Friday, November 7, 2008

To mask or not to mask?

Due to concerns from a loving husband and a caring friend, this is where I found myself last night - the Sleep Treatment Center at Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines.
I checked in at 8 p.m., overnight bag stuffed with pjs, slippers, tons of catch up reading material and a sense of adventure, paving the way for others....
These are the lovely accomodations, far from the Ritz, but not uncomfortable.

Les, my efficient technician proceeded to give me the details, hook me up from head to ankle, leave the room, give me directions over a mike from some unknown space, remind me to sleep on my back as best as I could (never easy for me!), and wish me good night.
By this time, it was 9:30, far past my bedtime, but I was reluctant to turn out the light. I worked a crossword puzzle, partially, then browsed a few catalogs. I was pretty sure I wouldn't fall asleep in my usual seconds, but I decided to get on with the night so plunged myself into darkness.
Here I am with all my wires and belts.

It seemed a long time before I fell asleep, many Hail Marys said.
During his initial explanation, Les had informed me that he might wake me up in the middle of the night to try a CPAP on me. I wasn't really sure what that was,
but I wasn't happy with the thought that if he didn't try the CPAP on me, I'd probably have to come back another night. By this time it didn't seem nearly so fun and I was questioning my sanity for putting myself through this.
Sure enough, 1 a.m. Les is right there with the lovely CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine - the dreaded mask!). Once again he suggested that he'd get the best readings if I slept on my back - rats!
It took a bit of practice breaths, but I did get the hang of it before too long. I actually did go back to sleep till my favorite hour of 4:20. All you people who make fun of me - if you ever do one of these you'd be wishing you had my gift. I called out to Les - "Can I get out of here now?" Happily he said yes.
Here I am just before he started ever so gently ripping tape off my face, legs, hair.

Shortly thereafter I was on my way home with great appreciation for my lovely own bed with the two happy to see me bodies reclining there.

So why did I do it????
When I retired one thing I resolved to myself was to get my body back in better shape. It's been an uphill battle, made far more difficult by my deep love of food and wine. However there are a few things to do that are easier than others - get a regular check-up, mammogram, eye exam. If following through on a sleep study will reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, I'm willing to do it - I'll even wear a mask every night if required. I have so many loved ones who are dealing with major illnesses. Being majorly ill is a full time job with NO perks and NO fun. Retirement has made me realize how much fun there is to be had in every day and I'd like to continue having fun for a while.

I realize I've included no real info on what sleep apnea is, but I will when I find out if I actually have it. Stay tuned for results on Tuesday.


Joe said...

I have been a snorer for a long time. As I got older, my snoring has gotten more frequent and louder. I also noticed I was tired a lot and liked to take naps during the day. People complained about my snoring and I could not sleep in the same room with other people for fear of keeping them awake.

Finally, I asked my doctor about the problem. He sent me home with a machine to check my breathing and pulse while I slept. The results really shocked me! The doc said my airway was closing off up to 70 times each hour, and that I stopped breathing for as long as one full minute at a time! I had severe apnea. He strongly recommended I start using the CPAP machine, since I was risking damage to my heart due to lack of oxygen.

I had read about CPAP machines before and always thought I would never be able to sleep with one, since I am somewhat claustrophobic. Surprisingly, it only took me a few minutes to get used to, and I was able to sleep comfortably from the very beginning with no problem.

The mask portion is just a small apparatus that fits on the nostrils to blow in air that keeps the throat inflated, thus preventing any snoring. Straps over the head are a little annoying, but they are necessary to keep the nose piece in place. If one changes sleeping positions at night, it’s possible for these straps to move, causing the nose piece to slip off.

I have been using a Dreamhelmet, a combination sleep mask sound-muffling pillow for years now, for sleeping at night and for napping during the day. I always find it hard to sleep without the Dreamhelmet, and I was afraid I would not be able to use it with the CPAP mask, but I was wrong about that too.

After I slept with the CPAP machine and mask for a short while, I tried wearing the Dreamhelmet over the CPAP, covering up the straps – voila, it worked like a charm! I found that the Dreamhelmet actually helps keep the straps in place when I change positions, so now I can sleep all night in comfort, not being bothered by sound, light, or changing positions. The CPAP and the Dreamhelmet are the perfect sleeping combination for me.

I now wake up rested, and I have energy that lasts all day long. I don’t feel so run down all the time or feel like I need an afternoon nap, but I still carry an extra Dreamhelmet in the car with me just in case I do need a nap.

2Travelers said...

wow, Ann, that was amazing - THANK YOU for sharing with everyone what you did the other night - many people might think there's no way to figure things like that (sleep apnea) out -- please DO update everyone when you get the results. AND GOOD FOR YOU, chronicling it with not just your words, but the photos -- they DO tell a story, don't they? Praying for you, and letting you know that I have yet to meet ANYONE that enjoys their Retirement more than ... YOU !! All your fun crafty things, all your varied interests .. you inspire me, DAILY. Love - Davi