Blogs > Sleeping with CPAP

Assistant News Editor Lee Dryden was diagnosed with sleep apnea and uses a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to assist with breathing while sleeping. From a layman’s point of view, he will discuss the benefits, issues, challenges and frustrations of sleeping while wearing a mask.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sleep.....or else

Full facemask for CPAP
CPAP machine
Once it was determined I needed a CPAP machine, my doctor put me in touch with a home health care company where I could pick it up and receive a quick lesson.
It was a bit overwhelming with a dizzying amount of information provided in a 15-minute session, but I headed home with a pricey machine (very thankful for insurance) in what looked like a camera bag over my shoulder.
When I went home, I sat there a bit dumbfounded but I eventually pieced it all together and laid down to try it out. Despite an advance warning, I think it scarred my 9-year-old daughter for life to find her dad wearing some crazy contraption.
Obviously, sleeping with a mask is an adjustment but, for whatever reason, I am able to tolerate it. I’ve read that the CPAP failure rate is as much as 50 percent. Not the machine, but the patients who decide they can’t or won’t use it.
I’ll admit I had a couple tough nights where I couldn’t get comfortable (yes, the mask was thrown across the room once) but overall the transition has been smooth. Oddly, I find the air blowing in as I’m trying to sleep kind of soothing.
My problem is I work strange hours. I get home in the wee hours, sleep for an hour or two, then get up to take my daughter to school. I go back to bed later in the day to finish my sleep.
When I first got my machine, I would use it when I got home after work but I kept falling asleep elsewhere in the house without it during the day. Therefore, I wasn’t logging as much time receiving the sleep therapy as I should.
There are varying requirements from insurance companies and Medicare to continue paying for the CPAP, accessories and doctor’s appointments. Generally, my doctor wants to see 4 hours per day. That’s not much for most people, but I wasn’t reaching it with my unusual sleep pattern.
There’s no cheating. The machine records the time spent receiving therapy and there is a tiny disc that must be brought to appointments so the doctor’s assistant can print out a chart.
My doctor was less than pleased. He expressed concern the insurance company would take away my machine and I would have to resort to more drastic therapy like a breathing tube (yikes).
Perhaps he was overstating the situation to scare me (is a burly repo guy really going to come take my mask?) but it worked. I resolved to do better.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Somebody’s watching me

After an initial examination where my doctor determined I likely have sleep apnea after seeing my narrow airway, two sleep tests were scheduled.
Since I am a “daysleeper” — as labeled by my doctor since I sleep at odd times due to my unusual work schedule — I was to report to the clinic at 5 a.m. on consecutive Saturday mornings to sleep for eight hours.
It was an adventure the first night when I arrived as everything was dark, it was snowing, no one was answering the phone and I wasn’t quite sure where to enter.
I found an unlocked door in the building so I started walking around before realizing it was some sort of counseling office that I wasn’t supposed to be in. I got out of there quickly without touching anything, which was a wise move as a police car showed up a few minutes later.
Anyway, eventually someone answered the phone and I went in to start my test. I was taken to what looked like a bedroom, told to “get ready for bed,” then sit in a chair. Two technicians proceeded to hook me to an seemingly endless supply of wires that would help them record what my body is doing while asleep.
It was an odd situation to engage in small talk, but the laid-back dudes put me at ease. One commented that my mostly-shaved head was easier to stick the paste that holds the wires to than a recent female patient with a full head of hair. (Ouch)
Once they were finished, I thought there was no way on earth I could sleep with all this crap on as I eased into bed. The technicians left, turned out the light then startled me as one spoke via an intercom and asked me to raise my right arm, presumably to be sure I could hear them and I was hooked up correctly.
It was slightly unnerving to think people are watching me sleep (can you imagine that job?) but they are professionals with a job to do — like figuring out what is happening while I sleep. No, they didn’t draw on me or anything like that.
But, amazingly, despite a bevy of wires, odd surroundings and an audience, I feel asleep quickly.
The next thing I knew, it was eight hours later, a day shift technician threw open the door, turned on the light and efficiently removed all the wires before sending me on my way.
It was a repeat performance the next week except I used a CPAP breathing machine in addition to the wires. I tried on the full facemask —  unlike most people — rather than the smaller nasal pillows that don’t cover the mouth. As somewhat of a mouth breather, I needed the full mask. Others may like not having their mouth covered.
A spreadsheet of data from my tests showed I briefly stopped breathing 60 times per hour without the mask and about once per hour with it.
So it was official, like millions of others, I have sleep apnea and I’d be getting my own sleep machine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Breathing is a good thing

Anytime someone stops breathing, that is not a good thing.
Apparently I did just that a lot — while I was sleeping.
I just didn't know it.
After being prodded by my wife, who naturally is the one who noticed the problem, I went to a sleep doctor. (It's typically the spouses who notice such things, as they are the ones kept awake by freight-train-like snoring.)
Sure enough, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which is defined as a disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing.
To reach this conclusion, I went through two 8-hour sleep tests at a clinic inside the doctor's office while hooked up to a mess of wires, some of which were secured by paste on my forehead. Good times.
Anyway, the results showed I stopped breathing about 60 times per hour. Yes, 60 times per hour. I guess I restarted each time since I am here writing this.
Now that I use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) breathing machine to keep my airway open while sleeping, that is down to about once per hour.
Through this blog, I will discuss the challenges — and benefits — of life with a Darth Vader-type mask while sleeping. Maybe I can help others like me or help someone realize they need to be tested. Some reports indicate there are millions (yes, snorers) with undiagnosed sleep apnea. I would love to hear tips from those who have dealt with this longer than I have. I just got my mask in March of this year.
Treating sleep apnea will keep your spouse happy, provide a better night's sleep and, oh yeah, keep that all-important breathing thing happening. Kinda need that.