Life on the CPAP (or how I became Darth Vader)

Lens Flare
The lens flare lets you know it’s sciency like Star Trek

Due to children teething and diaper explosions at 1am, today’s bit of tech musings come to you in the form of a machine that I’ve been spending more time with than my HTC 10. Feel free to skip because it reads as a health update, or read on if you’re interested in what’s happened and my experiences with something that’s trying to inflate me every night.

I’ve been on a VPAP/CPAP machine since the sixth of this month in an attempt to get some sleep. Long story short is that months of drug trials (this round,) and two sleep studies indicated I’m prone to stop breathing randomly. Whether this is due to my current status as a Festive Chunky American, or is the reason I suddenly chubbed up, I’m not sure.


Variable – just means it ramps up to a consistent pressure at some point later.

A long time ago…

I’d been sick since December. Insomnia, cold, was getting fat quickly and waking up every morning feeling worse than when I went to bed. I’d attributed exhaustion to kids, poor pizza choices, the rampant life-long insomnia I’d been on 20+ years of unsuccessful drug trials for.

But for the first time in my life I had semi-decent insurance with a deductible that had been met due to infant hospitalization.

You can seriously read about how sick I’ve been just by skimming Pocketables since December, or pretty much any time the past couple of years.

I did a sleep study, got absurdly sick again, ended up getting a cat scan and all sorts of tests just to tell me that I was not fighting things off particularly well, maybe because I wasn’t sleeping. Another sleep study followed and they put me on the machine.

The Duel on Mustafar

After months with drug and sleep studies I was told I was going to be given a call. I’m always wary when I’m told I’m going to be given a call because, well, the current state of the phone systems I’m on sucks (working great for data for once, less than useful for phone calls). But I did a couple of days later and was given yet another appointment several days out.

I went into a consult at a breathing provider, and was given a fitting called a nasal pillows as well as a CPAP machine called an Airsense 10 Autoset and a swanky little bag to carry it in. I questioned to myself why if this was so important, as the sleep study and doctor and lung people tended to think, I couldn’t have just been given one and not had to wait a week for it. Seemed simple enough.

Gee thanks Obi

Darth Vader force choking a dollImagine being choked by an incredibly weak squid all night as a mask presses up into your nose. Or picture hanging upside down with a guinea pig trying to give you a warm face hug. That’s what night one was. I believe I slept a total of three hours that night.

And I felt pretty darn good. That was unexpected. I woke up, got the kids to daycare, headed back to the house as I needed to pick up some equipment (daycare is about five blocks away, this isn’t abnormal,) marveled that I was feeling good, and promptly passed out and slept another two hours.

Rise Lord Vader

Awww yeahDue to having the mask on improperly, or having the tube under my head, I had the fun scuba breathing going on one night. Evidently I was the only one who could hear it, so no fun with Star Wars quotes.

I logged into Resmed’s site, the machine is equipped with GSM data and phones home as well as keeps a log on an SD card and grades you every night on how well things worked out (as the machine thinks they did) – There was a gamification to the thing, you are scored based on hours used, proper seal, events per hour (still unsure of this one,) mask on and off.

Besides your nightly score there’re badges you earn along the way. I’ve only been emailed a couple that are for consistent usage and something I forget. Think I’ve got a silver (length of time,) and a bronze (uncertain).

So does it work? (at three weeks)

Probably too soon to tell. I’ve read that at three weeks most people start to see results and at three months they’re pronounced. What I did notice is my blood pressure dropped from high to prehypertension (my normal resting state,) and that I can no longer take a nap during the day. I still have a desire to, but now my insomnia kicks me in the daytime which is pretty good.

One of the weirdest things I had happen was hyper smell. Day five or so of the machine with a humidifier built in and I can smell dirt in the basement from the first floor. Strawberries a room away. Etc. I have not been able to pivot my super smell into a life of crime or heroics yet, but that was interesting.

I’ve also started writing several hundred word articles again. One of them was a couple of thousand. Taking more interest in things. Could be unrelated.

I’ve tried a couple of masks now – have a loaner full face mask that was fine until I opened my mouth and I felt like it was trying to inflate me (went back to pillow masks.) I’ve managed to position things in such a way that I am not waking up every night fighting with cords.

My current fights are to make my nose slightly more comfy as I’m playing a balancing act between seal and comfort. Also attempting to adapt to a chin strap as evidently my mouth pops open occasionally and it sounds like the demons of hell are expressing their rage. I’ve not figured out how to sleep with it yet and I don’t know why a chin strap would make me not sleep whereas the CPAP getup is fine.

Also lost six pounds that I tracked, mostly due to not being starving constantly, although I am actively making choices at the moment. Guessing lack of sleep requires more calories or some such. According to hospital breathing test records I’ve lost 15, but I really doubt the weight they gave me based on both my scale and the allergy clinic scale.

I have energy again.

That’s the good.

The bad?

There are some negatives I’ve run into. While my blood pressure is down to normal levels it’s also evidently below normal while sleeping. I get up, I’m dizzy. I’ve learned to accommodate for that after falling down a flight of stairs and breaking two toes and a fracturing a metatarsal. Last week was not fun. BP is just human normal low sleeping, evidently I’ve been hypertension sleeping for a while.

When the machine goes on it’s effectively an end to communication for the night. Try and speak and you’ll have air being pushed through. Take it off to speak and either deal with a hissing that sounds like a ruptured brake line or hit the pause button and have to deal with it ramping up.

Evidently I’m a mean asshole now when I don’t get sleep. Like my psyche has locked on that I can now sleep and if I’m not sleeping there’s something trying to hurt me by causing that. Might have to do with life seems a bit more vivid lately, but something I was not expecting. Maybe unrelated.

The cause?

Still not sure if it’s because I gained weight, or if my nose was broken last year by a headbutt by a two year old, or if I just finally reached the age where I couldn’t compensate. Will know that, or at least have clues sometime next month after I’ve reached 36 days on the thing.

The machine itself

I find it oddly fascinating. It takes distilled water, has two controls, you’re locked out of changing the medical settings by default although if you’ve ever rooted a phone you’ll figure out how to bypass this with the two buttons you have access to (I raised the starting pressure as I felt like I was being choked).

They made a mistake making things click. If I need to modify settings in the night pressing the button results in a hardware click. Fairly solid sounding. Nothing should make noise at night.

The thing breaks into easy pieces and has a carrying case. It also has airplane mode, which I’m sort of at a loss for why, but ok. It phones in a few times a day to report, and I’m told I’m being watched by the local people to see if things are working well or not.

Tubes click in, easy to wash (once a week,) vaporizer bin pops out for easy wash. Air filter on the side helps get rid of dust, mites, etc.

Variable pressure means you aren’t forced air when you’re awake but it goes into an assist mode when it thinks you’re asleep.

It allows you to set humidity, air temperature, and several other options. I let it auto choose after a couple of days and me turning it into a soaking wet disaster one night (cold air, high humidity, water in the tube going plunk plunk plunk.

I wish they’d added an alarm clock to it as they had the space and it seems like setting a wakeup time might be the next option that you’d want. Like change the air temp, easily wake the person up.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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