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08 July 2005 — Sleep Apnea (2)

Yesterday, I finally received the results from my sleep study. It's confirmed: I have obstructive sleep apnea.

While sleeping, my airway becomes obstructed and I stop breathing from time-to-time. (How often? I'm not sure.) As a result, I get less oxygen than I need, and wake frequently in order to begin breathing again. This would explain why I am so damn tired all the time. It would explain a lot of things, actually, though I'm unwilling to assign blame for all my bad habits to apnea until I learn more about my condition.

The symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • loud snoring
  • morning headaches
  • unrefreshing sleep
  • a dry mouth upon awakening
  • high blood pressure
  • overweight
  • irritability
  • change in personality
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • excessive perspiring during sleep
  • heartburn
  • reduced libido
  • insomnia
  • frequent nocturnal urination (nocturia)
  • restless sleep
  • nocturnal snorting, gasping, choking (may wake self up)
  • confusion upon awakening
I suffer from twelve of those seventeen symptoms. Some of them — unrefreshing sleep, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating, perspiring while sleeping, insomnia — are severe, especially since last fall. The lack of motivation has been a particular problem lately. (I recently learned to counter the insomnia with melatonin.)

I know of three people (including Scott) who, upon learning they suffer from sleep apnea, have begun using a C-PAP machine, a device that gently forces additional oxygen into one's lungs during sleep. All of them claim that this machine has changed their lives. "It's as if I'd never actually slept before," they say, "and now, suddenly, I'm completely refreshed. I'm a New Man."

It would be nice to think that sleeping with a C-PAP machine will make me a New Man, too, but I remain skeptical. I'm also worried about the expense. (Though just about any expense would be worth it to be a New Man.) Too, I wonder if I mightn't solve my apnea simply by continuing to lose weight. Who can tell?

I'm scheduled for a second sleep study next weekend, at which time I'll actually be tested with a C-PAP machine. Perhaps I'll emerge the next morning as a New Man.

Comments
On 08 July 2005 (12:26 PM), Tiffany said:

Good luck, please keep us posted.


On 08 July 2005 (01:05 PM), Clackablog said:

1. Had a palate reduction and uvuloplasty (tonsillectomy) at Kaiser when I was first diagnosed. In a word, DON'T. Didn't solve it for long, surgery is never risk-free, and the side-effects are Not Pleasant.

2. Here's an NPR story on vocal exercises which strengthen the palate muscles. No idea if they will help in your case.

3. If a CPAP is prescribed:
a) make sure to get one with a heated humidifer. Unhumidifed machines dry out your throat, and leave you very vulnerable to colds and flu.

b) Get a copy of the prescription letter from your doc, and tape that to the CPAP. You should never check your CPAP machine when flying, as you will never get enough reimbursement for it if the luggage is lost... so you carry it on board. Without the prescription copy, one of the Hitler Youth at airport security can take it away from you, or a snotty flight attendant can bar you from flying.

c) If you end up having to buy your own machine, or your health plan gives you broad discretion in selecting the dealer, the CPAP MAN over on the Dry Side in Kennewick, WA, has good prices, and a very broad range of gear. I bought a spare from him last year with use-it-or-lose-it health care funds. I use it for travel, as it will work on 12vDC from battery or a car (although cigarette lighter connections can be problematic as some sockets won't give the needed current).

Other questions? Write me back.


On 08 July 2005 (01:31 PM), Scott said:

J.D.

I wasn't a New Man during the test night but after using it at home for 2-3 days? Yeah, a new man then. So don't give up on it after the test night if you don't feel magically better.

I didn't get the humidifier and have found that a squirt of saline spray right before bed and in the a.m. works fine.

Also, I have never had a problem flying with mine (6 or so trips). But I do keep the printout from the Department of Transportation with me. It doesn't count against carry on limits so you can take it and another bag when flying.

Good luck and you know where to find me of you have questions.


On 08 July 2005 (09:20 PM), ROn said:

I have flown with mine through Europe to India, to Mexico, to Chicago, and to Baltimore and have never had a problem with airport security.
I did get a humidifier and it has its own problems: 1. The CPAP (in my case a BiPAP) has a broad voltage and frequecy utilization range which allows it to be used from 120 Volts, 60 Hz to 250 Volts, 50 Hz but the humidifier can only be used with 120 Volts, 60 Hz. 2. The settings on it seem to be for controlling the temperature of the water in the humidifier and not the humidity itself. This means that settings which work very well during some parts of the year cause condensation on the inside of the tube going from the machine to your nose which means the water drops run down the outside of your nose and try to run under the mask and out onto your face. It also means that the condensate can run backwards to the lowest spot in the tube until it begins to gurgle with each breath and you have to hold your breath for a few seconds while you lift the tube and let the water run back into the humidifier.
Even with those problems I wouldn't be without it because I tried leaving the settings low and my sinuses began to hurt after a few days and as soon as I turned the setting up to get more humidity the problem went away.
Be extra picky about the way your mask fits because most people who have problems with a CPAP have problems with it leaking around the seal to your face and blowing on your eyes. It doesn't seem to matter as much if it is leaking anywhere else but if it blows on your eyes even with them closed you won't be able to sleep (if you question this do some research on the internet, most of the complaints are about air blowing on their eyes). I find that if I can't get a good seal for some reason that I can pull up the sheet that I am sleeping under and wrap it around the mask to divert the air from your eyes.
All that sounds like a lot of trouble but the results are amazing. I used to sleep (at least I thought I was sleeping) 10 hours and fall asleep while driving to work the next morning. I drove in the center lane on the freeway so the bumps dividing each lane would wake me up as I drifted out of my lane. I couldn't stay awake in meetings in the afternoon, especially right after lunch. When I came home in the evening, if I sat down in a chair to read I would fall asleep and often sleep all evening so I wouldn't let myself sit down until I had everything done. The first full night with the machine was pretty much a fight to learn to exist with it and I woke up every little bit fighting it. The second night continued that way for about the first 3 hours and then I was so tired that I went to sleep and woke up 5 hours later, the first time I could remember sleeping continuously without waking for that long since I was a teenager. The third night I went to sleep easily with the CPAP and woke up 6 hours later and was wide awake and couldn't sleep if I tried to and just got up. That afternoon we had a meeting right after lunch and I wasn't even the slightest bit sleepy and haven't been since. I have spoken to other people who have went for years being tired and, after getting a CPAP can only sleep 5 - 6 hours and then feel so awake that they can't sleep any more. I now go to bed after my wife and get up before her and feel rested. I also don't 'drive by braille' any more. I can sit and read in the evenings and not fall asleep until it gets late. My blood pressure went down 15 points. As for changes in my libido, well I'll let my wife comment on that.
A couple of interesting things you can do with a CPAP - 1. You can pull the sheet and covers up over your head when your bedroom is cold because you have an external air supply. 2. You can also pass gas in bed and not care if it gets trapped under the covers because you have an external air supply and can't even smell it, although your wife might be thumping you.


On 09 July 2005 (09:02 AM), Nikchick said:

I've had severeal friends prescribed CPAP machines and to a man (and they're all men) they felt it was truly life-changing.

I tried to get Chris to go in for a sleep study back when we had insurance through Wizards of the Coast, but he wasn't terribly keen on the idea and put it off until too late. He's been a terrible snorer since high school, and I've heard him stop breathing during the night on many occasions. It used to wake me, but my own sleep has become so screwy over the years I rarely notice it anymore. I'm not foolish enough to think it's just magically gone away.


On 16 September 2005 (08:39 PM), Elise Weaver said:

I'd like to be the first on this site to say the following:

I got my CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea, I'm under 40, I'm not overweight, and I am female. I feel like a new WOMAN (most of the time).

Some days with extreme humidity, or if I haven't replaced my filter, or adequately cleaned my Nasal-Aire mask (which I think grows mold), I am almost a new woman, but a little sluggish.



Comments
On 15 March 2006 (02:38 PM), andy owens said:

Hello, I just wanted to let you know that I have a great tollfree number available for you to use, 1-800-Snoring. If you are interested in having this number, please email or call me at that email or phone number listed below.

Andy Owens
1-800-AndyOwens
1-800-263-9693
andy@1800pathways.com
www.1800pathways.com


On 24 June 2006 (01:08 PM), sherry said:

Am I the only person who finds sleeping with someone on a C pap machine very undesireable?
I hear the rave about how good the "patient" feels but it really does make me dread going to bed. What can I do?