Husband with severe sleep apnea

by Bobbie

My husband has severe sleep apnea diagnosed by a sleep study.

He stopped breathing an astronomical amount of times during the study. He has a CPAP but only wears it occasionally. He gets angry when I say anything about his non-compliance.

We do not sleep together as I cannot stand the snoring, choking, waking-up, jumping, etc. We have tried sleeping together when he wears the mask and it's a disaster as well.

He still has apnea episodes with the mask as somewhere during the course of the night the mask slips and starts sounding like a swarm of angry bees.

My husband has a VERY bad habit of reading at night. The trouble is that the minute he sits down to read he falls asleep and therefore doesn't put the mask on. I have tried to encourage him to stop this, but it's futile.

He is a very heavy mouth-breather but I think that lately he sounds like he is quite often short of breath. He is always tired. He says that driving isn't a problem, but we went on a weekend getaway and he fell asleep while driving and was heading for a ditch on the side of the road. I hollered his name to wake him up and then he got mad at me!

He falls asleep at work, church, the movies, etc. It's miserable for me to attend anything like this with him as he starts to snore loudly as soon as he falls asleep. We have a small church and it's hard to hide the sound of his snoring from the rest of the congregation! It's funny how people in the movie theater do not like the snoring during the film either.

The other night he went to use the bathroom before going to bed. He had been without the CPAP for several days and is like a walking corpse. I was laying in my bed and thinking what in the world is taking him so long. After about 5 minutes I heard snoring coming out of the bathroom. He was standing up trying to urinate. I waited another couple of minutes and then I heard a VERY load crash. I ran to the bathroom to find him picking himself out of the bathtub. He had fallen asleep standing up and fell over backwards into the tub. He re-injured a rotator cuff in his shoulder. You would think this would be enough to convince him to wear the mask. Not. He has gone 2 nights now without it.

The straw that has broken the camels back for me is that his libido (which used to be quite high) has all but disappeared. I'm a fairly "energetic" person in that area and to go for long periods of time in between "sessions" is not acceptable for me. I can't imagine why this hasn't been a wake-up call (no pun intended) for him.

I don't know how much more of this I can take. I feel like I'm married to a corpse. He has no energy to do anything. He falls asleep constantly. I think he is a danger to himself and others around him. He is a nurse by trade. Frankly, I wouldn't want to be his patient. He has told me that he has fallen asleep while standing up at work. He misses a GREAT deal of time from work. He's always calling in sick. If he didn't work for the government he would have lost his job a long time ago. He has many other health problems which I believe are either stemming from the sleep apnea or aggravated by it.

Are there any other solutions out there for a mouth breather with severe apnea besides the full face mask? I feel like I have lost the person I married to this disease. I fear being a widow long before my time because of it also.

Thanks so much for letting me rant. I hope someone has some suggestions that might help.


I really do understand your frustration, Bobbie. It's a shame your husband can't feel the benefits of a good night's sleep. He only needs one night of quality sleep to realize what he's missing, not to mention the health risks associated with sleep apnea.

I would ask your husband what he doesn't like about it and try to work through the issues rather than badger him about wearing it. He could have been improperly fit by the techician and be using the wrong mask or even need a BIPAP instead of a CPAP.

From talking to other suffers with sleep apnea, what appears to be the biggest obstacle to wearing the mask is the wrong mask or an improper fit. If wearing a face mask covering either the nose and mouth or just the nose, an improper fit allows air in many instances to leak toward the eyes.

He may also have other respiratory conditions, possibly brought on by untreated apnea, which can bring on weight gain. From what you have posted, I believe that he has probably suffered from OSA for a number of years and it has slowly deteriorated.

There is no doubt that he is on the road to an early death, whether it's a stroke, road traffic accident or accident at home or at work. He is obviously not the same person that you married, but with proper treatment therapy he might well get to being close to it.

A few suggestions:
Toughen your attitude with him. You have your life to lead and he is acting unfairly. He has been diagnosed, he has been prescribed a treatment therapy that works...he must become compliant. Many millions in the world are compliant with's not easy, but perseverence is the key to success. It's a lot easier than recovering from a stroke, heart surgery, stents, daily injections for diabetes etc. In fact it is merely a slight inconvenience. The positive benefits far outweigh any minor inconvenience.

If he refuses, you must protect yourself as you will have to live on after he goes. Substantial life cover and ensure that you are his pension beneficiary and that all payments are up to date. Let him know that you require this because he refuses to accept his treatment.

Is there anyone (close friend) in either your church or at his work who can talk to him?

I am truly sorry to see your predicament. Unfortunately it is fairly typical of a lot of OSA sufferers in the early stages..........he must move on to the next level.

I will ask other visitors to post from their own experience, maybe they have better helpful tips than me.

Good luck!

I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

Comments for Husband with severe sleep apnea

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May 13, 2010
Social suggestion
by: Tiffany

I'll just toss this social suggestion out. It is a lot easier to get angry with family members than other people.

If I were you, I think I'd think carefully about the people that go to church with me, and I'd pick out a couple of them that would likely be understanding and who don't gossip. Then I'd meet with one or more of them and tell them what you've explained here.

Your husband needs an intervention. Get these people to come over some evening, have everyone sit down in the living room, and let them tell him that he is falling asleep in church, snoring, etc., and that he obviously has a medical problem and needs to fix it.

Is there a doctor in your congregation? He/she might be more skilled at these kinds of conversations. It would work best if you have at least 2 people besides yourself, I should think. He needs to feel outnumbered in this situation.

Your husband needs to be encouraged to keep trying different masks to improve his compliance. I sure can't blame him for not liking it, but he needs to try harder.

May 13, 2010
Is your husband taking an anti-depressant?
by: Virginia

Is your husband taking an anti-depressant? I was taking effexorxr, and it made me what I cal "emotionally constipated".

My mother died, and my husband had a heart attack, and I knew I should feel something, but I really didnt feel upset about these things, and I should have.

I did finally get help for the sleep apnea, because I couldnt sleep at night and was falling asleep anytime I sat down and my life was miserable. I had to use the machine for a few months, then I started lowering my meds.

It took me a few months , but I am down to 75mg , and am feeling much more normal. I am able to think through my problems now and do something about them, instead of just sitting on my butt and watching life go by.

You need to go with him to his next visit with his primary doc, and tell the doctor what is going on in your house. He might not be fully aware of how bad things really are.

I was a church snorer also, a fellow apneac once wrote me a detailed letter about how he thought I had sleep apnea and what I needed to do to be treated. I was too drugged up and too sleep deprived to understand much of what he wrote.

I wish my husband would have insisted to the doctors that I get help for the sleep apnea, because it was so hard for me to think for myself. Good Luck, and God Bless, Virginia

May 13, 2010
Insurance Policy
by: Sleepy

At the very least...get him to agree to a large insurance policy on him ASAP.

Maybe you can get him to realize it's a life or death matter.

May 13, 2010
he's a medic?!
by: Dan

As a medic, he should certainly know better. I am surprised that he hasn't been suspended, or sent home on sick leave. Somebody must be covering for him.

May 13, 2010
Hope This Helps
by: Kath

Firstly Bobbie, I know you're add the end of your tether, but it's great that you're being a support for your husband, as you'd be surprised at how many partners aren't.
Ask your husband how he'd feel about a patient of his who refuses to take their own medication/treatment.

As a mouth breather, he has to wear a full face mask, but have you looked into the Hybrid or Mirage Liberty? Both these masks cover the mouth but have 2 nasal pillows so there's a lot less mask area. Also, it's much easier to read with these on.
Like someone's also said, he may not have been fitted with the correct mask. The good thing about the Liberty and Hybrid is that you get all sizes in the box (check this first, as you do in the UK).
As well as the mask being of the correct fit, there are also other CPAP Comfort Accessories out there to help (CPAP mask liners, hose covers, strap covers etc) to give more comfort.

Practicing wearing the mask attached to the CPAP machine is also a good idea whilst watching tv, to get used to it.
If you can just get him to use the machine for a week (comfortably that is) then he'd realize the benefits and wouldn't want to sleep without it.

I will add that I was the same when I first got my equipment, but the fact that my own mother had undiagnosed sleep apnea and died of a heart attack at aged 48 forced me to struggle on, and wow what a difference years later!

Have a look on some of the CPAP forums too, as there's loads of help out there.
Best of Luck!

May 14, 2010
I've been there!
by: Sparky

I can completely relate to where you are coming from. The difference in my situation is I was in your husband's shoes. I not only have sleep apnea though, I also have Narcolepsy (short definition: the brain gets confused about when it is sleep time and when it is wake time).

I had at least 2 car accidents that were due to this. I stopped at a stop sign and a second or so after looking to the left to check for cars and kids I fell asleep and rolled headfirst into a streetlight. No one was hurt, Thank God, but it scared the *^%@ out of me.

That was when I found out I have narcolepsy (15 years ago), but then it really got worse this year. I went and had a new sleep study done and found out I also have sleep apnea, with both obstructive and central apneas.

I was falling asleep standing up and sitting down, anytime I was not involved with continuous movement and/or excitement. If I was sitting more than a few min. at a time without a lot going on I was involved in I was out cold, I could not even make it though one of my favorite TV shows.

If someone woke me up, I was awake for a few min. and then out again. I was literally sleeping my life away and feeling like I had been hit with a mach truck. I was exhausted, fatigued, feeling like a corpse (as you put it), it was horrible.

My advice is first as someone mentioned before, going to his next Dr. visit with him. He may or may not be telling the Dr. about all of this. He may not be letting the Dr. know how bad it is, or even realize how bad it is.

It really sounds to me like he does not even realize how often he is falling asleep. This is the main indicator that made me go to the Dr. 15 years ago and find out I had narcolepsy. I realized that I was driving to and from work and there would be many days, if not most days that I did not remember driving by a lot of the areas I passed on the way. That scared the heck out of me.

I know how he feels though; I did NOT even want to hear that there could be a problem. I had to come to the realization myself, but I did not have a spouse at the time to help me see either. I was single then and in my twenties and I was suffering from what most twenty something?s go through, the "invincible syndrome" (as my Dr. calls it), and I did not realize how bad it was.

He REALLY REALLY needs to get some help before he causes serious injury to himself or someone else. Not to mention the possibility of losing his job or worse. I really hope you find the treatment he needs to function normally. Good Luck and I will add you to my prayers. Try to be patient, but do not give up and continue to push till he gets tired of hearing it and finally gets something done if nothing else to stop the nagging.

May 14, 2010
Thank you all for your help!
by: Bobbie

Thank you all very much for your help and sympathy. Wow, Kath, your mother was so young at 48. I'm sorry for your loss...Why does someone has to die before we the obvious thing?

Things have gotten a wee bit (and I mean wee) better. Today, we carried a desk into the house from my truck. We propped the screen door open with a jug of laundry detergent. The drawers had been taken out so it was lighter. After carrying in the desk itself, I left to run several errrands.

He was supposed to bring the drawers in and insert them into the desk. When I arrived home, the screen door was still wide open as well as the inner door. As I was walking up the driveway I could hear the snoring coming from the house. He had taken the drawers into the house, put them in the desk, sat down and fell over backwards asleep.

I came in and woke him up. I was worried that anyone could have come into the house and made off with whatever we had that was worth taking - he would've heard a thing. When I told him this he just made a joke that the snoring would have scared them away.

I'm so tired off looking at my husband and seeing his eyelids at "half-mast". I just keep praying that something will change. Heck - I'd go for the tracheotomy, even. (There have been times I would have gladly given him one my own self!) Of course, it wouldn't be me with the hole in my neck but he's a nurse so he would know how to take care of it. Question - how often DO doctors perform tracheotomies these days?

Thanks again!

May 14, 2010
I hear you loud and clear...
by: Anonymous

It's VERY hard to be supportive and loving when your spouse is stubborn, unreceptive and seemingly clueless.

Jan 24, 2015
You cant force him.
by: Anonymous

I don't mean to scare you but have a sit down with him to get his affairs in order.
Starting with funeral arrangements than next would be to think about your life without him and can you make it financially, if not get a life insurance policy.
I know that sounds harsh but you need to look out for yourself.
Have start talking to his friends and co-workers he will find he is not alone and may actually start to wear his cpap you could actually have an intervention with others that use a cpap.
I have only wore one in a sleep study for one knight and did not like it, however I cannot deny that I had a great knight of sleep.
I am waiting for mine to be delivered so I can start wearing it and get use to it and I am afraid that I have the same thoughts as your husband I don't like change.
But I do love my family and for them I will do anything.

Feb 21, 2015
any update? I am in the same position as you.
by: melanie

Bobbie, it has been almost 5 years since this post.. any update on your husband? Wow, I hope things got better. My husband is in the same boat... it is getting worse by the day. Sadly, he wont even see a doctor and wont get help. I know he is suffering from sleep apnea and narcolepsy.. they are both conditions that are worsening. He has no energy and sleeps on the couch sitting up. He is 400 lbs and unemployed (looking for work) and he dozes about 20+ times per day but he doesn't even think he is doing it! I am so scared I am going to be a widow. He is only 45 years old. I hope that things got better with your husband. I hope to hear good news. Take care Bobbie.

Sep 21, 2015
by: mandy

hi my husbands the same he has sleep apnea as iv sat and listened to him breathing he only takes 2 breaths and stops for about 30+seconds then he coughs wakes up then sleeps again.we dont sleep together havnt fo 20yrs now hes 52 im 51 he wont war a mask or go dr he just says its ok we all have to die so just drop it. i am very worried bout him and hes being very selfish about it and how it makes me feel.

Feb 29, 2016
Horrible thing to mention...
by: Anonymous

My husband had the same exact problem. Once I read the "eyelids at half mast" portion I knew I had to say something.

Not saying for Bobbie, but for everyone reading. These are also the signs for opiate addiction...

I found out the hard way and I am now just picking up the pieces. Please don't rule it out, I never thought my now ex EVER would have had a problem. He dislocated his shoulder and was prescribed painkillers. It snowballed from there. Again, so sorry to mention this.

Dec 09, 2016
My brother's sleep apnea
by: Anonymous

My brother does almost the exact same thing your husband is doing..he fall sleep everywhere..he fell it's the bathroom twice..and broke the bottom part of bathroom sink..all the thing u mention and describe are almost similar to my brother..the loud snoring, no energy to do anything, he say he's fine while driving, he get upset when u bring it up about him falling asleep.. this all started right after my grandma passed away the beginning of 2016..

And he moved into her slowly progress as time went on. The weird part is that he get a day or two to be normal..then he'll go back to doing it again..he seems to go in the bathroom a lot at night and fall asleep in there for hours, when he doesn't need to use the bathroom..

Apr 18, 2017
Same Situation
by: Anonymous

I am in the same situation with my husband. He won't go to the doctor and he falls asleep all the time. When I tell him, he says he didn't fall asleep. I am worried when he is driving the kids around. I want to protect myself but how do I get more life insurance on him without him getting a medical check up. As I said before, he will not go to the doctor or get a high amount of insurance since it requires a medical check. At this point, he has gained so much weight, the premium would be higher. What do I do to protect myself and the kids?

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