost, let's discuss some common symptoms. Loud snoring is at the top of any list related to sleep disorders and in this case, it’s a sign to see a doctor urgently. My mom, being a deep sleeper,  never realized that my father would actually stop breathing for a few moments. Lack of oxygen, also known as hypoxia, can cause severe damage to your brain . Even short term hypoxia can lead to lack of concentration, drowsiness and constant mood changes like irritability, leaving your mind vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

In today’s stressful world, sleepless nights are as common as smartphones and countless suffer from insomnia or hypersomnia. Though there are numerous factors in the modern world that could trigger insomnia such as blue light, a high probable root cause could be sleep apnea. Those who experience trouble staying asleep or even falling asleep at night, tend to experience extreme drowsiness during the day. This not only puts us in danger but also those around us like when we are driving and happen to fall asleep behind the wheel.  

 If your dad is anything like mine, then he does not mention any pain or illness he may be feeling as long as it’s manageable. The only way to know if there’s a serious problem is when there’s physical change associated with the condition such as visible tumors or increasing number of moles.  The men in our lives are at high risk of living with undiagnosed sleep apnea and the best defense they can have comes from us. By educating ourselves on the causes, symptoms and complications of sleep apnea, we can help our loved ones live happier and healthier lives. 

After all, knowledge is the most powerful medicine.

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