Saturday, May 07, 2011

In the Name of Love and Science

Wired for Sleep (Self Portrait)
The Mask...

I have a mild form of obstructive sleep apnea. Mild in the sense that I'm not in danger of dropping dead due to a heart attack (I'm also fortunate that I don't smoke, and never have). But it is bad enough that it's causing issues with being able to operate during the day, and I've lost my cognitive "edge", that ability to quickly solve problems. And in a technologically driven world like ours is, that's bad news.

What's worse is the snoring. That drives my wife crazy some nights when it's really bad. Either she leaves, or she pokes me to wake up and makes me leave. And it's reached the point where I just sleep in another bedroom at night so she can have a decent night's sleep.

I discovered a lot of this at a downtown sleep center in late December of last year. The diagnosis was made, and continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, was proscribed. From my perspective it's the mildest, least invasive technique for this problem. In CPAP you're given a special mask and connected to a machine that keeps the air pressure up around your face so that the air passages stay open. Not only does it keep you from snoring but you experience more REM sleep and have normal blood oxygen levels.

Wired for Sleep
The Wires...

Last night was my second trip to the sleep center. That's where I was wired and fitted with a mask so that the techs could monitor my sleep while they tinkered with the CPAP air pressure to minimize the sleep apnea.

Sleep Study Room
The Center...

The facility was nice and comfortable, and I was wired up around 11:30pm. The only problem was I couldn't fall to sleep. With all the wires, the mask, and the sound of air flowing around the mask's seals like Darth Vader combining with the low but constant sound of the CPAP machine next to the bed, I lay on my back trying desperately to relax and fall to sleep. I kept trying until around 2:30am in the morning, at which point I thought "screw this" and rolled over on my left side. As soon as I did that I immediately fell asleep and the watchful tech's got a good four hours of sleep data (with a lot of it REM activity recorded). And they found the right air pressue for the CPAP machine.

Normally when I have a night like that (and I've had my fair share) the next day is horrible. This morning at 6:30am I was a lot better. I can remember when I could live on just four hours of sleep. But not since I turned 50.

With the new sleep data I'm headed back to the sleep specialist at the end of May. Hopefully at that time I'll be given my very own mask and machine and I can move on to the next stage of this experiment, using it at home. In the mean time I'll have to keep doing what I've been doing already. But the wife is definitely happier about this, both for my sake as well as her's.

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