Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 2, 2010
What is a CPAP? First, it’s that little thing there to the right. I had a CPAP machine 4 years ago, almost to the day when I gave it up, and it was much larger than this thing you see. It was also much heavier; this thing weight almost nothing. And what you’re seeing is the heaviest part of the thing, because it comes with a small tank that holds water to help keep your nose and mouth moist when you’re using it while you’re sleeping.
Okay, more details first. CPAP stands for “continuous positive air pressure”, and basically the machine helps you breathe at night. Sleep apnea means you pretty much stop breathing during the night. It’s a little different from just snoring because when you stop breathing, your body starts to struggle a little bit to get you breathing again. It often starts before you get into the deepest sleep, and what this means is that you kind of wake up many times during the night. I say “kind of” because you probably don’t remember it most of the time. You might snore if you have sleep apnea, but not everyone who snores has it. And it can be life threatening; professional football player and Hall of Famer Reggie White passed away from it; that’s what initially got me thinking about it.
As I said, I had a machine back from near the end of 2005 into July or August of 2006. I kept having problems getting used to the different masks, it was heavy and getting on my nerves traveling with it, and frankly I didn’t feel all that much better after such a long time. The biggest problems I had then were the masks. The first mask I had must have leaked somehow, and it caused massive scarring on my face; couldn’t have that. The second mask kept blowing air into my eyes, and waking up every morning with at least one red eye certainly wasn’t pleasant. The final thing I went to was a nasal cannula type of mask, which you’d think would be nice and easy, but I kept having panic attacks, and thus wouldn’t sleep at all. It reminded me too much of sick people in the hospital; that just wouldn’t do at all. That’s the reason I gave it back.
Unfortunately for y’all, unless I knew you back in 2005 and 2006 you missed the entire story of the sleep test, then the subsequent dumping of the machine, as it went out through email. I can tell you that when I went back to the doctor this year, he had me take another overnight sleep test, and this time it went much smoother. Not as many wires, none wrapped around my neck, and the initial mask the guy put on me was fairly light. I obviously had some issues overnight, as the guy woke me up 5 times, but otherwise I made it through the night unscathed.
This is the mask I have now. It’s much different than previous masks because it covers my mouth and has the two things at the top that go into my nose. They never used to have masks that covered the mouth, and that was a major issue in the past because you’re supposed to keep your mouth closed, and if you don’t your throat can take a beating, and if you’re like me you’re still waking up all the time. They have this strap you can put around the top of your head and under your jaw, but trust me, not many people enjoy that at all. Now, if I open my mouth, the machine will still blow air into me.
Oh yeah, the air. What happens is you get tested to see if you have apnea. Then the doctor looks at all the results and estimates how much air pressure the machine should be blowing into you. If I knew what the pressure part meant I don’t think I could explain it, so I’ll just say that the higher the number, the higher the pressure. The machine starts low, which gives you a chance to get to sleep before it gets to its highest level, which is preset by the people you get the machine from. Get this; you can buy the machine (they’re not cheap), but by law, at least in the U.S., you can’t do anything with the pressure unless you get a prescription. That’s changed, because you used to be able to alter pressure but you weren’t allowed to buy the machines; I wish people would make up their mind. I don’t have to worry about it; seems it’s all covered 100% by insurance. 🙂
Anyway, so far I don’t feel much different. It affects people differently, it seems. Some start feeling great within a week, others it takes 90 days. Since I don’t have air blowing in my eyes anymore, I hope within a month that I can report I’m feeling better. I guess we’ll see. If you have any questions or comments, just talk.