Spending the night with Charles T. Pap (CPAP)

Stuff white toy bear is shown wearing a CPAP mask with straps around his head and a hose coming out the top of his head to demonstrate how it looks.

I call him Charlie. Charles T. Pap for formal occasions. No, it’s not a boyfriend, dog, turtle, car, or a character in one of my novels. It’s my CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. People wear these machines to keep them breathing steadily during the night when they would otherwise intermittently stop breathing due to sleep apnea. This is hard on the heart and other organs. It also robs sufferers of good sleep so, like me, they keep falling asleep during the day.

You might have slept with someone who has it. They snore and snore and then . . . silence. Then maybe a snort and more snoring. They may even snore so loudly they wake themselves up. I have done that. I have also recorded myself snoring. My husband, who did not snore, was a saint to put up with that. I’m pretty sure my mother had it. She snored like crazy and fell asleep often during the day, just like me.

Ironically, my brother and I brought home our brand new identical CPAP machines on the same day in June, so we compare notes. He tried another model before and gave up after a few days, but he’s sticking with this one because he has heart trouble and isn’t ready to die in his sleep. Me, I’m just tired of being tired.

You can’t get a prescription for a CPAP machine without having a sleep study. I wrote about that here in May, complete with embarrassing photo. You can read it here. The study showed that I stopped breathing about every 30 seconds when I slept on my back, less often when I lay on my side. Not terrible, but concerning. Just sleep on your side, you say? I thought I did, but it turns out I spend a good portion of the night on my back.

I will not be posting a photo of me wearing Charlie strapped around my face. It looks ridiculous. You have a hose running from the machine to a nozzle on the top of your head, another strap behind your head, and more straps holding a rubber nosepiece that looks alarmingly like a hospital intubation tube. In the model I have, my mouth is free, but many older CPAPs cover both nose and mouth. Nope, nope, nope, not for me.

The sleep doc gave me three months to try out the CPAP and see if it helped. If it didn’t, I could give it back and be done with it. Oh, how I wish that were the case, but I know I sleep more soundly with it on, with Charlie breathing moist air into my nose all night. Dang it.

Charlie takes almost as much maintenance as my old dog, who is catching some extra z’s beside me as I type. Clean these parts every day, these other parts once a week, refill the humidifier tub with distilled water daily, replace the filter, the nosepiece, the mask, and the hose at different times and the whole thing every few years . . .

My brother is more meticulous than I am. Every morning he puts a little baby shampoo on his finger and washes out his facemask and humidifier tub. I do it about once a week. I’m still trying to figure out how to get it dry by bedtime. It’s damp here on the Oregon coast. Last night near midnight I was standing in the bathroom in my nightgown blow-drying the padding on the sides of the nosepiece. When I put it on, water dripped onto my lips and chin for the first hour. Combine that with restless legs and a brain full of too many TV shows, and I didn’t fall asleep till the wee hours. To entertain myself, I watched videos on my phone on how to clean my CPAP.

At my telemed appointment tomorrow with the sleep doc, we will discuss my experience with the CPAP. Charlie is connected to the internet, and the doc will have a print-out of my numbers, hours of usage, oxygen saturation, etc. They know what I’m doing in bed! Well, at least with Charlie. They don’t know why it’s so off and on some nights and a steady seven or eight hours on other nights.

Sleeping hooked up to a machine, with a mask on your face and a hose coming out of the top of your head is weird and unnatural. Having Googled CPAPs online, I’m receiving lots of ads for less invasive machines and alternatives to CPAPs. I am not uninterested, but I am still hoping my relationship with Charlie will work out.

I got used to wearing curlers in my hair every night and sleeping with a headgear attached to my buck teeth in my teens. I can do this. Maybe. Experts say one-third to one-half of people prescribed CPAP machines quit or never bother to start. I know I never wanted this, but Charlie is here, and I’m hoping we can get along.

Have you or a loved one used a CPAP machine? How did it go? Were you able to stick with it? Why or why not? Any advice for this CPAP rookie?

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Sleep Study will Show What the Dog Already Knows

I’m not a great sleeper. I don’t know how anyone ever managed to sleep beside me when I was sharing my bed. I snore, I make frequent trips to the bathroom, and I have wild dreams. I also have restless leg syndrome (RLS) which gets so bad some nights I’m walking the halls in the dark, trying to shake out my twitches. Sometimes I listen to the radio or take a hot bath at midnight. Even the dog wishes I would just go to sleep like she does. I’m trying. 

 Clearly my night sleep is not giving my body what it needs. I sit down to write in the mornings, and I doze off, my pen leaving a black streak on the page. I read by the fireplace or in the sun, and I doze off. I’m streaming a TV show and wake to find three episodes have gone by.

In college, I slept through most of my astronomy class, much of my art appreciation class, and just about any class where they turned down the lights. I even slept through one of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. Those impromptu naps give me the deepest, most wonderful sleep. But I also get really sleepy driving the car, and that’s not good.

So, tonight I’m having a sleep study. They will see if I have sleep apnea, sudden intermittent cessations of breathing frequently experienced by people who snore. I probably do. It runs in the family. Have I ever awakened myself with my snoring? I have. Not fun. Yes, I know my heart could stop and . . . you’d never read my next book. 

They will also look at the RLS and any other weird stuff I do in my sleep. I will be attached to an assortment of sensors. I will have stuff taped to my body and glued in my hair, and the technicians will observe me, monitoring my brain, nervous system and muscle activity, as well as breathing and heart function. 

You know that icky feeling when you wake and find someone staring at you? Now my insurance is paying for me to have strangers do that. 

I am supposed to arrive without makeup and wearing a COVID mask, put on pajamas, which I don’t usually wear (I’m a nightshirt girl), and go to bed way earlier than usual. Meanwhile Annie, who follows me around all day, is going to panic. Where’s Sue? She never came home

I’m hoping the “sleep aid” they prescribed knocks me out. But if I’m knocked out with a sleeping pill, how can they get an accurate picture?  And how will they know when I’m in the various stages of sleep?

Such questions kept me awake last night. I could fall asleep right now typing at my desk. But the instructions for today say NO NAPS. I also have to limit my caffeine. Come on!

I’m thinking the first thing I’ll want to do when they unstick me and let me go at 6 a.m. is take a nap. 

After I apologize to my dog. They should just ask Annie. She knows how I sleep. She spent last night next to my bed. Now she’s sacked out on her bed, running in a dream. 

Maybe I’m just part dog. 

My neighbor says he got partway through his sleep study, tore everything off, and stormed out, saying “To hell with this.” I don’t plan to do that, but I sure am looking forward to being done with it. 

Have you had a sleep study? How was it? Did you get the answers you needed? Would you want to do it again? 

Here’s some interesting info from the Mayo Clinic. Did you know the official word for a sleep study is “polysomnography”? There you go.

Send your comments. I’ll be awake. 

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Christmas: The Dog’s Point of View

It’s not great art, but I’m crazy busy like everyone else. Enjoy. 🙂

Humbug Dog
It was three weeks before Christmas
and all through the casa
it rained Santas and angels
and presents. Que pasa?
It looked like a Christmas store
exploded all over
while asleep in the middle
lay snoring dear Rover,
not interested in blinking lights
or tinsel on the Christmas tree,
not charmed by stockings on the mantel shelf
or candy handed out with glee.
But if the cookie box should shake,
that sleeping dog would spring to her feet,
trampling snowmen and Santa Clauses
to gobble up her well-earned treat.
Until then, she will dose and dream
of walks on the beach and romps in the snow,
ears open as she sleeps and waits
for Santa to pack up his sleigh and go.
[Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick Dec. 9, 2014]
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