I have this love/hate relationship with my CPAP machine. I’ve been sleeping with a mask on every night for about 3 months now. It’s no fun at all. It’s uncomfortable, and confining, and it makes me marinate in my own drool. I feel trapped, and I strongly suspect it’s subtly changing the shape of my face. (Hey, it could happen. Anything’s possible. Google it.)
On the other hand, I’m no longer waking up 10 times a night. I sleep right on through, usually. And I’m much more rested. So it’s a burden I’m willing to take on.
Here’s the one concern I can’t seem to shake: I’m not communicating with my subconscious. We are no longer on speaking terms. I don’t remember my dreams anymore, because I’m not waking up immediately after REM sleep.
This is a good thing, health-wise. But I wonder about that communication process and the loss thereof. I mean, what are dreams for, if not to send us messages from the deepest parts of our brains?
Okay, I’ll admit that 9 times out of 10 I can’t make sense of my dreams at all. But sometimes they clue me in on the fact that I’m a lot more concerned about something than I realize. That allows me to take that thing more seriously and resolve it if I can.
But now all that seems to rattle around in my sleeping brain is the background hum of my CPAP machine. At first it was kind of a relief, because I have enough to think about without added dream drama. But now I wonder what I’m missing.
Because of that (and because, let’s face it, I hate the mask), I sometimes peel the alien intruder off my face and allow myself a few hours of slobber-free, unencumbered sleep. It’s such a luxury. It feels so good.
I have noticed, though, that this causes my dreams to be incredibly intense. No longer just abstract and surreal, it’s like my sleeping self is gripping me by the shoulders and giving me a good hard shake. “Hello! Are you listening? This stuff is important!” My dreams are no longer sweet. They’re more like shouts.
Will this impact my mental health? I mean, communication matters, right? Should I be worried? Stay tuned…
As if this Barbie doll didn’t already come with a ton of accessories (glasses, compression socks, night guard…) I now use a CPAP machine. Heaven help me.
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and it’s a device used to help you breathe at night if you have Sleep Apnea. Which I do. Big time. According to my recent sleep study, I stopped breathing entirely 8 times during the night, and I had 225 hypopneas, which are shallow breaths that represent an airflow decrease. Good grief. No wonder I’m always so tired. Every night I’ve been fighting for my life.
It’s not like I didn’t already know this. I snore. And I had a sleep study about 15 years ago that indicated that I had sleep apnea, but this was before Obamacare. I had no insurance and couldn’t afford the machinery. So I had to just take my chances.
That, and I’ve known a bunch of people that have gotten sleep apnea machines and given up on them in sheer frustration. One friend sleeps hot, and his mask kept filling up with sweat, so he was constantly waking up feeling as though he was drowning. Another was a stomach sleeper like me, and could not get comfortable. A third nearly strangled herself with the air hose. And a fourth had her mask destroyed by her dog.
I’ve been living with this alien on my face every night for about a month and a half now, with mixed results. Once, I woke up with my heart pounding, absolutely convinced that I was suffocating. I ripped the mask off, but I was awake for several hours before that sensation of utter panic left me.
Another time, I woke up completely unable to exhale. The thing was blowing so hard that my mouth was blown up like a chipmunk trying to carry too many nuts. Oh, I was getting air that time. Boy, was I ever. But you have to be able to breathe out, too. Again, I had to rip off the mask.
More often, though, it’s simply the fact that I’m not getting a good seal, and the air is escaping around the edges of the mask and blowing up into my eyeballs. That’s a weird way to wake up. That, and like my stomach sleeping friend, it’s nearly impossible to get comfortable.
Another unexpected side effect is that I no longer remember any of my dreams. I’m sure that has to do with the fact that I’m no longer waking up several dozen times a night. But I miss my dreams. I have a very rich inner world.
I hate this CPAP. I mean, I really, truly, completely hate it. So why am I still putting myself through this torture? Several reasons.
First of all, I’d kinda like to live. I used to think it would be nice to die in my sleep. That would be the way to go. But it turns out a lot of people have died in their sleep when they didn’t have to. I’d really rather not be one of those.
Second, I now have a husband, and he gets to watch me stop breathing. That’s got to be really upsetting. I’d like to spare him that. And he’s also a reason to try really hard to stick around for as long as I can.
But most importantly, I have to admit that I’ve never felt more rested in my entire life. Once I stop my nightly fight with the alien and allow it to assimilate me, I sleep soundly. (I don’t even have to get up to pee as often. That’s an unexpected bonus.) And when I wake up, I’m refreshed. That makes a difference. Such a difference.
So I’m going to try my best to adjust to this hateful thing. I need to be the adult in my life and make the effort. It’s for my own good. Wish me luck.