As some of you know, I have problems sleeping. Most of the time I don’t have a problem falling asleep; staying asleep is my big issue. The thing that contributes the biggest concern is finding a proper CPAP mask.
What’s a CPAP mask? I’ve talked about it before, but the two images on this post will give you a pretty good idea. In essence, those of us diagnosed with sleep apnea have a few ways to try to overcome a problem where we stop breathing while we sleep, and our bodies start jerking to wake us back up. One is to have surgery; another is to take certain types of medication; the last is to have a CPAP mask… which I could call a BiPAP mask since that’s actually the type of machine I have. Continue reading →
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.
I have a CPAP machine next to my bed now. I first mentioned it when I was talking about disasters a few days ago, and then I mentioned it again yesterday when talking about getting healthy.
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.