The Alien on my Face

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.

CPAP

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Sleepy in Seattle

In Florida, my whole life revolved around the desperate pursuit of sleep, and I was lucky if I got 5 hours of it a day. I was in a perpetual mental fog, and it was affecting my health, both mental and physical. Granted, this probably was caused by my 13 years of working on the graveyard shift, coupled with my stress and anxiety about my financial situation and a general ennui, as it were, about my very existence.

Now that I’m on the opposite side of the country, I seem to have the opposite problem. Here in Seattle it’s like I’ve been sneezed on by Rip Van Winkle. If I didn’t have pesky responsibilities like dogs that require feeding and a job that for some reason insists on my attendance in exchange for a paycheck, I think I could easily sleep for 15 hours a day. If I hadn’t started typing this blog entry I could succumb to the Sandman right now. Mind you, it’s only 7 pm.

It’s not that I feel constantly exhausted here. Far from it. If I have something I want or need to do, once I shake off the heavy sodden blanket of slumber I can feel quite refreshed and infinitely perky. And yet place me in a horizontal position and I’m back in the Land of Nod almost instantly. I honestly don’t know what’s come over me. I do have a few theories, though.

  • At this point on the calendar, at this latitude, the sun sets around 5 pm and doesn’t rise again until around 7am. And when I say it sets, I mean, by God, it sets. It’s pitch black before you can glance, all mystified, at the clock. I generally assume it’s much later than it turns out to be. This level of confusion can be draining.
  • I’ve always loved to sleep in the rain, and find the sound of it comforting and hypnotic. Er… did I mention I’m in Seattle? ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m at a higher altitude. Science buffs, help me out here. How much thinner is the air? How much impact would that have on me?
  • Maybe it’s something in the water. It sure tastes better here.
  • It’s much cooler here, so when I am awake, I’m a lot more active. No, I’m not training for marathons. I’m still me, after all. But I’d like to think I’m earning some of this sleep.
  • I’ve noticed that my hair and finger nails are growing at a much faster rate here. I have no idea why that would be, but that must require energy, right? You try and grow hair. Not so easy, is it?
  • I feel a lot safer here than I did in Florida. Which is strange, because the crime rate seems to be through the roof. Maybe it’s because the general environment, both political and spiritual, is much more compatible with my lifelong philosophies.
  • I don’t really know anyone and I can’t afford to do much until I get out from under this crippling relocation debt, so I may as well sleep.
  • In spite of that debt, for the first time in many years, I can see a light at the end of the financial tunnel. It’s far, far away, but it’s there. So I’m much more content, much more relaxed.
  • I’m trying to keep my thermostat relatively low, so it’s hard to get out of my nice warm bed with my snuggly dogs and put my feet on these cold hardwood floors.
  • And finally, finally, I think I’m actually happy. That’s new, so I’ll have to research it and get back to you. But somehow it’s easier to relinquish consciousness when you go down smiling.

I could probably write a lot more, but I feel a nap coming on.

sleep

[Image credit: integratinghealth.net]