I want a show of hands: Who’s had a sleep study and not been sentenced to a lifetime of sleeping with a breathing machine? Anyone?
After my first sleep study, I thought I’d defied the odds, but that was because I didn’t actually fall asleep. Who could sleep while being strangled by an octopus of wires and electrodes? Not this chronic insomniac. Ergo, no sleep apnea diagnosis, and no need for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, or CPAP.
However, my husbie kept insisting that I stop breathing at night, and OK, I often wake myself up coughing, but that’s just from dust, and once I jolted awake gasping for air, but that was a fluke. And yeah, I snore a wee bit, but I think I’m really just purring. And yes, I’m usually exhausted in the morning, but that’s only before the caffeine kicks in, and yes, I have blood pressure issues, but who doesn’t. And sure I have mood swings, fatigue and forgetfulness, but I can chalk all that up to menopause, and as for being cranky and short-tempered, it’s not that I’m cranky, it’s that other people are annoying.
So, there, Doc. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it, I tell her, as she continues ordering a referral for a second sleep study. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep long enough the second time to trigger a visit to a neurologist, who confirmed that yes, my snoring is minimal.
However, he continued, when I enter into REM sleep, I score a 37, which is apparently a lethal number indicating that sleeping is hazardous to my health and I must be hooked up to a machine every night for the rest of my life.
Need I elaborate on the enthusiasm with which this information was greeted.
Sleep apnea. Phooey. Big fat fad, if you ask me. It’s the new fibromyalgia. Half the people I know seem to be sleeping with a CPAP attached to their face. Once upon a time, it was just called snoring, and no one thought it was particularly deadly. My grandmother snored like a coffee grinder and she lived in relatively perfect health until 103 years of age. What do you think of that, NeuroDoc?
He remained unimpressed and rattled off all the ways sleeping could kill me without a CPAP — stroke, heart attack. Crap. He said the magic word: Stroke. My mother died of that in her 50s, and my father was disabled from one at the same age. Nonetheless, I negotiated a two-month trial period with him, because I still think this sleep apnea thing is all a scam. If I don’t feel any different after that, I’m ditching it.
I call for an appointment to get hooked up, and imagine my surprise when I’m informed that the uninsured portion of a glorified hair dryer is a whopping $2,600. That could have triggered a stroke right there. I told the gal on the phone to just forget it. Staying alive is too expensive. I’ll just take my chances and hope I have my grandmother’s genes and not my parents’.
But she objected and explained how number 37 is a really big, bad, hairy, scary thing, and if I don’t get the CPAP, it’ll cause fatigue, emotional stress and overall misery. Yeah? So will paying for a $2,600 hair dryer on my measly salary. It’s not do-able, I told her, and that’s that — particularly when it’s only for a two-month trial. She wasn’t giving up that easy, however, and offered to rent me a CPAP. All the money would go toward a purchase if I want one. And, she said, there are cheaper models.
OK, fine. I’ll go along with this if only to prove that I don’t need it.
So, I arrive for my fitting, and am offered my choice of face masks ranging from nose-only to full face. They’re all hideous. I look like Ganesh in a gas mask.
“Don’t you have a Victoria’s Secret model?” I ask the young, pretty technician, as I imagine how fetching I’ll be, breathing like Darth Vader… “Luuuuhhhhke … will you have sex with meeehhh.” There goes my sex life.
“I don’t care which one,” I finally tell her dejectedly. “Just give me the one that gets the fewest complaints.”
I then asked a zillion questions about how to keep the hose and mask from crawling with bacteria that I’d be inhaling straight into my sinuses, and won’t I get pneumonia from having cold mist forced into my lungs all night, and I could tell she thought my anxiety about germs and disease was almost as creepy as a woman my age caring about her sex life.
You’ll get there, too, Missy. You’ll get there, too.
When I got home I laid the breathing paraphernalia out on my bed, trying to wrap my brain around sleeping with all this on, because besides being a chronic insomniac and a ridiculously light sleeper who can be awakened by a falling leaf, I have huge “Princess and the Pea” issues. I can’t stand a wrinkle on the sheets or the cuff of one pajama leg being slightly higher than the other or sheets with less than an 800-thread count because they chafe my skin, I tell you, right through my PJs. This’ll never work.
I was, however (and mark this down, it’s a first), wrong. After a week with the CPAP, I’m sleeping great — after several hours of fitful chunks of sleep until I finally snap and tear that torture device from my face and fling it to the floor, and suck in the sweet scent of fresh air through my nostrils and drift off into blissful sleep.
— Email Debra at email@example.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com, www.edebra.com and www.ipinion.us