Sleep Lab: An Inside Look

One woman’s exhausted journey into the world of sleep science.

From the WebMD Archives

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I snore. I’ve always snored, but I’ve only recently been able to admit it publicly.

When I was eight years old, my concerned parents took me to a specialist, who declared my adenoids unfit and scheduled an immediate surgical removal in the hopes of resolving my snoring problem. Normally, the medical team would take the tonsils at the same time, based on the theory that one bad set of vestigial organs may lead to another. Not mine. My doctor left my tonsils intact and when I awoke bewildered from surgery, I was greeted with orange sorbet and a pair of quietly ticking time bombs in my throat.

Why is this important? Fast forward 25 years, past annual bouts of severe tonsillitis and strep throat. Here I am, sitting on an examination table with an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist shining a light into my mouth with a thoughtful, almost reverent look on his face.

“Your tonsils are huge,” he says, and I’m not sure whether to take it as complement or critique. He sits back in his chair. “Do you snore?” he asks.

I should note here that I’m female. And everyone knows girls don’t snore. We don’t sweat, we don’t curse, and we certainly don’t snore. I’m hesitant to own up to this shameful problem, but he doesn’t wait for my answer. Instead, he shines a light up my nose.

“Did you know you have a deviated septum?” he asks. This is news to me. I reluctantly admit that yes, I’ve been told I snore by a weary, sleep-deprived husband.

This is when he tells me that he believes my snoring is caused by sleep apnea, due in large part to big tonsils and worsened by a deviated septum. We discuss the health risks of sleep apnea, including hypertension, heart disease, and even stroke. He recommends that I participate in a sleep lab in order to be properly diagnosed and identify treatment options. After much persuasion, I finally agree.