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Confessions of a Sleep Apnea Patient

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One of my SparkFriends was just diagnosed with sleep apnea. This blog started as a comment on her blog. I wanted to share my experince with sleep apnea so she would know what to expect. Then I typed so much that I figued I'd post it as blog. I hope others can benefit from my experiences.

About 4 or 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I got a CPAP (the most effective treatment), which basically blows air into your airway to keep it open. When I first got my CPAP, I found it extremely uncomfortable. Even when I tried to use it, I'd unconsciously pull it off while I slept. But I stuck with it, and I got used to it. I also got used to breathing while a machine is constantly blowing air into my nose. It a weird feeling at first. Now I don’t find it uncomfortable anymore. The quality of my sleep has greatly improved. Before I was diagnosed, I was always tired and would doze anywhere: in meetings, at my desk at work, while in the middle of a conversation with my wife (she didn’t appreciate that), even while driving. That last one is what really prompted me to go to see a sleep specialist. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I don’t remember the specific numbers (they tell you how many times you stop breathing and wake up every night and how long you're not breathing each time), but I do remember my doctor said it was one of the worse cases that she’s seen. After I started consistently using the CPAP, I feel much better (when I actually get a full night of sleep, but that’s a different issue). I’m better rested, more alert, and have more energy.

Even so, having to use a CPAP is still an inconvenience. Needing to sleep with a CPAP prevents me from taking naps on the sofa. My wife is refreshed after a nap, but since I don’t have my CPAP a midday nap on the sofa does nothing for me. Also on the occasion that a fall asleep somewhere else (e.g. in the rocking chair in my son’s room while putting him to bed), I’m extremely tired the next day because I slept half the night without my CPAP. There can also be some challenges managing the use of a CPAP and your sex life. Without sharing too much information, it can be another situation where I end up sleeping without my CPAP. (I bring it up because it’s a real situation to be aware of.) There are times when I get frustrated with these inconveniences and consider having the surgery. I probably would have surgery if it was a guaranteed cure, but my doctor said that only about 50% of people see any improvement and less than that are cured.

One of the reasons that I want to lose weight is to improve (or potentially cure) my sleep apnea. Being overweight is definitely a contributing factor to sleep apnea, and having untreated sleep apnea makes it harder to lose weight, so it can be a vicious cycle. Also untreated sleep apnea can contribute to a bunch of cardio-vascular issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, etc. I want to be around for a long time. It’s just another situation where I have to focus on taking care of myself, so that I can be there for the people I love.

Anybody else have sleep apnea? Did you choose CPAP or surgery? Do you have a similar set of experiences? How do you manage?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks so much for sharing with me, sweetie. I really believe I should have had a Cpap years ago. I've been on oxygen overnight for ages and 24-hours for a couple of them. I can't believe the Cpap will be much worse, but I could be in for a nasty surprise. It would be wonderful to feel rested. Plus, I don't have a sleeping partner, so that's not a problem.

    Renie> emoticon

    2896 days ago
  • MARYANN2323
    Thank you for an insiders look at what a CPAP is like. I am lucky and do not need such a device, but it is so interesting to see what other people go through.
    2896 days ago
    I've been on a CPAP since 1985 and it's everything you say it is. It's not exactly the sexiest look having a 6 foot hose attached to your face every night. If I had it to do over I would have taken the surgery. And the surgery that I faced was quite a bit more than just stretching the soft palette. It involved breaking and reforming both the upper and lower jaw, shortening the tongue, and a few other delightful things. The doc said it would involve 5 separate procedures over a 2-year period. And that it would be more painful than anything than I could imagine. I think his words were "a living H3ll". He was quite a ray of sunshine. But now I'm pushing 60 and even if I wanted to, I doubt my insurance would cover it. (A CPAP is so much cheaper, don't you know.) Needless to say, my apnea is pretty severe.

    All that being said, I swear by the CPAP. I used to joke that most people don't live long enough to die from a direct result of apnea.... most of them just fall asleep at the wheel. I know that I'm lucky to be alive, I came so close to a guardrail one night that I can still see the chipped paint of it's surface. To this day I don't know how I managed to not hit it.

    So do I recommend a CPAP, you bet I do. How do you manage? Well you can get used to anything. The question really boils down to; how important is your life as well as the lives of those who ride with you?

    Personally, it was an easy transition for me. But then I was at a stage of total exhaustion when I was diagnosed. Hmmm, I'm starting to ramble now. One of these days I should do my own blog.

    One last thing. When I was diagnosed, I was barely overweight. I was either at 185 or 190 (and 6 foot tall). So while getting your weight down will solve it for some people, and will lessen the effects for others, it's still not necessarily a cure. But it just might get you the occasional nap on the sofa.
    2897 days ago
    Thanks for sharing your experience, it was very insightful and useful. A good friend finds the hardest part of his CPAP is being unable to go camping or travel to cabins with no electricity -- he's a hunter and can't really go with his buddies any more. Actually I think they enjoy the time in the woods with the guys more than the actual hunting, but that's another story!
    2897 days ago
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