Hooking Up With CPAP

A few years ago, my wife discovered something disconcerting about me. I snored regularly and gasped occasionally. She was not amused. I consulted a respirologist, who arranged a sleep study. The study discovered that this was the case when I slept on my back, but hardly at all when I slept on my side. So I changed my sleep posture, and we both slept better for several years.

Recently she noticed the snoring and gasping resumed when I was sleeping on my side. A second sleep study determined that I now have sleep apnea when I sleep on my side and on my back. The respirologist decided it was time for more aggressive treatment. About four months ago, I hooked up with a CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure) machine.

Sleep apnea never particularly bothered me, and I rarely woke up tired. But the snoring and gasping obviously bothered my wife. That said, the impact of my sleeping with CPAP has been beneficial for both of us. For my wife, the disruptive snoring has been replaced with the gentle whoosh of the air into the mask. For me, hooking up has become an effective sleep protocol. Putting on the mask and feeling the air pressure on my face sends a message to my brain that it is time to sleep, and I am finding it easier to fall asleep. I have for years had to get up to pee throughout the night – a common complaint of middle-aged males – and the mask’s message is particularly useful when I wake up in the middle of the night.

I have been blessed with the need for less sleep than the average person – six hours is fine – and that hasn’t changed, but the sleep has been better.

The machine, manufactured by ResMed, has a chip that monitors your sleep and provides feedback the next morning. The feedback is in the form of a score from 1 to 100. Ninety-five points are based on input measures (how long you wore the mask, whether it sealed, and how often you took it off) and five points on the critical output measure: how many apnea events per hour you experienced. The input measures are directly under the user’s control, while the output measure is only partially. The number of events is also influenced by the air pressure level, which is set by the health care provider. In my case, the incidence of apnea events has declined significantly at the air pressure level the respirologist initially set.

Finally, the matter of cost. Most of the cost is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the single-payer system. Almost all the rest is covered by supplemental health insurance through my employer.

So this is an unmitigated good news story. My hookup with CPAP has now become a permanent relationship.

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