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, 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.

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