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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A lethal mix

 The dangers of untreated sleep apnea - and the accompanying daytime sleepiness - have been well documented.
 Add a semi-truck of many tons into the mix and a tragedy is inevitable.
 Truck driver Shawn Johnson, a husband and father of 8, was killed instantly this past summer on Interstate 85 in South Carolina when he was struck head-on by an 18-wheeler who overcorrected after swerving off the road, according to a report from WCNC NewsChannel 36, an NBC affiliate in Charlotte, N.C.
 The driver of the 18-wheeler, who died after the crash as did a young lawyer in another vehicle, had suffered from sleep apnea for years, his widow told authorities.
 The WCNC report said fatigue was cited in the coroner's ruling after the crash. It also mentioned a study saying 1 in 4 truckers has sleep apnea, of which many cases are undiagnosed and/or untreated.
 "My first thought was: Why was he allowed to drive?" Shawn Johnson's widow Dana told the station.
 The station reports a medical advisory panel of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommended that truckers be screened and treated for sleep apnea in 2008 but no action has been taken.
 The website cites thousands of possible deaths or injuries related to crashes involving truck drivers with sleep apnea. Its figures show between 1.9 million and 4 million truck drivers have some form of apnea.
 "It is important for the trucking industry and the American public to understand the prevalence of this condition in the commercial motor vehicle industry and the steps that can be taken to ensure that our highways remain safe for our families," said the site, which provides links to contact government officials.
 There is a petition drive in the United Kingdom to raise awareness of the issue after a young woman was killed and her fiance suffered brain damage after their car was struck by a semi. A charge of causing death by driving was reportedly dropped against the driver after it was discovered he had undiagnosed sleep apnea.
 These examples are extreme and, yes, very morbid but lives could have been saved if these truckers were more rested with CPAP or some other form of therapy. It's amazing that sleep apnea screening isn't required for those at the wheel of enormous rigs.
 Sounds like an issue we need to ask our Congress members about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Have CPAP, will travel

  Traveling during the holiday season?
  Don't forget your CPAP. Sleep apnea doesn't take the holidays off.
  The machine is quite portable but there are rules to be followed at the airport in this post-911 era of greater scrutiny of airline passengers.
  According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines, CPAP machines must be removed from their case and placed in a bin for X-ray screening. Masks and tubing can stay in the case.
  Obviously, since this is a medical device, there are hygiene issues as the security equipment is less than sanitary. Put your machine in a clear, plastic bag before placing it in the bin for screening. Bring your own bag. You can even ask the TSA worker to change gloves and clean the general area before putting your CPAP through an Explosive Trace Detection test.
  I have not flown with my CPAP but let's give the TSA the benefit of the doubt that they will honor our rights and treat our life-saving devices with the utmost care.
  Blogger Bob on The TSA Blog encourages travelers not to be apprehensive about taking their CPAP through security checkpoints.
  "Our officers are very familiar with CPAP machines and see them numerous times daily," said Blogger Bob. "I wouldn't suggest placing your CPAP machine in your checked baggage, because if your baggage is misplaced, you'll be without your machine."
  Good point, Blogger Bob.
  It's not clear whether taking distilled water needed for the CPAP would be acceptable, but it's probably not worth the hassle since it's cheap and available everywhere.
  Despite the TSA's promises of handling CPAP inspection appropriately, there are complaints that they don't follow through. Many of these are via anonymous comments on online message boards so they can't be verified.
  Although this particular comment hits close to home.
  "If you don't have a CPAP machine, imagine they were inspecting your dentures, mouthguard, or sleeping eyemask with the same hands they'd just moved bins and shoes with. Ick."
  Ick, indeed.
  Let's remember the TSA has a job to do but we have rights in regard to our medical devices and must remind them if necessary. Come prepared with a plastic bag (my doctor recommends bringing a doctor's note, this is probably a good idea even though the TSA doesn't mention this) and keep an eye on the person handling your machine.
  Happy traveling and happy breathing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Serious stuff

  I have tried to focus in this blog on my largely positive experience with CPAP therapy.
  But I realize that getting to the point of seeing a doctor and deciding on treatment is more difficult for some people than others. Some need to be scared straight, so to speak. So here it goes:
  Sleep apnea can kill you.
  Maybe not right away. Breathing does resume after the frequent interruptions throughout the night. As quoted on WebMD, Dr. Nancy Collop, of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, put it best.
  "Your body is in this constant struggle at night between breathing and sleeping," said Collop. "Fortunately, breathing wins, but it wins at the expense of your sleep."
  But the long-term effects add up.
  Obstructive sleep apnea results in blockage of the airway during sleep. The resulting lack of oxygen wreaks havoc on the sufferer's health.
  According to WebMD's report on Sleep Apnea and Related Health Conditions, ailments linked to sleep apnea include: high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, asthma and acid reflux. Also, tiredness during the day from lack of consistent sleep can lead to falling sleep while driving.
  A quick word about weight: many (me included) people with sleep apnea are overweight but not all. A thick neck doesn't help. Losing weight can dull the impact or even eliminate obstructive sleep apnea but, as we all know, keeping the pounds off is difficult so treatments such as CPAP are needed. Thin people and even children can be afflicted if they have small airways or enlarged tonsils.
   I swear by my CPAP (again that's continuous positive airway pressure) machine because it does just what the name implies: keeps the airway open and helps fend off the nasty conditions mentioned above.
  In response to a question from liamjoker in a previous post on how the CPAP works, I wear a mask that is attached to a device that blows air -- at a level determined by my doctor after sleep tests -- to ensure my airway does not close. I previously felt rundown and would nod off a lot during the day during my pre-CPAP life. That has improved immensely.
  CPAP isn't for everybody. Luckily, there are other treatments such as surgery and dental appliances that I will discuss in a future blog entry.
  But, please, if you suspect you have apnea (overly tired during the day, health deteriorating, spouse witnessing snoring/breathing interruptions), go to the doctor to start working toward a solution.
  You owe it to your loved ones and yourself to stick around awhile.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sleep apnea doesn’t spare the rich, famous

  Among the millions who suffer from sleep apnea are some big names who can do more to raise awareness of the issue than the humble writer of this blog you are kind enough to read.
  Regis Philbin and Rosie O’Donnell have spoken publicly about their apnea and CPAP use, according to Historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt and Queen Victoria also reportedly suffered from apnea.
  The sleepconnect post mentioned John Candy, Jerry Garcia and NFL great Reggie White with sleep apnea listed as a factor in their deaths.
  Conan O’Brien sidekick Andy Richter once showed off his CPAP mask for the late-night TV audience, according to
  Closer to home, Detroit Lions rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley has sleep apnea and perhaps that revelation improved his NFL draft status (and maybe provided him a few more bucks from being drafted higher).
  John Glennon’s blog in the Tennessean addresses some pre-draft concerns that Fairley was known for nodding off in meetings while starring at Auburn. Clearly, that’s not a good thing for prospective employers ready to shell out millions to a rookie, even one as skilled as Fairley.
  You guessed it, Fairley was sleepy because of his apnea and assured teams he had it under control.
  “Ever since I got the machine, I’ve been really aware of everything,” Fairley told the NFL Network, as quoted in the Glennon’s blog. “The machine helps you breathe throughout the night so you get the proper rest so you can be ready the next day.”
  Retired NBA great Shaquille O’Neal took part in a Harvard University sleep apnea study after his significant other (sound familiar, apnea crew?) expressed concern about his snoring patterns, according to Kelly Dwyer’s Ball Don’t Lie blog on Yahoo Sports. Can you imagine the sounds from a man that size (over 7 feet, well north of 300 pounds)?
  The point of all this is that celebrities have a unique opportunity to spread the word about the dangers of apnea and the benefits of CPAP and other remedies. Think of all the causes, illnesses and charities that have been boosted by those watched by the public.
  As I’ve said before, there are millions with undiagnosed sleep apnea (a few famous folks prone to snoring among them, I bet) so anyone able to shed light on the issue would be doing a service by sharing their experience.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Determined to sleep

  After receiving a warning from my doctor about not sleeping enough — and possibly not meeting insurance guidelines for continuing my CPAP therapy — sleep became my mission.
  Anytime I wanted to sleep, no matter how crazy my schedule was, I fought it off until I was able to go to bed while wearing my mask.
  I religiously checked the statistics kept by my CPAP machine. Among the numbers are days with more than 4 hours of sleep and average time slept over 7- and 30-day periods.
  Ensuring I kept my numbers up meant the machine went with me on a couple of summer vacations and searching for a place to set it up in hotels and a motorhome. The whole system is more portable than it may seem as it fits neatly into a bag.
  Apparently traveling with a CPAP via air is allowed but it requires a doctor’s note to get through security. Haven’t attempted that yet.
  By the time I went to the doctor about three months after my previous visit, my stats were in line with where I was supposed to be. My doctor was happy (even his staff was happy) especially since the data proved I didn’t take any nights off.
  I felt a sense of accomplishment that I improved from last time but the journey isn’t over as this is now part of my life. It really does get easier as it becomes more routine.
  I do feel more rested. Like most of us with busy lives, I still don’t get enough sleep and maybe I never will. But the sleep I do get is of greater quality. It’s easier to wake up and I don’t find myself falling asleep at inappropriate times (well, except at the movies, I can’t seem to avoid the $10 naps).