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Tips On Living With Sleep Apnea And Your CPAP Machine

Updated on March 29, 2013
Philips Respironics CPAP Machine
Philips Respironics CPAP Machine

OK so you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can join an elite group of people world wide that can state they have a sleeping disorder. Like I did, you probably have a ton of questions, concerns, and are probably just a little freaked out right now. After all your doctor just told you that you stop breathing at night, and pretty much are constantly dying in your sleep on a constant basis. It's enough to freak out anyone. Well rest assured, you're not alone, and in many cases there is a completely safe treatment that can help you live a wonderful and productive life.

One very common form of treatment is called a CPAP machine. This futuristic sounding device is pretty much a mask that you wear that pumps air into your airways when you are sleeping to keep you breathing. There are many benefits with very few side effects. This system is similar to the Scott Air Packs that firemen wear when going into fires. It keeps positive pressure on your respiratory system to keep you breathing. In fact that is sort of the meaning of CPAP, Continuous Positive Air Pressure.

Who Made You Check Into Sleep Apnea?

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Talk With Your Spouse

Until I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, the only experience I have ever had with this particular sleeping disorder was with my Mother. At one point she was borderline narcoleptic, snored like crazy, and always fatigued. She has had a CPAP machine for years but it's older and seems to make more noise than my garage air compressor. Once my Doctor told me I had apnea, I had all sorts of visions running through my head and though my wife might actually kill me if I have to sleep with a device that sound like the constant taking off and landing of small air planes.

After talking it over with my wife, she was surprisingly receptive to the treatment with a CPAP machine. She realized it might take some getting used to, but I had never really taken the time to ask her how my snoring effected her. Other than the jokes about how loud I snored, she told me that she often times wouldn't get much sleep at night either. It turns out, not from the loud bear like sounds emanating from right next to her, but instead then I would stop breathing it deeply concerned her. She would wake up at night many times just to make sure I was still breathing. I had no idea that my sleep disorder was causing so much trouble for her own sleeping patterns. Needless to say when I was prescribed a CPAP machine, she was very receptive. This was the exact opposite of what I had expected.

Not Quite Soft, Not Quite Loud

When I actually got my fancy new CPAP machine home and plugged in, I admit I was a bit apprehensive, I mean here is this medical device that my doctor is essentially telling me that I need to use to every time I sleep to stay alive. I wasn't all that excite to actually go to sleep that first night, but when the time came, I reluctantly filled up the humidifier chamber, strapped on the headgear and I was ready to do battle with my disorder! I took a few breaths and it seemed like I almost drifted to sleep immediately.

The next morning, I had found that I not only slept much better, but so had my wife. I was hyper sensitive to the amount of new noise that I was bringing to the room, but it actually wasn't that bad. It was certainly not like the loud diesel-esq sound of the CPAP machine my mother has, it was actually like a soft gentle wind while I was wearing my mask. Now when I pulled it off to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, that was a different story. You would think you were in the middle of a hurricane in the room!

It turned out that the machine made much less noise that I had thought, and for once both my wife and I got a good nights sleep.

Don't Hide Your Diagnosis

While I'm certainly not one to shout from the rooftops "I HAVE SLEEP APNEA!!!!", I must admit I was hesitant to share this very intimate and personal condition with anyone other than my wife. Sure my family knew I had been diagnosed, but I didn't exactly try to show off any of my now life sustaining equipment to them, and there were certainly no demos of how it worked. For about a year and a half no one other than my wife saw exactly what kept me going on a nightly basis. I mean I had traveled with the device, been to hotels and what not, but didn't actually stay overnight with anyone. Until the fishing trip that is.....

My brother in law invited me on an RV fishing trip excursion that I was so excite to go on, I didn't even stop to think of the repercussions. I mean three days of men being me, camping out in an RV, eating what we wanted to, when we wanted to, fishing with a world class local fishing guide, and going to sleep whenever we wanted to.. Oh no! How in the hell am I going to work this out? Since my doctor had pretty much convinced me that this was a device that I needed to use to survive, I didn't dare leave it behind. I almost backed out of the trip. Almost.

It turns out that there were no snickers, laughs, or anything otherwise negative comments made about my medical device. Sure around the guys almost no joke is taboo, but I was surprised to find that the guys simply didn't seem to care. Wether it was because we were just too tired from the night before, too excited about the upcoming day, or maybe they just could sense I was apprehensive about it, I don't know. In any event, it wasn't as bad as I thought. And to imagine I almost backed out of going because of sheer embarrassment.

In stark contrast, my wife and I recently split a room with another couple when we attended an out of town wedding. We have known this couple for quite a few years and I pondered how a few nights would go. Surprisingly, my friend's dad actually uses a CPAP machine as well so it wasn't a big deal to either of them. Sleep apnea is either becoming more common place, or people are becoming more understanding of this true medical condition.

Did You Know Sleep Apnea Can Be Cured?

We have all seen those stop snoring advertisements with everything from nose strips to magic spray that you can spray in your throat to keep you breathing at night, but these solutions merely treat the symptoms of the disorder and actually do nothing to help correct the problem. I'll be the first one to say that in my case my doctor believes my apnea could possibly go away all together with weight loss. That's right, there is no magic pill, spray, or strip that can make me lose weight, but that is exactly what the doctor prescribed for me. This wasn't really a big surprise to me, since my primary care doctor and I have discussed it for years. It's amazing to find that something that could be so potentially life threatening can be alleviated in my case with another positive health change.

While I don't consider myself obese, I know that according to the medical charts I'm considered so. Once positive side effect that I was told about CPAP therapy is that man patients may actually experience weight loss! This wasn't the case for me, but the overall idea is that when people get more, and better well rested sleep, their energy levels should increase. This should allow for more personal activity like exercise. I didn't see this particular positive side effect, but I can tell you that I now wake up better rested. If I happen to take a nap on the couch without my CPAP, I can certainly tell the difference.

The bottom line is that sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that without professional medical intervention could potentially lead to serious side effects such as narcolepsy, fatigue, and even in some cases death! If you suspect you or someone you love may have sleep apnea please have them consider talking to their doctor about it and please feel free to pass along my personal experiences. No one should be afraid to go to sleep.


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