Getting Treated for Sleep Apnea Changed My Life

Snoring was just the tip of the iceberg

The Complete Sleep Team

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Dec 18, 2023
Updated: Feb 26, 2024
Complete Sleep Lens
Jody Martin is a real-life sleep apnea patient whose inspiring story shows just how transformative getting treated for sleep apnea can really be.
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We recently spoke with Jody via Zoom. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Complete Sleep: When did sleep apnea first become a problem in your life?

Jody Martin: Right after I got out of the Marine Corps, that’s when I started snoring. Since my dad had always snored, it seemed like no big deal to me.

But as I got older — and honestly, fatter — it got worse. I mean, even the dog couldn't sleep in the same room as me. My wife and daughters could hear me in the living room with the TV on and earplugs in. There were a few times people recorded me and of course I’d get mad at them because I was embarrassed.

CS: How were you feeling during this time, before you got diagnosed and treated? 

JM: I felt run down, like I just didn't have the energy to do anything. When I was younger, I used to love to work in the yard and be outside. I was practically never in the house. But as the sleep apnea hit me harder, I just didn't have the energy for it.

My life turned into a series of naps. It was a running joke — everybody would say, “Oh, it’s 1:00 p.m., that means Jody’s got to have his nap.” And honestly, if I didn't get my nap, I was not a pleasant person to be around. 

CS: You’re a small business owner. Do you think this tiredness prevented you from making your business as successful as it could be?

JM: Oh, a hundred percent. I was working and making money, but there were days when I would actually fall asleep sitting at my computer at 9:00 a.m. I couldn't keep my eyes open, and yes, there were definitely plans I had for my business that I just didn't have the energy to complete. You know, I think back on how I could have expanded and I realize that a lot of opportunities came my way that I just didn't have the energy for.

CS: What was it like at home?

JM: Before I got treated, my wife and I couldn’t even share a bedroom. We had a three-bedroom house, but we had two teenage daughters who weren’t sharing a room, so either my wife or I would have to sleep on the couch every night. 

CS: Do you feel like it was harder than usual to be a parent due to your sleep apnea? 

JM: It takes a lot of energy to deal with two teenage girls, no matter what — the amount of drama is pretty phenomenal. But I was so irritable because I wasn’t sleeping, and ultimately, I just didn't have the energy for them. I didn’t want to hear about their day. I look back on that and I wish I had. But I barely had enough energy to focus on what I absolutely had to at work, and that was it. 

CS: How did untreated sleep apnea affect your relationship with your wife?

JM: We've been married 29 years and I tell you, I love her more today than I loved her yesterday. But at that time, we were damn near living separate lives, and it drove us completely apart. She’d say, “I wish you'd sleep in a bed with me,” so I’d lay in there with her until she went to sleep, but then I had to get up and leave before I fell asleep because as that happened, I’d snore so loudly that I’d wake her up.

Eventually, we had completely separate bedrooms. When my older daughter moved out, we converted her bedroom into a guest room, and I started sleeping in there, but at least all my things were still in our bedroom. Then I figured it was kind of a pain going in there to wake my wife up just so I could get dressed, so I moved some clothes into the guest room. It was a slow progression. One day, I realized all my stuff was in one room and all my wife’s was in another.

CS: What prompted you to get treated?

JM: Whenever I stopped snoring, my family would absolutely freak. If I was snoring loudly, they knew it was safe, but if I got into a sleeping position where I stopped, it was terrifying for them. The girls would make my wife come check on me because, you know, if anybody was going to walk in there and find me dead in the bed, it was going to have to be her. So she would come to the door, pause for a second, pray that I wasn’t dead, and open the door. Obviously, I didn’t want her going through that all the time.

Then I got sick and realized I couldn’t take cold medicine or anything that would make me drowsy because if I did, I really might never wake up. Eventually, it got to the point where every night when I’d lay down to go to sleep, I didn't know if I was going to wake up in the morning. That’s when I decided that I had to do something. 

CS: This was taking a toll on your whole family. 

JM: It was. You know, that's honestly why I agreed to this interview. There are a lot of guys out there, especially guys my age — we were brought up a certain way. You just deal with what you get, you know? For me, I was a foster kid, and right out of high school, I went into the Marine Corps, so I've always been pretty self-reliant, and it’s hard for me to admit when there's something wrong and ask for help.

When I was younger, I thought sleep apnea wasn’t something I could control. I’d say, “Look, I snore. I can’t just stop sleeping. If I could, I would.” You kind of dig yourself into a hole. But the consequence can be that maybe you don’t wake up one day — you’re dead at 45 and your family has to deal with that.

CS: What would you want to say to someone like yourself, a guy who thinks he probably has sleep apnea but has avoided treating it? 

JM: Get some help. There's so much more to receiving treatment for sleep apnea than that you stop snoring. It changes the way you feel, the way you act. I mean, my whole mood has changed. I used to be kind of snappy and like I said, I was tired all the time. It’s just one of those things — it's hard to be happy and carefree when you don't know if you're going to wake up in the morning. How could you possibly be in a good mood? You’ve got the sword of Damocles swinging over your head.

CS: So I know that the first time you tried to get treated, it didn’t exactly work. Could you tell me a little about it?  

JM: The old school way of doing it, there’s such a disconnect between your primary care physician and whatever sleep lab you go to. After the lab, they send you somewhere else to get the machine, then you go and see someone else to get the machine set up. And none of those people are talking to each other or taking responsibility for anything. It's a system set up for finger pointing. If there’s a problem, it’s not their fault. 

CS: I keep hearing that from sleep apnea patients! That’s what our CEO experienced, too, which is why he wanted to start Complete Sleep. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to change that and create a central system you can always get help from. So the first time wasn’t a good experience for you — what’s your advice for people who tried to get treated for sleep apnea a while ago and it didn’t work out?

JM: My advice is that it’s worth trying to get treated again and you can use a different system. Also, if anything about the process or the treatment isn’t working for you, you’ve got to tell them, even if it's something that feels stupid. Last year, the device I’d been given had nasal pads that were too small for me, and it was giving me pimples on the inside of my nose — which is not something anybody wants to admit to. But it turned out that all I had to do was switch to the medium-sized pads and use some vaseline. I’ve never had any trouble with it since.

CS: It's been just over a year since you received proper treatment and had everything correctly adjusted. Have you had any problems since? 

JM: Nope, it’s been great. After I finally got the correct treatment, everything changed. I could sleep — I was comfortable. I’ve had zero problems with my treatment in the past year, and I feel great. I’ve been able to actually start making plans for the future. My wife and I sold the house and bought a class A motorhome. We've been traveling the country since April. 

We're going to stay here in Texas for a little while, then go to Arizona and New Mexico and then when summer starts, head up towards Montana. I really want to see the National Parks, especially Yellowstone.

CS: And this kind of adventure would have been unthinkable before sleep apnea treatment, right?

JM: Oh, yeah. I mean, we couldn't have lived in the same motorhome — it’s not big enough for us to sleep in at the same time without my mask on. We've been married for 29 years and have always been best friends, but by doing this, we got to basically rekindle our relationship. It’s different going to sleep and getting up together in the same bed. It’s a blessing. 

Before treatment, too, I would have never gone on a trip like this because I’d be worried that we’d be in Montana or something and I’d go to sleep and just never wake up. For a long time, I stopped making long-term plans — I didn’t want to make plans beyond the next couple of weeks.

CS: So you were avoiding considering the months and years ahead because you thought that there was a very serious possibility that your sleep apnea was going to kill you?

JM: Yeah, at the time, I figured there was probably a 60% chance every time I closed my eyes that I just wasn't going to wake up, especially if no one was there. When you get to the point where you've accepted the fact that you're probably not going to wake up every time you go to sleep, it changes the way you think about everything. It demoralizes you. It used to break my heart thinking about what my family was going to do when I was gone. One of the hardest parts, for me, was thinking about not being there to walk my girls down the aisle at their weddings. 

Now that I've got my machine, I go to bed and know I'm going to wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep. I’m thinking about what we’re going to do next week, next month, next year. We’ve made reservations for six months down the road at RV parks, and we can't wait to get there.

CS: You’ve been traveling so much! Have you also been more active since getting treated? 

JM: Oh, definitely. Before treatment, even when you're awake, you're only half awake, so you aren’t really able to do anything. These days, I can get up and we can spend the day walking around or go bike riding. I’m able to do so much that I never would have thought about doing before. It’s a complete lifestyle change. I’ve lost weight, too: I went from 289 pounds to 206 pounds, although now I’m back up to 230. But that's only because I’m living life on the road and there are so many good restaurants. 

CS: Let’s not kid ourselves: CPAP and BiPAP machines are kind of scary-looking. Do you ever feel embarrassed having one?

JM: Honestly, I'd be scared to death to sleep without that machine. If I got eight hours down the road and realized I left it behind, I'd turn right around and come get it. Getting treated for sleep apnea changed my life so drastically that I don't care if people know I sleep with this Darth Vader mask on because I feel a thousand percent better. 

CS: Any last thoughts or guidance you’d like to offer people who are hesitant to get tested?

JM: I like to compare having sleep apnea to boiling a frog. If you throw a frog into boiling water, he'll jump right out. But if you put a frog into cold water and slowly heat the water up, he'll stay there until he boils to death because he never really notices the change. In the same way, sleep apnea can start off bad, but you don’t see it as bad, and then get progressively worse. And of course, you don’t really notice if you're a little bit more tired than you were yesterday.

Then the depression sets in and you stop caring. If you don't have someone pushing you to get some help, then let this be your wake-up call: you've got to get this fixed. Do the sleep test, get diagnosed, get treatment, and make sure you get the follow-up care you need. And if the treatment you get isn’t working for you, go back and ask for help — that’s critical. It could save your life. 

Jody was not treated through our services at Complete Sleep; we’re glad to say he found a treatment that worked for him before our company was even founded. If you’re interested in hearing more of Jody’s story, we recommend checking out Episode #87 of Sleep Apnea Stories with Emma Cooksey.

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