Because sleep apnea affects the lives of so many everyday people like you and me, I’ve asked some other everyday people to share their stories here on SleepApneaControl.com. I want to thank my guest posters for allowing us all to learn from their experiences. If you would like to share your OSA story, please click the Contact link above and I would love to discuss how we can make that happen. Please enjoy Jed’s story.
Like most people diagnosed with sleep apnea, I spent a long time undiagnosed, tired, irritable and wondering if I could ever feel rested. I was 24 years old, depressed, overweight, with high blood pressure and chronically tired. The explanation I was given: low iron. I was on iron supplements, started an exercise routine, stopped drinking coffee, and started drinking green smoothies. Nothing changed. My iron levels weren’t low – they were just slightly less than average. Not that I didn’t need the exercise, or the diet change; in fact I need to get back to that. But I was now more tired than ever because of all these changes and I was expending more energy, taking in less and sleeping the same amount.
My fiancé suggested I talk to my doctor about my coughing/gasping/waking up repeatedly through the night. My doctor finally suggested a sleep study. In that sleep study, as many of you know, you may wear one or several devices. One is a cannula and monitoring device, the other is an O2 sensor on the finger. Both were awkward to wear but so worth it. Through this study we discovered I had 82 apnea events an hour, which is considered severe. Armed with this information and now a proper diagnosis of severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) I was ready to begin treatment. So started the testing, and purchase of a CPAP machine.
When discussing CPAP with most other sufferers the phrases “I HATE that stupid thing” or “I hate that mask” come up more often than “I am so grateful for this life-altering device”. I (now) choose the latter. The number one problem once you begin treatment, is compliance, or rather a lack thereof. Many in my family have a diagnosis and a CPAP machine, yet it sits in a closet, gathering dust. I was close to that stage, tossing off the mask and accepting I would be tired forever. I worked with my sleep therapist and we tried mask, after mask, after mask. I have a large head, and a beard; a sleep therapist’s worst nightmare. If it fit, it leaked. If it didn’t leak it was too tight and on the story goes. I tested some masks for free, I bought a mask and used it for a year (I bought two in that time) before deciding I couldn’t stand it.
I found a mask that works for me, of the hundreds if not thousands of designs out there. I found one that is comfortable on my head/face, doesn’t leak and provides the right pressure. I can proudly say I am 100% CPAP compliant! When I travel I bring my machine with me. Many think how sad it is that I am “tied” to this machine, while I consider myself fortunate to have this machine. Sure I need electricity to sleep well. But I would rather have a machine that I need to power, and carry than the alternative of never having a restful sleep.
With compliance my blood pressure is perfect 120/80, I sleep 8 hours without waking and my quality of life has drastically improved. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows; when I started CPAP my bruxism (teeth grinding) worsened. I got a bite plate and carried on. There are dental appliances that can help mild to moderate OSA sufferers and treat both symptoms but that’s just not a reality for me.
I believe in CPAP therapy. The right mask is out there. A good night’s sleep is achievable. Work with your doctor or sleep therapist and don’t give up until you find the magic mask and feel you can achieve 100% compliance. It’s beyond worth it!