Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat gets cozy with her new CPAP

Fitness friends I do love talking about health, wellness and fitness as they intersect in my life.

Last fall I had gone to my family doctor about my snoring. I was referred to a sleep clinic. Both at no cost to me as I am a resident in Ontario, Canada. Go public health care!

I didn’t have a great time at the sleep clinic. The setting, the wires digging into my scalp and the pressure of the sensors on my throat triggered a series of panic attacks and migraines. Ya. It sucked.

Natalie lies in bed with over 12 wires and sensors attached to her face, scalp and neck. There are two sensors up her nose. Her head is on a pillow and we can see the trail of wires going out of shot.

The downside of public health care is it took 4 months to get my results. Despite only sleeping for just over 2 hours there was enough data to diagnose me with sleep apnea.

I had hoped it would be more of a manage my allergies type of solution to help reduce swelling in my airway.

The doctor recommended Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). I had a vague sense of what the machines were and was not prepared to take that on.

I asked about options. There’s a dental appliance that is more expensive and less effective. Surgery works in some cases 50% of the time. After a quick look at my nose and throat the specialist didn’t recommend surgery. Apparently the floppy throat bits they usually remove aren’t the ones causing my type of snoring. DAMNIT

The doctor outlined the dangers of sleep apnea both to help me understand why some intervention was required and to motivate me not to wait.

Friends, I have pretty serious sleep apnea, the kind that causes heart attacks in your fifties, and I was super upset. I was supposed to go into work after my appointment but ended up taking the day off and getting my CPAP.

The adjustment phase has been challenging. I’ve experienced every possible side effect from sinus infections, rashes on my face, condensation in the tube, swollen face, actually getting significantly less sleep. GAH!

Plus, the mask, is, well….not an invitation for spontaneous intimacy.

Natalie tried to smile with a five point harness that is holding a nose covering mask and a tube coming out of the middle.

I’m motivated to getting used to this therapy for my health. My partner is committed to learning more and helping me advocate for my health. He got me a Red Velvet Cake in celebration of taking a positive step for my health. Through the awesomeness of social media I have tapped into a deep well of peer support of friends who I never knew used CPAP.

I’m thinking back to how much mornings have truly sucked over the past decade and kicking myself for not seeking help sooner.

The sleep clinic doctor mentioned that the degree of sleep apnea I have is highly correlated to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. He explained that oxygen deprivation suppresses metabolic rates as well as reducing the energy you have to do the activities you love.

Headshot of Natalie looking very tired.
I get to be more tired before I get to feel rested.

So I’m committed to my health and I’m very fortunate that 75% of the cost of my machine is covered by my public health care. The remainder will be covered by my private insurance.

I had a twinge of ableist reaction to learning that sleep apnea is clustered under disability funding. I don’t feel disabled by my sleep apnea. I’m annoyed. I’m tired. I’m fortunate my daily activities weren’t drastically impacted.

The CPAP machine is a necessary assistive device in my life, like my night guard, my reading glasses, insoles and my blood pressure medication.

I’m hopeful that once I adjust to this change I’ll feel more rested and able to do more of the things I enjoy in life.

Currently I’m saving up to buy a portable power source so I can continue to enjoy off grid camping in the near future.

Tell me about your own CPAP adventures!

13 thoughts on “Nat gets cozy with her new CPAP

  1. Best wishes with your new sleep partner!
    and I don’t know you and I’m not assuming or judging but people who lose weight sometimes no longer need the unit so, if that was a doc suggestion, maybe it’s a healthier route to go.
    Seriously, I hope it works for you.

  2. Do you need to wear the device forever?
    My best wishes, Natalie. I have been to sleep doctor, but not for sleep apnea. It’s related to disrupted sleep due to a concussion from a cycling accident several yrs. ago. I am grateful for our public health care system.

    1. It’s looking like I’m on it for the foreseeable future. Maybe some genius will develop a responsive carbon nanotube type stint thing that will keep my floppy bits out of the way while sleeping?

      1. Jean – Once you start using the CPAP, taking breaks is very dangerous and big stroke risk. Please don’t ever suggest that anyone take breaks from their CPAP. My partner has used one for years.

  3. Oh lord, I knew what this post was about before reading the text. The picture – I remember the wires and laughing at the insane idea that I was actually going to fall asleep – but of course I did. I have a heart dysrhythmia so I took this super serious never the less. The first week, the ramp setting was wrong and the mask , it fit when sitting up, but I learned, not when laying down. Air blasted into my mouth and behind my lips, and of course woke me from the very early stages of sleep. When that was corrected, I did sleep…and woke up every day with the mask at the bottom of the bed. So now I wait for a visit to a new sleep specialist to talk about a BiPAP. Right now I’m in the Anger stage. I’ll get over it, and soon start feeling more rested.

    1. Ohhhhh I am dipping in and out of anger these days too. Here’s to both of us getting what we need from these dinglehoppers!

  4. I decided to be a grown ass woman just over a year ago and discussed my snoring with my GP. Also, my 6 years younger sister was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and she fell in love with her CPAP instantly. I was 52 at the time. So, had the sleep study but I got to do it at home, had to wear something around my chest, nasal prongs, and an oxygen sensor on my finger so much less invasive. Yeah, I have severe sleep apnea.

    So I used the demo and tried different masks and unlike my sister, did not fall in love with the CPAP immediately. Unlike you, Nat, I did not have complications such as sinus infections either. I wear it every night and I sleep so much better. I have also learned that I need 7.5-8 hours of sleep a night so need to get to bed earlier, still working on that. I had a chest infection over Christmas and the CPAP worsened my cough so I couldn’t wear it for about 3 weeks and that was awful.

    I wish I had gotten one about 15 years ago.

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