Six years on the CPAP, what I learned

I just got a new machine yesterday, whoo hoo, and started thinking back to how this thing changed my life. Yeah, it’s medical, but it’s medical tech.

I’m not your typical CPAP user (I think.) My guess is since getting a RESMED AirSense 10 in 2016 is that I’ve missed 10 nights using it. Four were this year because I packed it up for a vacation and then left it in the case at my house and spent the next four days of vacation not sleeping well. The others were a variety of situational meh.

TL;DR – “not a medical doctor, don’t take this as anything other than opinion and one guy’s experience”

My issue is I both stop breathing for no reason, and I’m also stopping breathing now for a reason. Both non-obstructive and obstructive sleep apnea. Fun times. Developed the second excessively when I porked out over Covid.

I’ve talked to a few people who have been resentful or reluctant to CPAP, but in general it was only a thing that took me getting used to for a couple of weeks and became somewhat natural feeling after I found the right (for me,) headgear.

Naps don’t take as long, nor are they needed as much

I had a variety of friends that I defined as enemies of sleep. I had to take naps quite frequently or just be exhausted, miserable, and useless doing anything, and all of them somehow were sleep experts who would say “you take a nap now that’s why you’re an insomniac later.” Well, no dipshits, I’m an insomniac because I have a leg that wouldn’t stop trying to run a marathon after 10pm and my body cranked up the heat at night to the point I couldn’t fall asleep, I’m also so exhausted by bedtime I can’t sleep.

Also I highly suspect some part of me was not wanting to sleep because according to a sleep study I was stopping breathing for roughly an additional hour every six hours of sleep time.

So yeah… taking a nap with a CPAP is a 20-30 minute affair. Without it was a couple of hours. I need a nap when I haven’t slept well (which still happens occasionally,) but naps are now not a regular requirement to catch up on sleep I missed every single night.

About that 3 month equipment replacement

Hoses, nasal connectors, and such are supposed to be cleaned regularly and replaced about every three months. Or you can do what I did and get extremely ticked off at the provider company calling you nonstop, block their phone number, and not deal with them for nearly three years until you got a replacement machine and realize you’ve been cleaning and maintaining the same gear, which looks like brand new since it was maintained, for about three years.

Yup. I cleaned my CPAP gear regularly, inspected it, and was going to change it out at the point where it became something I could not clean or the connection was bad. Yeah, disgusting I assume, but my supplies never broke down other than the air filters, a SD card, and I had one water tank develop a slight crack that did not affect it operationally but I went ahead and replaced it.

Six years of CPAP I had two headgears I kept and used about five fittings. All of which were fine when I changed them out. All of which got cleaned regularly and got the additional fun of sitting in an IR light-bath because nothing, but nothing, gonna survive.

I never had an issue in six years, but that is not proper CPAP usage. Don’t be like me.

Hang that hose

If you can make the hose hang down to your pillow but have enough play, you’re probably going to be a lot happier with it than if it runs next to or under your pillow. Hanging down it’s much harder to choke yourself.

Sinus infections

When I was young it seems like my life was nothing but a running sinus and bronchial infection. Got a lot better when I got older, but still was something in my wheelhouse. I have not had a sinus infection since 2015. Hrmmm…

Now I mention this because one of the things I’ve heard from a couple of CPAP users are that they increased after getting a CPAP. One of them cleans his every day or two, at least when I’ve been in town the parts are always washed.

I mention this because I had an opinion and now I don’t particularly. I think this is a person by person issue.

Weight loss

Most of the people I know who got on them appear to have lost a little weight when getting on a CPAP… sadly I’m not in that group. Even though I stopped midnight snacking because I’m finally asleep I’m the category that had no weight changes evident.

Annoying your partner

They’ve got new diffusers for the style I like that fix the problem of blowing your exhaust in your bed partner’s face. I have no idea why so many nasal pillow fittings turned you into an exhaust monster back in the pre-pandemic days, but they did.

Energy

I didn’t have the massive energy spike others do. But I am now waking up in the mornings and generally not wanting to murder the planet. I recover a lot faster from things as well.

Overall health

I used to be sick about three months out of the year. This is back when I was only a few pounds over ideal, was actually fit and training for an 80 mile skate, and yeah not in bad shape. Three months a year. If I got sick on Monday I was going to be sick until Wednesday of the next week. I never got better quickly. Same when I was a kid – I was on antibiotics and steroids most of my life for one sickness chained after another.

I believe a large part of this was due to you have to get some rest in order to heal. I also believe a large part of this was that every time I went to sleep my body was trying to kill me by stopping breathing.

There is also undiagnosed at the time allergies. Allergies lead to infections. Yadda yadda stupid doctor treated infections with more antibiotics than I care to remember. Never got the allergy part figure out.

I have been extremely surprised since I got the CPAP that most colds, illnesses, etc are two day affairs if that. The worst I had was an 9 day long set of sniffles that barely affected me. Down to about a week a year I can point to things getting me ill and being actually sick.

Whatevs

So yeah, I thought there was no way I could handle one. When I did the sleep study that had 80 electrodes attached to me that was just insane. But within a week or two of pretty bad sleep I was fine.

Last couple of nights were my first runs on the Resmed AirSense 11 which is actually noticeably better than my 10 was. There’s no effort on exhalation. Has some sort of logic, or maybe it’s the different headgear, but even with a higher pressure it’s not a fight.

That scary story

I was a member of a discussion group that met in person. There was a guy named Jim there and he was younger than me, probably about the same level of fitness as me. He snored like a chainsaw and had been placed on a CPAP about three months prior to this.

He died unexpectedly. The medical examiner advised not to do an exam because they believed he overdosed. Jim wasn’t into that stuff and after much persistence an autopsy was done at the family’s request. Heart had failed and the listed cause was sleep apnea. Not heroin, crack, etc.

He’d gotten on a CPAP but years of a lot of damage caught up to him after he’d gotten on one.

I remembered this story a couple of days ago. My high blood pressure, which I have always had, it exploded recently. We’re talking numbers that I was supposed to go to the ER for. Well I had to go get an echocardiogram the other day to rule out heart failure or severe heart damage. Jim’s end of life kept popping in my head along with that I could double my life insurance for another $400 a year or so so maybe I should.

Eh, anyway – he was young, he thought he was healthy, but when you’re snoring like a chainsaw and waking up tired you’re putting stresses on your body you don’t even know where they’re at.

Am I certain his heart failed due to sleep apnea? Nope. Maybe he was on Horse and the examiner lied. I believe it however. Just how I felt when I went on vacation 4 days without the CPAP was quite noticeable.

So yeah, not trying to sell you anything

If you’re considering a sleep study and a CPAP, well dang they’re expensive. Looks like you can buy them outright if you wanted. They’re worth it. you do need to give it a few weeks and I’d advise most to start on a weekend when they can be basically sleep deprived.

Got any questions, I might be able to answer. I’d rather you go and get help for that “little snoring problem,” than end up dead because your heart was working overtime and being starved of oxygen every night while you annoyed everyone within earshot with your snoring.

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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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