Let's Talk About Sleep Apnea!

Since Steph was good enough to ask her question (does air blowing into your mouth from the CPAP make you thirsty) in front of blog and everyone,  I figured I would answer it the same way (to be helpful to as many people as possible, of course, NOT because I am a whore for an easy post idea).

I was trying to find a subtle way to say that I feel like there's a slight misperception that only overweight people have sleep apnea without sounding defensive - I am certainly overweight at this point, but my sleep doc says I have a palate the size of the average eight-year-old and I've probably had obstructive sleep apnea since puberty. I did a bit of research and found an article from a neurology institute, the first sentence of which is "sleep apnea has long been thought of as a fat old man's disease" - guess they were less concerned with diplomacy. Apparently there's actually an increasing trend of women who are not overweight having sleep apnea. Regardless of that, though, skinny people can have sleep apnea and not all overweight people do.

Fun fact: lack of quality sleep both increases carb cravings AND SUGAR PRODUCTION. This means while that while my brain was deprived of oxygen night after night I might as well have been downing cinnamon buns, so the apnea probably caused at least part of the weight gain, rather than the other way around. Am I bitter? Only a little. (Only a little my fat over-sugar-producing sleep-deprived ASS)

Eve actually just got a referral for a sleep study, because people say she looks like me and my doctor said this might indicate that she has similarly small airways (sorry for passing on crippling anxiety and malformed airways, Sweetie).

To answer the question about the mask, air shouldn't actually be blowing into your mouth. There are some masks that cover both the nose and mouth, but mine are actually called nasal pillows and just fit in the nostrils. If the CPAP is working properly, you should be able to breathe exclusively through your nose. In fact, I find that I am thirsty in the morning the nights when I don't wear the mask, especially if alcohol was involved. When I was pregnant and the apnea was at absolute peak - I'm talking scaring small children three houses away - my tongue would feel like a dry stick rattling around in a stony cave in the morning.

Not gonna lie, it was difficult getting used to sleeping with the mask. My nose is tiny, that's part of the whole problem, and the masks aren't custom made, but extra-small works fairly well. When you first start, it feels like someone is aiming a turbo vacuum cleaner on reverse mode up both nostrils into your brain, which is not exactly conducive to a peaceful slide into dreamland. I would try to regular my breathing to a three-count in and a three-count out. I should have kept a diary or something, but I really don't feel like it took that long before I was used to it. You get used to the air pressure to the point where it feels like nothing. The fact that there's something stuck to your face is also an adjustment, but that gets better too. I find that as long as I lie down on my back for a few minutes, I can then turn and sleep on my side easily enough. The machine makes a noise, but it's more white noise than anything - Matt says he can't tell if it's on or not if he comes into the room after I've gone to bed.

So if you snore a lot, if your mouth is dry in the morning, if you sleep long enough but always feel tired, definitely ask your doctor about a sleep study. It's desperately awkward and not at all restful, but sleep apnea can cause a lot of health issues in addition to the fact that it just sucks to never be able to sleep without multiple breathing disturbances per hour. It's pretty routine for me now to put it on before I go to sleep, although I do have trouble wearing it all night - I try for at least five hours, but then I often get up to pee and don't put it back on. I'm trying to improve that.

Of course I did sort of hope that starting to use the CPAP would automatically make me a chipper morning person and I would lose thirty pounds. That hasn't happened. But I don't wake my husband up sounding like I'm dying several times a night anymore, and that's a nice thing. I'd like to think my brain is grateful.


StephLove said…
Thanks for the info. The reason I never followed up was that I'm not chronically fatigued so I figured I couldn't have it. But I do need to go to bed pretty early to feel as if I've gotten enough sleep, so maybe that's how I compensate.

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