The therapy also helped our relationship a lot

Photo of a couple walking

Marcus, 62 years old

“I get the impression that it often takes many years for sleep apnea to be diagnosed at all. Some doctors put the symptoms down to burnout, as in my case, or depression or – in some women – menopause as well.”

About 13 years ago I noticed that I was becoming increasingly forgetful. I also felt very tired and sleepy during the day. I was on sick leave from work quite often due to exhaustion. This worried me and I went to see different doctors at regular intervals. They tried to reassure me and put it down to me getting older and my demanding job, working shifts, and high levels of stress.

About seven years ago I happened to be talking to my dentist about snoring. I have snored for as long as I can remember. And I snore a lot. The dentist told me to go and see an ENT doctor about it. This ENT specialist happened to be a sleep specialist, too. At that time I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a 'sleep specialist.'

He gave me a machine to take home to measure certain things while I was asleep. When he saw results he suspected sleep , and referred me to a sleep laboratory. I had about 40 breathing pauses each night.

I woke up in the morning and felt well-rested, I hadn’t felt like that for years

I was quite surprised when after three days in the sleep laboratory I found myself not only with a , but also with another machine: a breathing therapy device. I had already used one in the sleep laboratory. I woke up in the morning and felt well-rested. I hadn’t felt like that for years. I was a completely different person. It was fascinating. I carried on using the breathing machine after my stay in the sleep laboratory and after about six months my forgetfulness had disappeared. And mentally I was back on top form as well. Thankfully I don’t have any health problems as a result of the sleep because I started therapy early. My heart and circulatory system are fit and healthy.

Since then I’ve used the breathing mask every night. Once you get used to it, it really is quite simple. And it is usually not a problem for your partner either, because the machines are so quiet now.

Another option for some patients with sleep is a mandibular splint. I don’t use one myself, but I’ve heard from others that many people find them helpful if they are fitted correctly.

Of course there can be some technical problems

People can have lots of questions and concerns about machines (ed. note: respiratory therapy devices for sleep ). Of course there can be some technical problems, like the mask might not fit well, or the pressure isn’t right. For example, I sometimes have pressure marks on my face in the morning from wearing the mask. But they go away again after about an hour. People might also feel ashamed or be afraid that their partner might not love them or find them attractive anymore and that the machine might create problems. That’s why a lot of patients go to sleep self-help groups to talk with others about the therapy and other things. The self-help group is really important to me as a place to share experiences and get information.

When I got the machine, I was glad I felt well-rested every morning. That was the most important thing for me. At that time I didn’t worry about other possible problems that might be associated with the machine. I was just really happy and felt like a new person. I was able to perform well at work again and generally fit, and any possible problems and worries were pushed aside. My partner at the time was pleased that I was fully awake again and not so tired and exhausted anymore. The therapy also helped our relationship a lot. Because I wasn’t so tired anymore, I was able to listen and respond to my partner better. Our relationship got better because I was happier.

When I started a new relationship I was embarrassed about the machine. At first I didn’t want to tell her about it and at first I ended up lying a lot, saying that I suddenly had to get home at night even though it wasn’t true. I used to try and find reasons to avoid the subject. Then at some stage I figured I should mention it. And I’ve found that women accept my disorder. We talked about it calmly and everything was fine.

I can still remember that I would sometimes wake up feeling like I was suffocating

I always take the machine with me when I travel, which is quite annoying because it’s one more piece of luggage, but I can’t go a single night without it now, not even on vacation.

The machines keep on getting quieter, easier to use and less noticeable. Some of them look just like a radio alarm clock. You can just put it on the nightstand, and it doesn’t bother anyone.

I can still remember the nights before I had my breathing machine quite clearly. I would sometimes wake up feeling like I was suffocating. It didn’t happen with every breathing pause, but every now and then. I never used to mention that to the doctor. Nor did I mention the snoring. I had gotten used to it happening every now and then, and at that time I didn’t think it was too important.

I get the impression that it often takes many years for sleep to be diagnosed at all. Some doctors put the symptoms down to burnout, as in my case, or or – in some women – menopause as well. Patients often don’t tell their doctors about their snoring, because they don’t see a connection between snoring and their tiredness and exhaustion.


Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Updated on December 19, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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