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CPAP Followup

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011

Back in August I wrote that I was getting ready to start using a CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. In general, it’s a machine that helps people sleep better so that they’re less tired. Or at least that’s what’s supposed to happen. I’m going to tell you the real deal and give you an update on what’s going on with me.

by Robert
Anthony Provost

I guess the most important thing for you to know is that I’m still using it. This must mean that something good is happening for me. Here’s the truth. I still feel tired at some point throughout the day, and still have those times when I just have to take a nap. Sometimes it’s within a couple of hours after waking up, even before I’ve eaten something, which tells me it’s not related to eating the wrong thing, although it’s still possible that it’s related to diabetes.

But here’s a truth. When I sleep with the CPAP, I wake up actually feeling better than I do if I don’t wear it. The proof once again came to me two weeks ago, when I was out of town for a couple of days on a consulting assignment. I decided to leave the CPAP at home, worried that I might not hear the alarm going off each morning. I won’t be making that mistake again.

The CPAP actually helps me sleep better during the night. What I think it does is keeps me from shaking or moving as much because I stop breathing. Not that I don’t move or even wake up, because that still happens. However, I wake up and I’m breathing, and fairly deep as well. And I’m not always in the same place I was when I fell asleep, which can sometimes be scary (my wife and I don’t keep the same hours; I think that pleases her some lol).

So I wake up and have energy. Often it’s enough energy that I can head to the gym without being tired and I’m alert. It’s a pretty good feeling, one I’ve not had in my life. However, it doesn’t always last a long time. As I said, sometimes within a couple of hours I feel like I need another nap, and often it’s before I’ve eaten anything, since I rarely eat within the first hour I’m up. If that’s the case then I’ll set myself up to take a nap, but I’ve learned to take naps with the CPAP as well. I think it must be a breathing thing because every once in awhile I just need the mask on for maybe 10 minutes and I’m fine. Other times I do fall asleep, but when I awaken I feel pretty good.

Now, there are some other issues as well. I didn’t talk about it last time but I had this issue for the longest time with air blowing in my eyes. I tried 4 different masks until I settled on the one I have now, which blew the least amount of air into my eyes. Then my wife got me a sleep mask, and that’s taken care of that problem. Yes, it’s weird waking up all the time in darkness until I take the mask off, but that’s easy to get used to.

Another issue is how one breathes. I have what’s called a full face mask, which means it covers both my mouth and nose, so I can breathe either way. However, if you breathe too much through your mouth your throat can get really dry.

My CPAP has a humidifier, and the settings on the humidifier can be interesting to figure out, especially if you can’t stop breathing through your mouth too much. Too much humidity and you’re coughing a lot. Too little and you might as well not even be using the humidifier. And then there’s the temperature in the room. If it’s hot, it negatively affects using the humidifier, no matter what it’s on. The humidifier actually heats up the air you’re breathing, so if it’s cool you breathe the best, but the rest of you might not be too happy.

And of course there’s the noise. Initially you hear almost nothing, which works okay because I run a fan to help me get to sleep anyway. Later, once the pressure gets to maximum, you have to hear noise because the machine is making sure there’s no build up of carbon dioxide; wouldn’t pay to have the machine kill you when it’s purpose is to help you live longer. If you’re breathing properly the noise is minimal; if not, it’s much louder, and if you don’t like the sound you’ll go nuts. I like the sound so I always fall back to sleep like a baby.

The two major signs of sleep apnea, which the CPAP addresses, are that you always wake up tired, or you snore really loudly when you sleep. I was the first one, although my wife said I had times when I did snore loudly; that is, if I slept at all. If you have either of those on a consistent basis, go see someone for it and at least get tested. So many people said they couldn’t imagine wearing a mask while trying to sleep. Well I said the same thing about that as I did about injecting myself. You’ll try whatever you can to feel better.

Yes, I’ve gotten used to it; and I’m never going back from it again.

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Wow, that looks like quite a contraption!

I’m glad you’re getting better sleep, though.

February 17th, 2011 | 8:35 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Carolee. It is quite a contraption to be sure, but it’s amazing what we can get used to.

February 17th, 2011 | 11:17 PM

Actually my grandfather have bought similar or same machine about 2 years ago. He shared with me that he stop snoring after use and feel fresh. I asked him, how he sleep with this on his head and actually he said, I sleep better than ever.

February 18th, 2011 | 6:17 AM
Jessica Sieghart:

I’m going to get my snoring hubby one of those 🙂 It looks like it would be terribly uncomfortable to try and sleep in that. Is the mask a soft or hard material?

February 18th, 2011 | 8:32 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Jessica, there’s a hard shell but the stuff that touches your body is all soft and cushy. It did take me a couple of months to get used to it, but I was going to persist.

February 18th, 2011 | 12:18 PM

I have been on CPAP for, oh, a couple years I guess. I use a nasal pillow system which doesn’t cover my mouth. I tried the full face mask too but it caused bad reactions with skin irritation. I don’t generally have too much trouble with mouth breathing, and there’s always the option to use a bit of tape to keep your mouth closed. Comfort level is far higher.

As for the results, well, the machine monitors my breathing so I know I have gone from an incident on average every 45 seconds (really bad apnea) to maybe one or two minor incidents all night long. Only thing is, I feel no better whatsoever! i actually take stimulants in order to function because I can’t stay awake otherwise.

One expert has suggested we don’t know why yet, but this does happen for some people. They are fully treated, and it’s really important, but they don’t actually get symptom relief. It may have to do with changes caused in the brain by the decades of untreated sleep apnea I had. We just don’t know for sure. But at least with the combination of CPAP now ensuring I have proper breathing and a drug that helps me function, I can get things done. It makes a struggle to still feel run-down and sleep, but we all have things to struggle against.

February 21st, 2011 | 4:50 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Fergus, I know that some people still need medication to get relief. I’m glad that, at least to this point, I don’t need that. As I say, though, I feel better, but I certainly don’t feel perfect. As to the mask, I started out with the one just covering my nose many years ago and I just couldn’t adjust to it. This works better for me, although I have to admit that sometimes I awaken with my throat screaming for water. And I’m not going to do the tape thing on my mouth because I still have an occasional bout of anxiety where I have to breathe through my mouth for a bit.

February 21st, 2011 | 5:11 PM

I also sleep with full mask c pap and wake up with dry mouth so I do wake up drinking water ever now if I don’t use c pap I wake up trembling so I have to use it or will gave horrible now am dx with anxiety is this common .

January 18th, 2012 | 11:40 AM

I’ve learned some things about that. The temperature in the room can’t be too hot; if it is, that’s what causes the throat and dry mouth issues. And I’m finding that if I sleep without it, even short naps, I’m really groggy, listless, and my body hurts.

January 18th, 2012 | 11:44 AM