CPAP Machine: Living with Sleep Apnea
Everyone Needs Sleep.
Because I have had one episode of atrial fibrillation, my heart doctor felt I would benefit from a sleep study for the diagnosing of sleep apnea. According to him, many people who have a-fib also have sleep apnea. Okay. I'm ready. I have no problem sleeping anywhere, although I usually take something like Advil PM to help me fall asleep.
The week before the study, I received the following instructions:
Arrive at the hospital promptly at 7:00 p.m..
Bring cotton pajamas to sleep in. Do not use makeup, hair spray, or any lotions.
Eat before you come. (They're not going to feed me.)
No one may accompany you. (I doubt anyone wants to.)
Okay. I can live with all of it if they can live with me without makeup, which is a pretty scary sight, believe me. I throw some old cotton shorts and a T-shirt into a bag along with a bottle of Advil PM and a book and head out for the hospital. Finding a parking place is a mild hassle, but no big deal. Entering the floor the sleep study is on is strange. It was deliberately constructed to be isolated from the rest of the hospital and is very quiet, like a large tomb.
Preparing for the Sleep Study
The elevator takes me directly into the waiting room for the sleep lab. There is a man who is obviously another sleeper like me talking to a woman, who gives him a form to sign. She takes him to the back and comes back to have me sign the same form. It basically says that I am giving up any right to sue them for anything they do including killing me, but I sign anyway. She then leads me to a very large spacious room with a bed and a table and nothing else. It is not a warm cozy room. It is also incredibly cold. I am very hot-natured and for me to be cold is not normal. I make a mental note to tell the nurse about it.
As I sit, waiting for someone to come do something to me, a voice comes out of a vent in the ceiling and I jump almost off my chair. "Ms. Pratt, are you all dressed and ready to proceed?" Well, I'm thinking hell, no, no one told me to dress, but I docilely answer, " No, but I'll get dressed, just give me a second." And I do. Ten minutes later, the nurse comes in and starts to fiddle with a bunch of wires with rubber circles on them. It dawns on me that they are going to be stuck to my body and for the first time, I wonder just exactly what I've gotten into. She sits me down in a chair. Then I feel a vigorous scrub on my scalp, not painful, but getting there. Then she applies an ointment, which I learn is Pace, which encourages conductivity, according to the outside of the tube. A few more second thoughts about this whole endeavor come to mind, but nothing serious. She continues to scrub different sections of my scalp with something, then apply the ointment, then attach a lead. After my head is done, she tells me to drop one of the leads into the top of my shorts and out the bottom. Okay. Done. She attaches those leads to my legs and another set to my arms. Now I resemble a robot.
And More Sleep
Would you undergo a sleep study for sleep apnea?
The Actual Study
Then she's through. I'm ready to sleep. It's 9:00 o'clock, which is early for me, but I'll take my pill and be fine. "I'll be back at 10:30 to help you to bed." And she's gone. I forgot about asking her to turn the blizzard off and now I have to read for an hour and a half in this cold room. I decide I'll risk aggravating her and speak to the vent on the ceiling: "Nurse."
"I'm freezing. Could you turn the air up a bit, please?"
She is immediately in the hallway outside my room and tells me she's raised the air some, but that I'll sleep better if the room is cool. Well, whatever. She leaves again and I read for an hour and a half in a semi-freezing room. Then the voice comes from the ceiling and says: "Ms. Pratt, are you ready for bed?"
"Yes, oh, yes, please."
I crawl under the thick cotton sheet she calls a blanket and ask for another one. She sighs and goes to get it. I think I'm becoming annoying, but that's okay. It's cold. She tells me that we will do some tests when she gets back to the microphone. Okay. She turns out the light. The room is absolutely pitch-black. A voice from the ceiling says, "Hold your breath." I hold it till I'm about to pop and then, "Now breathe only through your nose." Okay. "Now flex your right foot." I do and my whole foot cramps. I decide not to tell her because I don't want anyone taking me out of this bed for anything. "Now hold your breath and move your stomach in and out." Do what? I have to really concentrate to get this right, but I finally do, and she says good night. She also says she may tell me during the night to turn onto my back. Is she crazy? Then I realize she's not kidding. She's going to talk to me from the ceiling and tell me to turn over on my back. I don't do well with being waked up during the night, not well at all. "Good night, Ms. Pratt. Sleep well."
I fall asleep easily and feel lucky. The nurse told me that sometimes the ambulances from the shootings in the city come and go all night long. I was spared that. I did hear the man who was monitoring the other patient, the man in the waiting room, instructing him about flexing his foot and moving his stomach up and down, etc. I found myself wondering who did the best with the stomach thing, him or me, then decided I was being childish and let it go.
At 2:00 o'clock in the morning, I am awakened out of a very deep sleep to, "Ms. Pratt, please turn over on your back." I literally jump almost out of the bed, forgetting totally where I am and horrified that someone is talking to me through the ceiling. Then I remember and turn. The wires feel like they're all coming loose, but I assume they're okay or the voice would tell me to fix them. I go back to sleep and we repeat that whole process at 4:00 a.m. when, once again, I'm instructed to turn on my back.
A Good Stretch Is Always Nice after a Nap
* Ask about the time you'll be going to bed so you won't be surprised.
* Take your own warm blanket. They encourage you to bring things that make you comfortable.
* Be aware that a voice will speak to you from the ceiling and try to be a good sport about it and don't let it scare you to death.
* Realize that you may have to do the study again after the first time.
Sometime a Yawn Is in Order.
At 6:00 a.m., she wakes me up. I feel terrible. Waked up twice and not having slept long enough for the Advil PM to wear off, I am slurring my words. "Good morning, Ms. Pratt. How did you sleep?" I explain that the voice from the ceiling was a little annoying, which she finds very funny for some reason. Then the good part.
"Ms. Pratt, because you didn't meet the criteria to qualify for sleep apnea but you are very close, I think the doctor is going to want you to come back and do it again." I am struck dumb. I just keep staring at her. "Ms. Pratt," and she starts to go through it all again.
"Okay, that's fine. I'll come back. I promise. Right now, I just want to go home." What I don't say is that I don't want to get too waked up because I'm going to bed the minute I get home. What this says about my driving home is beside the point. I ask her how I will know when to come back and she says if I don't hear from them by mail in two weeks, to call the sleep lab. I'm silently questioning whether that is ever going to happen. I thank her, fill out a questionnaire that she leaves with me, think about leaving a tip for housekeeping and remember it's not a hotel, then call my husband.
"Good morning, Glory." This is my husband Joe's usual morning greeting. Joe likes mornings and I do not. "How did it go?" I am tempted to whine about the whole episode but think better of it and tell him I'll probably have to come back soon and do the whole thing again. As I leave the room and get on the elevator, I'm thinking about what blanket I'll bring with me next time. By the time I get to the car, I'm contemplating snacks, then I remember the camera on the ceiling and have a mental image of them watching me scarfing down something sweet and wonderful, which makes me laugh and I realize it wasn't that bad after all. The only problem is I still don't know if I have sleep apnea. TO BE CONTINUED.
Here's an update on AFib and me. I did go back, very reluctantly. The second time, I was diagnosed with AFib. I tried using a CPAP mask. It simply did not work for me. I could not sleep with it on my face. I tried many kinds and none worked for me. I am trying my best to lose enough weight to do away with the sleep apnea. My doctor is not happy with the situation, but it is what it is.
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