After about an hour tutorial, we were on our way home with the sleek unit in its own sleek carrying case.
I was feeling a bit anxious already even though it was only 1PM and hours before bedtime. We have a lot of money and hopefulness for my better health riding on this gadget.
Remember I said there were two camps of sleep apnea patients, the first being those who absolutely loved their machines from the very first night, who put on their incredibly unattractive face masks and slept the night through only to awaken the next morning refreshed and feeling like a million bucks? These people say the therapy has changed their lives and they never leave home overnight without their machine.
And then the other people I spoke with, who hate the darn thing, toss and turn and in the morning find out they have ripped their mask off in the middle of the night unknowingly and find it on the floor. In most of these cases, their machines end up being dust bunny catchers on the shelf next to their beds as they decided the cure is worse than the illness and they have given up entirely.
So which camp will I be in? I can definitely say I am not in the first one; I'm not in love with the unit yet, not by a long shot. The machine itself is extremely quiet, but the mask is something else again.
The mask has to be on very tight so it will not leak and that it is very uncomfortable for me. I'm going to need to put on my big girl pants and learn to suck it up, but I have to say, it's very annoying. The machine I have is quite sophisticated and doesn't ramp up to full pressure for 30 minutes which is supposed to give me enough time to get to sleep before full treatment begins, but there's times at night that the mask slips and a rush of air is expelled that wakes me up instantly as if someone turned an air compressor nozzle on me. It is rather startling. Then I have to remove the stupid mask, turn off the machine and try to get the thing back on my face correctly by adjusting the velcro and elastic straps, one of which keeps crinkling my left ear in a very nasty manner--must be my ears are on my head crooked. The machine also has a heated humidifier which is nice, but the incoming pressurized air is still cold on my face, so I am going to need to sew a cover for the hose to hopefully keep the air warm before it gets to me. It would have been nice to use a nose only mask, but of course, the sleep technician said I can't keep my mouth shut, so full-face is my plight.
I'm not sure if it's because I am failing to breathe correctly or what, but for the last three nights I have woken up with the pressure so high in the mask that if one of the straps were to unhook the entire contraption would probably fly off my face and become a weapon of mass destruction, taking out everything in its path. Since I was also waking up with a very dry mouth, I turned up the humidity level last night only to find out that wasn't a good idea either as I experienced what is known as 'rain out'-- my face mask and hose were filled with condensed water and I was inhaling water droplets. The noise was amazing, it sounded like I was scuba diving.
And yes, believe it or not, poor Carl is still trying to sleep through all of this madness and mayhem. I give him so much credit, he's been so supportive, helping to adjust the mask and not minding the stiff breeze from the vents on the front of the face mask blowing at him when I turn his way. I know the machine is much quieter than my constant snoring was, but my tossing and turning is driving me crazy and I don't know how he tolerates it. Remember I've said it before---Carl is an optimist, and he believes everything will always work out for the best. Unfortunately, I am the pessimist but I am working very hard at trying to stay positive, this has to work, it just has to!
I don't know why, but for some reason, when I put the mask on at night, I feel so lonely. I know it's for my own good and all I have to do is get used to it, but lying there, listening to Carl breathing easily as he sleeps while I'm strapped into this expensive contraption that is supposed to work if I could only doze off is rather nerve-wracking. I get to thinking, 'Why can't I sleep like normal people?' I've read that claustrophobic people have a very difficult to almost impossible time adjusting to the masks and I can see why...I'm not claustrophobic, but it is very hard to get used to.
I'm trying not to be too hard on myself or the unit, I've read it can take up to three months to get completely used to the device, and I'm not giving up. I do seem to feel better in the morning even though my sleep is far from ideal since I wake up almost every hour to fix leaks or adjust the tightness or move the hose. Before the machine, I woke up almost every morning with a very bad headache as a result of holding my breath and the last three days I have not had a headache, so that is something to write home about, right? I also do seem to have a little more ambition, and hopefully that's not just psychosomatic. The doctor said it can take a long time to make up for years of sleep deprivation and I didn't get as bad as I did overnight, so I guess I shouldn't think the cure will be overnight, either. I'm just impatient. I wanted to be like those patients who said, "Yippee! I LOVE this thing! I feel WONDERFUL!"
I've heard from long-time users that once they put on their masks they immediately fall asleep, even if they take a nap during the day. Something about the machine and the air automatically signals their brain it's time to sleep and if that could happen for me, how fantastic it would be. Years of fighting with sleep apnea has me wired to be a night owl, delaying sleep subconsciously because that was when the battle to breathe would begin. All I have to do is retrain my brain that it's OK to sleep now.
I'll probably have to try a different face mask eventually, too. I will be calling the non-mind reading sleep technician back and telling him about my adventures; maybe he can come up with a solution for me. You cannot get away with not using the machine and saying you do, either, because there's a computer chip in the machine that records how many hours you use it and if it is helping stop all the snoring and apneas. I have an appointment with the sleep doctor in three weeks for a follow up, maybe by then, I will have gotten used to the routine. And the mask. I know people who have gone through lots of different masks before they found the right one, this is definitely not a case of 'one size fits all'. And whoever designed those face masks wasn't worried about the wearer winning any beauty contests, oh my, talk about ugly! It's a good thing this is something that's worn in the dark! Once again, my deep appreciation goes out to Carl, who doesn't bat an eyelash looking at the hideous creature lying next to him in the morning--I am Darth Vader, hear me breathe!
I know people who won't wear eyeglasses because they dislike how they look in them, but since I've worn glasses since the fourth grade, I no longer care how bad I look in them. I am afraid it will take awhile for my ego to simmer down about the full face mask though. Oh my.........................
|Karen's Self-Portrait: Poor Carl!|
Carl said the perfect solution would be a plastic bag-like device that would simply slip over the patient's head and seal on the bottom (no, I don't 'think' he's trying to get rid of me--plastic bags are a bit dangerous tied over one's head!) but I know what he's getting at. Having some sort of mask that you could just put over your head without tightening all those straps would be wonderful, if it wasn't so deadly.
So, back to studying sleep---let's hope I can make this work!