I’d like a #2 CPAP and a chocolate dip cone to go with that sleep apnea, please.

After the second longest night of the last year I need to capture some of the fun for my readers. And I’d like to plead with you to take this seriously. If you have sleep apnea you need to get it treated. And if the doctors tell you to wear a CPAP, DON’T FIGHT THEM! I have a dear friend who’s paying the price for that right now.

I’ve used a CPAP (Constant Positive Airway Pressure) machine for a long time to treat my sleep apnea. It’s a device that helps people with sleep apnea breathe during the night. It’s essentially a small compressor with a humidifier attached. A six foot length of hose attaches it to a face mask of some sort. I use one that fits over the head and … well, it plugs my nose and forces air in during the sleep hours.

This is a huge improvement over the last one I had, which was like wearing a soapdish strapped over your nose all night. And, the CPAP I recently retired was about 1/10 as noisy as the original one I was given years ago. So, steady improvement over the last 15 years to be sure. And it’s kept me alive. But more of that at the end.

My apnea seemed to be getting worse so I went to see the doctor. He scheduled a new sleep study for me to determine where I was in my condition. And, so I went. This video shows a bit of what it’s like, but unlike Shaq, I went to them, they didn’t come to me.

As I mentioned in a previous post, they have you come in to the sleep center and wire you up six ways from Tuesday to monitor almost every physiological change in your sleep patterns. And then they ask you to go to sleep. Without your CPAP. That scared me. I couldn’t fall asleep because I knew it was a bad thing to sleep without it on. So, after about 1.5 hours of tossing and turning I gave up and asked to put on the CPAP. Nope, I was told to take a sleeping pill and tough it out, because they needed to actually see me stop breathing before they could continue the study.

I agree. That sounds nuts. But I played along. Took the Ambien and was out cold in 30 minutes. And wide awake again shortly afterwards when they woke me up to have me wear the CPAP. Seems I have sleep apnea… go figure.

For the rest of the night the self adjusting CPAP ranged up and down in pressure to determine what the proper level was for a bloated middle-aged guy with a beard. After a very short (it seemed) night of uncomfortable sleep, and a very long night in every other respect, I got up and went home. Yes, I had apnea still and because I had done the study I was eligible for a new CPAP (The old one was about 7 years old, past its “freshness date” by a bit.)

I got the new CPAP the day before I left for Dallas and it sat in my dining room until last night. It was time.

And thus the second worst night’s sleep in the past year. Why? Because they’ve changed the technology of the device and it was a completely different feeling than what I’d grown accustomed to over the past fifteen years. Very different.

For starters the machine doesn’t fight you when you exhale. The device senses your exhalation and quits forcing air into your schnozz while you get rid of the used breath. It then gently pushes air in. A different sensation, a different sound. It’s still quiet, but you get so used to that constant pressure from the first machines that it seems like the machine has failed when you try this model (and, yes, I know it’s more of a bilevel machine than a CPAP but it’s my blog and I can be ignorant if I want.)

I’ll bet it took me 2 hours to fall asleep. Partly that’s because I was doing the night-to-day changeover, but partly because it just felt so weird. Once I fell asleep I woke up frequently. That “it doesn’t feel right” sensation that the new mechanism gave me, versus the horrible feeling of waking from sleep apnea.

I think it is doing the work needed. I don’t feel drowsy today and no headaches (two major signs of sleep apnea in your life.) I will give it a few more nights to see how it goes before I start whining to the provider about my need for more pressure/a lollipop, etc. But it does feel really strange. And it was the second worst night of sleep this year.

I’ve had sleep apnea since I was skinny. But we just called it “loud snoring” back then. It impacts fat guys like me more than skinny guys. But in my case the throat structure that gave me a “golden voice” and allowed me to break into voice over work was the other side of the coin of sleep apnea. Basically your throat closes while you sleep and it stops your breathing. Hundreds of times a night sometimes.

That makes it hard on your heart, causes blood pressure problems, and makes you a narcoleptic freak who falls asleep at stop signs if untreated. (Yup, I can vouch for that.) It’s not a good thing to have. So, if you have sleep apnea, or snore really loudly and wake up a lot, get yourself checked. A great place to start is by clicking on this link and seeing what the experts have to say. It might save your life.

Oh, and if you think you don’t snore, ask the people close to you. You might just find out that you are a real pain. You never know if you snore – you’re asleep, goofy. It took me years to get that through my thick skull (yeah, I was stupid. Sorry, Honey, I should have listened sooner.) If they tell you that you do snore, ask about abrupt breathing or the snoring stopping and starting. If they have detected that, and you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotence, headaches, or extreme drowsiness you are a candidate for a sleep doctor. Do you fall asleep when your focus is not needed? Ever doze off at the wheel? Fall asleep talking to someone? Yup, go see the doctor.

This post is not completely light-hearted. Sleep apnea kills people. Stroke, heart attack, falling asleep at the wheel. It factors in to all of those causes of death. One of my best friends is at the neurologist today to find out what is causing the seizures he suffers from. Sleep apnea is a part of that picture.

So, enough preaching on the topic. Please take it seriously and get treatment if you have the symptoms. I’d like to see you around for a long time. I need the readers. (and, while you’re at it, head up to the upper right side of this page and subscribe! It is free, after all.)

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