Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Sleep Apnea

I was going to post a photograph for Wordless Wednesday today, but then I thought, “Who am I kidding? Everyday has been wordless around here for over two months now!”

Also, I don’t have a photograph to share, so WORDS IT IS.

The big, middle-aged, medical news in my life is the diagnosis of my Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you aren’t familiar with this condition, you can click here for the Mayo Clinic definition. Or you can roll with my definition which is that OSA is basically when you fall asleep, and then your throat relaxes to the point that it blocks your airway, causing you to stop breathing while you slumber. Naturally, your brain doesn’t think much of THAT idea, so it wakes you up so you won’t die. (Thanks, brain!) This can happen hundreds of time each night, without the OSA sufferer even realizing it is happening.

There is a second kind of sleep apnea called Central Sleep Apnea, which I understand is caused by the brain not doing it’s job (bad brain!) of keeping the body breathing during sleep. You can click here for more information. It sounds terrifying to me, but then again I am just the tiniest bit prone to needless drama when faced with medical challenges. But I digress…

To be diagnosed with sleep apnea, I had to undergo a sleep study at the hospital. I arrived just before bedtime, and was escorted to a room furnished like a Motel 6. Next, the sleep technician attached two or three dozen wires to my head, face, legs, and body, and also latched a couple of belts around my chest and torso for good measure. All the wires were attached to a box that fed information to a computer. After that, they tucked me into a bed with a camera (!) pointed at me. (Apparently the camera is there to monitor movement, and also in case the patient has a seizure while sleeping….okay…) Then they bid me a fond good night, leaving me to snuggle with a tangled nest of wires, and a fervent prayer that I would not need to use the restroom anytime before dawn. After a night of what the technician assured me was indeed sleep and not psychological torture (I think it was both, personally), I went home.

Some days later, I received the diagnosis of sleep apnea – which honestly was no surprise. I had been struggling with both insomnia and daytime sleepiness for years. The official diagnosis meant a second sleep study, which went much the same as the first only with the addition of a sleep apnea mask, a fun accessory that covers your nose and blows continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) into your throat while you sleep. This study enabled the doctor to determine the best air pressure setting to correct my sleep apnea.

So now I have my own CPAP machine, and let me tell you, it has changed my life! Don’t get me wrong, it took some time to adjust to sleeping with a mask on and with several feet of tubing sprawled across the bed. Not to mention, it’s a bit of a blow to the ego to strap on this kind of apparatus every night; there is nothing remotely appealing about the get up. Luckily my mask came packaged in a bag feauturing this picture:




As you can see, this gentleman is happy as a clam to have six feet of tubing anchored to his nose. And just look at his adoring partner! Her smile clearly says, “This mask in no way affects my attraction to this man!” Whew. That certainly put any and all issues with my self esteem to rest!

In all seriousness – while I may not enjoy the aesthetics of the therapy, I am LOVING the sleep I am getting. I admit the first week or so was rough, but I persevered with the treatment and now I am reaping the benefits. I rarely wake up during the night anymore, and daytime sleepiness is a thing of the past. And while I did worry that my husband would find the mask to be a bit of (ahem) a turn off, I am happy to report that our romantic life is still going strong. In fact, I am hopeful that we will become the new faces of Respironics Apnea Masks –


What do you think? Do we have a chance?