Sleep studies say seven out of ten people admit they're tired all the time, but aren't aware they may have a sleeping disorder.
"I would fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Sitting at a stop light I would fall asleep," Malissa Sullivan said. She has admited that she even snorted in her sleep. In her 20s, she never connected her heavy snoring to her constant tiredness.
"Oh we just laughed it off like 'oh she just snores a lot.' It was a family joke," Malissa remembered.
Malissa and her family had no idea her body was battling a very serious condition.
"Sleep apnea is an obstruction in the air that causes you to not get air into your lungs when you sleep," said Dana Alexander, with King Home Care in Bowling Green. She explained how it happens, "sometimes it's caused by fatty tissues, injury, inheriting a crowded airway."
Like 18 million Americans who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Malissa's airway gets clogged when she sleeps.
"You gag. Your body is telling you you gotta breathe," Malissa said and described the terrifying feeling of waking up breathless.
"The bad part is ... your body is still not breathing and maybe you haven't woken up. You can go through these episodes all through the night and people don't arouse enough to realize what's happened and they think 'well I'm sleeping 8 hours,' but your body is still not breathing," Malissa said.
Malissa's body was exhausted from not getting the proper oxygen during the night. A machine called a C-Pap changed her life. It works by delivering air to her airway at a pressure high enough to keep it open during sleep.
Although Malissa is battling other health issues, she's put a stop to her constant fatigue.
Malissa attends AWAKE meetings through the Medical Center in Bowling Green. It's a support group for people with sleep disorders. The group meets on the second Thursday of each month at the Greenwood Mall Health and Wellness Center. The meetings start at 5 p.m. and anyone can attend, free of charge. They share helpful tips on dealing with sleeping disorders.
If you feel you or someone you know has a sleeping disorder call the sleep center at 270-796-6559 and to take a self-assessment quiz, click here or to learn a little more about sleep apnea click here.