It’s probably three years ago now since my wife insisted I go to the doctor to get him to look into my ability to sleep any time, any day! I would sit down after lunch (or morning tea or anytime really) and be woken by some noise or something about an hour later. This happened almost every day. So, eventually I went to the doctor and he referred me to a sleep clinic for a sleep test.
The Sleep Clinic
The sleep clinic was an interesting experience. I arrived at the appointed time in the early evening and the person in charge asked me a few questions, tested me to make sure my nose was clear and connected me to lots of monitors and machines. It was a bit uncomfortable to roll over and going to the toilet required some help to unplug me, but after watching TV for an hour or so, I went off to sleep.
Around 5am the next morning they woke me, disconnected all the leads and suggested I might like to shower to wash off some of the glue they used to stick the monitor pods to my body. Within a few days, I had to report to my doctor again and he told me I had sleep apnea. That is a condition where you stop breathing through the night and that wakes you up. In my case I was waking 10 times per hour even though I had no idea it was happening. But since I spent a great deal of time through the night in a partly awake state, I was not getting enough sleep and the sleep I was getting was not deep enough.
Finding a Machine
So that set in train my investigation into sleep apnea machines. The shop the sleep clinic recommended, was too expensive so I looked on the net, found something a bit cheaper and purchased a machine. I had to take the prescription the sleep clinic had given me, so they could set the machine up to suit me. However, since I purchased an Auto Set machine which automatically measures and determines the required pressure, the retailer simply set my maximum pressure level according to the test results and the ramp time. The ramp is the time taken to build up to the required pressure when I first put on the mask. The theory is, it helps you get to sleep with minimum interference then over time will increase the pressure to suit you.
The machine can hardly be heard when it is running and I put it on the carpet beside the bed so noise is no problem. It also contains a humidifier to make the air pumped into the mask a bit more moist. That helps overcome a dry mouth and nose that happens otherwise.
Then there is the mask problem.
The mask is a different problem. It was the worst thing to get used to and my wife occasionally complained that I woke her up when the mask dislodged and make a noise she describes as “Niagara falls.”
I’ve tried a lot of masks of different types over the last few years. The first one was a nasal mask. It just covers your nose so it is small and some are relatively comfortable when you find a position to sleep that isn’t pressing on the mask.
Another mask that’s often used is a full face mask which covers your mouth as well as your nose. This overcomes the problem of opening your mouth when you are asleep and stops the air under pressure that is comes in via your nose blowing out through your mouth and waking you up with a very dry mouth! You can also buy a chin strap that is supposed to hold your mouth closed as you sleep. Maybe they do if you don’t buy the cheapest one on eBay – they just don’t work.
The Best Mask
The best mask I have found after much experimenting, is what is called “nasal pillows”. They are two small “pillows” that go into each nostril. That means you can scratch your nose through the night and since they are small, it’s easier to find a comfortable sleeping position. So overall they offer the best experience of any mask I’ve tried to date. They do take a few nights to get used to since they press into your nose and it can get sore after a few hours. But if you persist it gets better!
I also need to say, I have brought all these masks from eBay since they are often half the price you can get from a retail shop in Australia. You have to wait for them to come from the USA or wherever else they are sold. You normally can’t get a machine from eBay (though there are some on Gumtree in Australia) because of the prescription requirements. But with an Auto Set machine, the prescription doesn’t matter that much, since the machine takes over most of the task of setting the pressure for you. There are clinical manuals from some brands on various website that show you how the pressures are set.
I noticed right front he start that I feel much better in the morning. In fact I feel better all day. I have more energy and don’t feel as if I am walking around in a hazy cloud all day. Most mornings I wake up refreshed and my need to sleep when sitting down on a chair has almost evaporated – though an afternoon nap is always welcome. But there is still one issue. You know what they say “sometimes in the morning I wake up grumpy and sometimes I let her sleep!” You must are sure your machine runs very quietly. I have a travel machine and it makes Darth Vader noises as I breathe so it takes a bit of getting used to. I therefore recommend that you try before you buy any machine!
So if you are feeling sleepy during the day – even if you don’t think you wake up through the night, get to your doctor and ask for a sleep test. You never know, it may lead to you finding a new energy in your retirement.