Dr. Mark Burhenne wrote an emotional reflective piece on one of the underappreciated effects of sleep apnea: children who lose their fathers at a young age.
Sleep Apnea Can Take Men in Their Prime
Early on, Dr. Burhenne says of his father, “If anyone seemed like they could defy death, it was my dad.” This is the way that many children feel about their fathers. They loom large in our minds: large, powerful, intimidating, even god-like. We are in awe of their wisdom, their strength, and their achievements. Because they hide their health problems from their children, it is easy to believe that they are immortal.
But it’s not true at all. Fathers are just as mortal as any man, and those with sleep apnea are even more so. Men age 40-70 who have sleep apnea are twice as likely to die as those without sleep apnea. These are men who should live decades, but they are taken early because of their sleep condition.
Fathers Still Have a Role as Children Get Older
When society represents the importance of fathers, we mostly see pictures of fathers with younger children. They play swords or dolls, or teach their kids to throw the perfect spiral. But the role of fathers doesn’t end when children grow up, it just changes.
When children move out and begin to live their own life, they come to appreciate their fathers differently. Where the father might have been a distant, looming figure before, they become more approachable and understandable. This is when children can benefit most from their fathers’ wisdom, and young men need to have a father around who they can engage with “man to man.”
Losing Our Living Memory
And men are also important as grandfathers. The average age at which men become grandfathers is 45, and by age 65, 95% of men who have had children are grandfathers. Grandfathers are often more approachable to younger children, so they’re more likely to talk to them than they might be to their own fathers. They are able to share a lifetime of experiences, and pass on stories about times long gone. They help establish a sense of tradition and family in children. Grandfathers are our living memory, and sleep apnea can rob us of that.
If you are a grandfather or father, you should consider your vital role when you learn about snoring or sleep apnea. If you won’t get treatment for yourself, or for your wife, do it for your children and grandchildren. They need you, and they’ll miss you if you are taken too soon.