This is an update to a previous node I wrote which was simply called Sleep study. On August 29 I did a sleep study and determined that I had sleep apnea and treatments for that were either an operation to remove my tonsils and/or adenoids, or get an air machine with a mask attached to it that you wear when you sleep. So I was left with a minor dilemma: get an operation that could be painful and include a long recovery period and only be 40 to 50 percent effective, or make a lifelong commitment to wearing a device every night that was 90 to 100 percent effective. I also had to figure out what insurance would cover. Well, all that is resolved now.

Several weeks after the sleep study, after playing some extremely annoying phone tag with my doctor's office (they had some inexplicable aversion to calling my work number), I finally got a hold of my doctor and he said he would try to prescribe the machine, but he was unsure if the insurance company would cover it if he prescribed it. He said that usually he sends his patients to a lung specialist, that the insurance company was more likely to cover it if a specialist prescribed it as opposed to him. But, fortune befell me and he was able to get me the machine without sending me along another unnecessary and inconvenient step.

I found out that I was getting the machine from the company that provided it, not my doctor. I got home a few days ago, checked my messages, and it was some woman from some company I'd never heard of asking me when it was convenient to drop by the machine. I was elated. I called back, only got a nighttime answering service, but they called me at work the next day and made an appointment for the next day (which was today, the day I'm writing this node). But they called back and had to reschedule; the really cool thing was they were able to bring it last night! A nice lady came to my house with the machine and showed it to me and showed me how it worked and made me sign some papers. It took about an hour and after it was over I finally had my cure to sleep apnea!

The CPAP Machine

CPAP is an acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It pumps air from the room through a tube and into a mask that either fits over your nose or has two prongs that stick into each of your nostrils. Most people, like me, find the mask without the prongs more comfortable. Usually below the air pumper is a tray of water and below that a heater to heat the water. That is meant to provide humidity in the air you're breathing at night because the mask doesn't allow you to get humidity the natural way, which could cause you to wake up with a very dry nose, mouth, and throat. With the water tray, a hose hooks from the air pumper to the water, and a hose comes from the water and attached to the mask. You don't have to use the water, especially if there's high humidity in the air already; in that case you'd just hook the mask directly to the pump. Oh, and the heater's totally safe, as it never gets warmer than your body temperature.

One thing a lot of you might be concerned about is the size and loudness of the machine. CPAP machines have come along way from their humble beginnings about 15 years ago. My machine is ultra quiet (it could barely hear it) and small, about as wide as my abdomen, about as tall as my outstretched hand and a lot lighter than it looks. Basically, I can pick it up with one hand with ease. The water tray and heater add a little bit of height and weight, but it's no big deal. The machine comes with a convenient travel case so you can take it with you on trips. That's cool because I actually had planned on taking a vacation to Florida next week, weather permitting.

The case is very important because the lady who showed me the machine said that it is therapy, that I should not ever skip a night. The insurance company that's covering the machine would like you to actually use the device they're spending their money on. The lady also said she'd make regular checkups with me and that the mask would be replaced about every six months. The machine itself, in lieu of upgrades being developed all the time (just like computers or anything else), is supposedly replaced every four or five years.

So did the machine work well, you ask? Well, let me preface the answer by saying that the past several years I've hardly ever been able to remember any dreams, or even that I had dreamed. But last night, the first night using the CPAP machine, I dreamed a lot. I had a few odd interruptions, and it did take me a little bit of time to get to sleep, which was probably due to the weirdness of having that mask on me. But when I did sleep, I dreamed almost the whole time: lots of vivid, crazy dreams. I haven't awakened in the morning remembering so many dreams in years! I must have gotten a ton of REM sleep last night, probably more than I've gotten in the past few weeks. The importance of REM sleep has probably been covered in another node, so I won't get into that.

But there is one thing I think I should mention, something the lady told me that had never occurred to me before, something that might interest many of you: this machine might actually help me lose some weight! She said that with the extra energy I'll have every day, it should increase my metabolism. That would be ultra sweet because I've been packing a few extra pounds for quite some time. Imagine a weight loss program as simple as that, just wearing a CPAP contraption every night while sleeping.

I'm already feeling the effects. I feel great today and I do feel like I have a bit more energy. I woke up naturally at 10:30 AM and usually on a Saturday when I can sleep in I sleep until noon or 1 PM! Sure, I got to bed late on Friday nights, but my body still wants to sleep for 12 or 13 hours until it feels its gotten the rest it needs. But this morning, my body had had enough sleep after only about eight hours, which is normal! And when I woke up I thought the machine had shut off because I couldn't feel it pumping air any more. I didn't realize until I started to take it off that it was still on! I must have gotten so used to it I didn't realize it was still pumping air. I didn't expect to get used to it so soon. So if you still had any reservations about the CPAP machine, like how long it would take to get used to it, don't give it another worry!

Get Your CPAP

Just like in my last sleep study node, I encourage anybody out there who has sleep apnea to get it checked out. Go get a sleep study done, then get your CPAP machine! It will change your life. I know that I've only had the machine one night, but I can already tell it's working. I know surgery is another options, but really, when weighing the pros and cons of both, CPAP is the way to go. I'm glad I made that decision, even though the doctor was willing to set me up with the surgery. The machine is quiet, small, light, and convenient, as the people delivered it right to my door at a time that was good for me. I know I might be sounding like I'm doing a voice over for a commercial, but I swear I'm being serious and honest: I'm Glad I Did This.

I'll be doing yet another update to this node series in a few months or so to talk about how the extra sleep has helped me with my health and work. I'll see you then.

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