Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sleep. It's Not Always Easy

Here it is, after midnight again, and I'm starting another post.  I should know better.  This is not in keeping with my 'health regimen'.    I had one of those days again.  Ever have one?  Nothing I set out to do was accomplished and what I did do was incomplete.  Oh, well, everybody is entitled to an off-day now and again.  I guess if I was gainfully employed and had a boss, I'd have been in the office getting a talking-to.  It's a good thing I'm not employed.

 Part of the culprit has been my sleep apnea issue again.  Sometimes me and the Machine don't quite get along.  Every now and again, I have more apneas than usual.  (For those wondering what an apnea is, it's a cessation of breathing, either due to snoring or simply no effort to breathe.) You'd think that losing weight would make sleep apnea a thing of the past, but well, it doesn't always work that way.  In other words, you don't have to be obese to have sleep apnea.  Nope.  You can be a Skinny-Minnie and still be a Hose Head. 

My father was a notorious snorer, and wasn't an overweight man.  I remember as a kid listening to his raucous snoring all the way upstairs in my bedroom.  It was Loud. 

"Sssssssnnnnnnoooooooorrrrrkkkkkk, snooooorrrrrrrkkkkkk, snoooooooooorrrrrrkkkkkk.........," on and on......over and over until all of a sudden........nothing. 


Dead silence, which was deafening. 

And then suddenly, "Ah...hhhh....hhhhh," a massive gasping and choking effort for oxygen would occur.  It was as if his head had been held underwater and he was finally coming up for air, which was exactly what he was doing.  Soon the snores would resume, only to go back into holding his breath in a few minutes until his brain roused him enough to fight for air again.  Sound restful? 


So, yes, I come from a genetic background of sleep apnea, but whether genetics play a part in becoming a sleep apnea patient or not, I'm not sure.  But I know I was in denial at first; I didn't think I snored at all.  Denial faded when I tape-recorded my sleep for a few nights and was embarrassed to hear the truth and fear crept in when I heard  how many times I stopped snoring.  Most of the time I sounded like I was being strangled, and no, Carl wasn't to blame.

When I went in for a sleep study two years ago, they found I had mild sleep apnea, with about seven 'events' an hour of failure to breathe normally.  But my oxygen saturation levels were dipping quite low, which is not a Good Thing.  The doctor explained the obstructive apneas themselves were like having someone come into the bedroom seven times an hour and hold a pillow over my face until I woke up.  And for some reason, my unobstructed breathing tended to be quite shallow at times which was causing my oxygen levels to drop. 

No wonder I was waking up with headaches every morning.  Full-blown, miserable, day-long headaches.  And no wonder I was trudging to the bathroom up to three and four times a night;  when the airway is blocked or partially blocked as it is during an apnea event, the body must exert more effort to pull air into the lungs, causing a change in pressure and more blood to flow toward the heart. The heart interprets this increased blood flow as an alert that there's too much fluid in the system. It then sends a signal to the kidneys via a hormone which in turn, produce urine as a way to dump the fluid.  And you find yourself roused from your uneasy sleep to head to the restroom, only to repeat the performance in an hour or two.  For me, this went on for decades.

With so many trips to the bathroom and waking up over and over again, there is no restful, restorative sleep.   The body and mind need time to rest and repair the wear and tear of living.  I would wake up in the morning and be so stiff and sore, oh, it was no fun. 

I rarely, if ever, had any dreams at night.  It wasn't until I became used to being a hosehead that one morning I woke up and could recall a fantastic dream I'd just had (in color!)   It was then I knew for certain the CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine was working wonders.  And the first night I went to bed and didn't wake up for six hours was another milestone.  Wow, I never woke up once all night long.  I can't tell you what it feels like to have restorative sleep after years of being denied. Truly life-changing.

So, what's my problem now?  Oh, once in awhile life weighs heavy on my mind and sleep is elusive.  Though I know I need rest desperately, being a hosehead has it's ups and downs, too.  Strapping on the face mask and getting all the seals seated so no air is escaping and blowing in your eyes or making rude, farting noises can be an adventure all its own.  You can get the straps on straight and everything seems good, only to turn on the air pressure and find you have a 'tickle' of a small piece of fuzz or a stray hair or what have you that you can't remove until you take off the mask and start over.   Rubbing my face all over before reapplying the mask usually does the trick.  Put the mask back on, rearrange the hose and fix the leaks and try to fall asleep. 

'Try' being the operative word.  If my mind is restless, I find the noise coming from the machine itself to be very annoying, even though I have a very quiet machine.  Every time I breathe in, the machine resonates the sound.  No, it's not as bad as Darth Vader, but there is a definite inhale/exhale noise.  Though it's much quieter than my riotous snoring used to be (poor Carl, how did he sleep through all of that racket??) it still mimics the sound of a life support machine somewhat.  I shouldn't complain, since for me, it is a form of life support I truly need. It's just when I'm willing myself to fall asleep it's hard to not hear my own breathing.  It keeps me awake.  Ok, I'm weird.  I know.

   Every now and then, sleep can be elusive and even after drifting off,  I find myself awake several times a night which is the way things have been going this week.  My CPAP machine is quite sophisticated and I can tell at a glance how my sleep quality has been by hitting a button.  I'd like to see Zero Apneas listed, but that's never happened.  Usually it's around 1.2 or so, but lately, 3.8 has been popping up.  That's not cool.  Anything over 3.0 and I'm really, really tired the next day.  I'll have to do some reading on why things are acting up a little, there's a great website devoted just to sleep apnea patients and they are very, very helpful.  I can post the data from my machine and find the help I need.  I'm not in this alone.

I'm still in better shape than if I didn't have the machine to contend with, and for that, I'm thankful.  Everything has its ups and downs.  This too shall pass.  CPAP masks are far from glamorous, no one ever said they were.  Yeah, I wake up in the morning with the indentations of my mask embedded in my face, but I wake up which is no small feat.  Sleep apnea can be fatal if left untreated.  And despite having less than stellar results overnight, I'm so much more refreshed, even if I did have a rough night.  Simply not having headaches every single day of my life is a huge blessing. 

There.  I've done got that out of my system.  Now I think I can sleep.  Tomorrow is another day.  From this Hosehead to all of you........
Good Night!


Sue said...

I have no clue how people sleep with those machines. I know I need one. Hubby DEFINATELY needs one. And yet.........

I never sleep. I'm beginning to think of it as a rare treat that shows up once in a blue moon to show me what REAL people get to experience every night. I just tell myself I'm getting more days than most folks. But then, how come I STILL don't get more done???

Sorry about your apneas! Hope you got some rest.

Andrea said...

I am so sorry about that condition, it sounds really scary, but they say "God always give us something we can handle". I hope some miracle happens and suddenly you are relieved of that inheritance. But in case there's none, i pray that your nights will be more peaceful and easier.

Lona said...

I know what you are going through my daughter has it. She does not use the machine though Karen. They fitted here with a mouth pieces that adjusts her jaw so that the sir flow is not interrupted. They made one for her and the dentist monitored her sleep right from the office and this way they could tell how much to adjust the jaw until she was breathing right at night. It is much better than all of the hassle with the machine.

FlowerLady said...

Dear Karen ~ I've been following along with you for years, so know about your sleep apnea and the crap machine. I'm sorry you have to deal with this contraption every night, but at least you are getting restful sleep and having colorful dreams. I do wish there were some alternatives to dealing with this.

Bless your heart.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady Lorraine

Alison said...

What a bummer that you got a bad night's sleep! I would not be able to cope with that dang machine, I know that. It may just be anecdotal, but I have found that my diet helps with my sleep problems. I don't think I have apnea, but I have had heart palpitations and episodes of skipped heartbeats, which are kind of scary. The diet I'm on has helped with that.

I hope you get a good night's sleep tonight!

Tufa Girl said...

Luckily my sweetie sleeps like a rock and can not hear my snore. My doctor that told me that I had more allergies than I thought and it was ok to take allergy medication. (Instead of waiting to see him after the sinus infection kicks in.) Snoring is less (? - so, my sweetie says). I just need to figure out what is blowing through and drink lots of water. I guess I am sleeping better but I am visiting the bathroom in the middle of the night, too.

HolleyGarden said...

Thank you for a post that explains sleep apnea so well. I didn't realize waking to go to the bathroom, and having headaches were symptoms. I think my SIL may have it - I'm going to get my daughter to read this post. I hope you get back to sleeping well.

Anonymous said...

Oh hun sorry to hear you're having trouble sleeping again. It's so hard to function when you are suffering from sleep depravation in our house it causes a grumpy husband if I keep him awake tossing and turning. I really don't know if I could sleep with a mask on I suffer from claustrophobia and have panic attacks if my face id covered :(
Hope you have a better night tonight.

Indie said...

My dad has sleep apnea and after reading up on it, it's truly amazing how serious and life threatening it is. It's a good thing you have the machine, though I'm sure it is quite an adjustment to get used to sleeping with it! My dad went through 3 different masks before he finally found one that worked for him.

I don't know how people go so many years with such terrible sleep. I get grumpy when my kids wake me up in the night - usually once or twice a night. Waking up several times a night would make me a seriously cranky person :)

I hope you can get some sleep!

Karen said...

Sue, not being able to sleep is such a horrible thing. I had to giggle about 'having more day' than other people, because it is very true, lol. I paint a dim picture of CPAP therapy, but it is the best thing that has ever happened to me, despite the hassles. Best wishes to you and your husband, I know Exactly what you're going through.

Andrea, bless your heart! Thank you.

Lona, I am so happy for your daughter! That is wonderful news. I have to see my sleep doc sometime soon and I'll mention this to him again. The last time I did, he said the problem with me (and there are many!) is that my apnea is not just obstructive, but also a 'brain' thing. For some reason, my brain forgets to breathe which is why I need a machine to force me to take a breath. Gads, I'm lazy!

FlowerLady, thank you, dear! You are right, I'm very thankful for the rest I do get.

Alison, good for you! Your diet has been such a wonderful thing for your life, so many positive changes have come from it! Heart palpitations/skipping beats are very scary.

TufaGirl, I hear you about the allergies, too. There is so much pollen right now and that may play havoc on my sleep, too. Who knew sleeping could be so complicated?

Holleygarden, thank you so much. Sleep apnea is so different for all people, but being tired all the time is not a fun way to live. I hope your SIL feels better soon!

Sueb, yes, claustrophobia can be a very REAL thing with sleep apnea. The masks can be very creepy at first, but there are nasal ones which are not so 'invasive' and many people use them. I can't, because, alas, I am a mouth breather, lol!

Indie, thank you, the last few nights have been much better. Sleep apnea is such an insidious thing, I never realized how much it was impacting my life until the treatment began to work and I saw changes in my energy levels and mental/physical well-being. I've been through my share of masks, too, lol, I think the staff at the sleep center thought I was never going to settle! Hope your dad is doing well, too!

Shyrlene said...

Karen - this is an excellent post. All the information you've shared is so relevant to more people (than they realize). It runs in our family, but most of us are in denial (like me). (...sure wish they could make that CPAP more streamlined and less obtrusive...)