The initial appointment
I visited a certified sleep center in New York City, where my new doctor, Omar Burschtin, MD, looked into my mouth and told me I have a “floppy palate,” which can cause snoring. My wife had written down a description of my nighttime noises ahead of time, because she knew I wouldn't be able to explain them myself. Here's what she wrote: "When you are asleep and lying on your back, sometimes you make a loud snoring noise that tapers off to a quieter snoring noise (with shorter inhales) with subsequent breaths. Eventually, you seem like you are barely breathing in any air at all, your breaths are so short. Then you make a quick snorting noise (maybe to get air) that seems to wake you a little because it makes you shift positions."
When I read that to the doctor, he agreed that it sounded like obstructive sleep apneaa collapse of the upper airway during sleep that leads to interrupted breathing.
Dr. Burschtin recommended an overnight sleep study for an official diagnosis. I was hesitant because my father complained about a sleep study he'd done once; his doctor prescribed an uncomfortable continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask to correct his sleep apnea by opening his airway with pressurized air. He'd tried to wear it a few times, but gave up quickly because he said it was too difficult to sleep.
Spending the night
The day of the study, I felt anxious about sleeping in front of a video camera, but I showed up for my 10 p.m. appointment, answered a sleep-habit questionnaire, and entered my room. It looked like a simple three-star hotel room, minus the TV and clock. “We wanted to reproduce normal life as much as possible,” Dr. Burschtin told me. The video camera aimed at the bed reminded me I wasn't at the Hilton.