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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sleepless in San Antonio Update:

You'll forgive me if my typing shows signs of drowsiness, I trust. As a follow-up to the last time I spent an evening of sleeping with an audience, fully wired for sound and movement, I was asked to return for a repeat performance, but this time, wearing the magic sleep app-nee eliminating face mask on. Sorry, no pictures.

So Monday night, I was genuinely excited about participating in this little experiment. You may have noticed a lacking enthusiasm in posts over the last several days, and the reason is directly related to be exhausted. In fact, the entire weekend consisted of naps and ribs and more naps, and not a whole bunch of anything else. So in my mind I had this idea that I would be fitted with this mask that blows air into my nose (and mouth apparently), and it would result in the kind of deep sleep that one can only get by being an attractive actress in an Ambien commercial. Okay, so maybe I had some high expectations.

When I got to the sleep clinic, I knew to expect the wires and such. I had a different technician this time around, and while she was very nice, she was not playing around when it came to attaching probes to my skull. In an effort to make sure she got the conductors precisely where they belonged, she used a measuring tape to map out the surface of my head, then used a pencil to draw little X's. And no, I'm not even kidding. By the time all the probes were attached, the paperwork had been completed, my teeth had been brushed and my head had only slightly stopped throbbing from the assault, I was ready to get the proper mask fitted for the test.

As we got started, the technician asked me if I was a "mouth breather". WTF? I'm now embarrassed to say that my only understanding of the term up to this point was somewhat derogatory in nature; please don't be offended but because of my lifelong line of work (the military), I thought the lady was asking me if I was a 'tard.

After a few tense moments of me asking her if she'd like to rephrase the question in a more professional manner, we got to the bottom of the confusion. In fact, as I am now aware, being a mouth breather is an actual medical condition that means you breath from the mouth (as opposed to breathing from the nose). Where do they come up with this stuff? Turns out, her line of questioning was medically relevant, and not a comment on my sleeping attire: a pair of cotton pants with Ford emblems all over them.

We tried a full face mask that was just unsat. I'm sure I wasn't the first patient to want to imitate that guy from Silence of the Lambs, though I suspect my technician had never seen the movie. Given our previous conversation, I also suspect she thought I was a bit touched.

We also tried a nose only mask (what with me not being a mouth breather and all), but when I opened my mouth to talk, a sudden gust of air blew straight out and I just thought that might be a little traumatic in the middle of the night if I tried to yawn or something.

So we went with a fairly reasonably sized mask that covered both the nose and the mouth. The tech made sure that it was strapped on pretty tight so I could move around during the night and not have it come loose.

With the mask selected and the wires all hooked up, the tech left me and went to the control room where she then had me go through a series of calibrations - the moving of the eyes, the pointing of the toes, the holding of the breath and such. I wanted so bad to let loose with an enormously loud fart, just to see how that would register on the sensitive medical equipment, but I suspect they are used to that sort of thing, so I refrained.

I watched a few minutes of the 10PM news but decided to turn the TV off and try to get the wonderful, deep, REM action going. Then I laid there for at least an hour. My head really hurt from the attack of the marking pencil, and the fact that the bundle of wires seemed to be knotted up right at the back of my head. I tried to move a few times to get comfortable, but my technician had to come to the room twice to re-install nodes that had come unattached during my movement.

The other thing was, I thought they were trying to purposely suffocate me. I was told that they start off with the air flow fairly low, then if they see you entering an Apnea event, they increase the air until it is enough to keep you from the disrupting the air flow. But because it started out with such a low volume of air, I felt like I was hyperventilating, and thus, this kept me from simply dosing off.

When I finally decided that it wasn't a conspiracy to off me, I started to drift, and then I experienced the first of several events where the air kicked in just as I was about to stop breathing. Of course, that tends to wake a person up!

At some point, the air flow was right because I went into some of the deepest sleep I have experienced in years. I mean, I had dreams of friends from junior high school that I had not thought of in 30 years. And then about ten or fifteen minutes later I woke up.

Well, who knows really? By the end of the night, I suspect that I had experienced a lot more quality sleep than I have had in years. But, the downside was, because of the probes, and the wires and the inability to move around and feel comfortable, I had serious stretches of just laying there waiting for the whole thing to be over with, and in terms of time, I'm guessing I got a few hours total.

I was prepared for the tech to walk in at 5AM and wake me so I could get the stuff disconnected, brush my teefes, and get home to shower and get ready for work. At 5:40AM as I was in the middle of the best sleep I have had, possibly ever, she woke me up and I was not really pleased about a) being awaken, and b) being awaken 40 minutes later than we had planned. That can throw someone like me off, by at least 40 minutes!

So I was sitting at work today reading over some documents and decided I had had enough. By noon, I was home in bed, in my comfortable Temperpedic, no wires attached to my head, nothing to keep me from tossing and turning as needed, and no audience staring at me to see if I am in fact, a mouth breather.


M2 said...

Howdy Dave!

I went through this at WHMC a few years ago, and was given a temporary CPAP machine to try at home for a few weeks. The longest I was able to stand it was 45 minutes, and since I was taking it off in my sleep there was nothing I could do about it. Needless to say I never got used to it.

I need to go back one of these days and get re-evaluated. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in years, and it has been linked to my hypertension and weight gain (not like retirement had anything to do with it!). But everything I hear stories like yours, and recall my night at the sleep clinic, I lose my enthusiasm...

Cheers! M2

Dave said...


Make no mistake, I think if I had just been able to try the machine out on my own, in my own bed and without all the wires, it would have been much better.

I am eager to give the machine a real shot without all the accoutrement!

Don't let my war stories keep you from giving one of the new machines (with humidifier built in) a shot.

elcommandante said...

I've been using a machine for several months now after several months of sleeping on the couch. I went with the full face mask first and it caused sores on the bridge of my nose so I switched to the one that blows into the nose. I'm not convinced I sleep any better but at least I'm not snoring and have been allowed back into the bedroom again. Be careful not to turn the humidifier up too high, you'll get water in the hose and it'll start gurgling in the night.

I was hoping to feel more rested but I feel like I don't get a deep sleep because the mask comes out of my nose if I move too much.

Good luck!

Dave said...

I went with the full face mask first and it caused sores on the bridge of my nose

Interesting you mention that... I woke up this morning with a rather noticeable reminder of the mask. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Mat wears one as well. He has the nose only kind now after trying the other type as well. Same problem with sores on the nose. Using it at home in your own environment is much better. He now has the one with the humidifier built in. You should ask him about sleep apnea and the VA. Lea

M2 said...

I went through a full mask, a half mask, and one that had two little tubes that went up my nose (I knew the CPAP guy from when he worked at Sportsman's Warehouse). I still could never get used to it. The worse time was the small one that only went over my nose, when I was half asleep my mouth would open and suddenly there was a blast of air out it and I would wake up!

I did get the VA disability for my apnea but I have still yet to do anything for it. I was initially offered the surgery but when I went back to sign up for it I had a different doctor who didn't want to do it. I have heard folks have had mixed results with it as well.

I wonder if anyone has tried the mouthpiece that is suppose to hold the lower jaw outward preventing the restriction...

Cheers! M2

M2 said...

Oh, and Dave, did you have to shave your goatee off?

Cheers! M2

Dave said...

did you have to shave your goatee off

No shaving required. It made a pretty good seal in spite of my stubble!

Anonymous said...

Dave, hang in there. Once you get used to the mask, it is great. you may also want to ask about the nose pads....much easier to sleep with. I did love the test though. You have 27 wires attached to you, a mask/hose on the face...."relax and get some sleep...by the way we are watching everything you do from that camera". All I could think about was not scratchin things I didn't want to be videotaped scratchin! haha Brian

RB said...

Big Dave,
I have the nose mask with the built in humidifier. It took a while but I think I finally got used to it. Careful with the surgery thinking. Starry had it done and he wasn't a happy camper!

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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