“You, you may not know this about me but years ago I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder” – William Shatner
Pronounced “Sleep ap knee ah”. I remember an episode of the Sopranos from 2000 where Junior is fitted with a CPAP machine, pronounced “see pap”.
It looked like someone with an elephant’s trunk. Weird! How can anyone subject themselves to it?
Two years later I understood everything. My snoring was always bad. I’m overweight. I ended up in a separate bedroom like many sleep apnoea patients do. I had three symptoms:-
- Falling into sleep while driving.
- Abruptly waking up a few times at night gasping for breath.
- Falling asleep in front of the TV in the evening.
Fortunately I didn’t drink so I wasn’t making it worse. I also have a deviated septum which slightly inhibits my breathing so my wife insisted I got myself in front of an ENT specialist and that led to a session at the Sleep Unit in Oxford. I stayed overnight with a blood oxygen monitor on my finger and a camera.
The result was that I actually had acute sleep apnoea waking up over 100 times a night. You come out of normal sleep but you then drop back into it so you aren’t aware of it. The danger is your brain suffers from lack of oxygen and in an extreme you could die. As you wake trying to catch your breath what if you swallow your tongue? It can be deadly. I was aware that I would wake up choking and thought it was to do with sleeping on my back but that wasn’t the reason.
A definition of sleep apnoea (apnea in American):-
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep. The disorder results in decreased oxygen in the blood and can briefly awaken sleepers throughout the night. Sleep apnea has many different possible causes.
In adults, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity, which is associated with soft tissue of the mouth and throat. During sleep, when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked. But many other factors also are associated with the condition in adults.
Regardless of age, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to serious complications, including cardiovascular disease, accidents, and premature death. So it’s important that anyone with signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea — especially loud snoring and repeated nighttime awakenings followed by excessive daytime sleepiness — receive appropriate medical evaluation.
In addition to obesity, other anatomical features associated with obstructive sleep apnea — many of them hereditary — include a narrow throat, thick neck, and round head. Contributing factors may include hypothyroidism, excessive and abnormal growth due to excessive production of growth hormone (acromegaly), and allergies and other medical conditions such as a deviated septum that cause congestion in the upper airways.
Surgery has been used to try and cure the soft palate but people record that it’s very painful and doesn’t always work. There are objects that you put into your mouth to try and keep the airways open but I have never bothered with them.
Fortunately, the Oxford Sleep Unit had a standard fix, a CPAP machine and I took to it like a school kid to a climate change protest bunk off.
The invention of CPAP is attributed to an Austrian Physician, Collin Sullivan, in 1980 and it started as research into infant cot deaths
The main supplier of CPAP equipment in the UK is Resmed. A glance at their website and you will see a lot of mask and machines. The basics are:-
- A device that pumps air down a plastic tube.
- It may pass over a water reservoir to hydrate the air.
- The reservoir will be heated
- The user wears an air-tight mask that covers the nose.
- The air pressure stops the palate from collapsing.
This is the one I use. Note that you can set important parameters such as:-
- The actual pressure delivered by the machine.
- Whether you start full throttle or gently ramp-up to full pressure.
- If you ramp then for how long until you reach full pressure.
- Whether you use a thin or regular tube to the mask
- What type of mask you use.
- If you want breathing relief.
Breathing relief automatically reduces the pressure as you breathe out. Some people find that easier.
As for me it’s full throttle, no ramp, set the controls for the heart of the sun!
The model I was given about 4 months ago FOC connects to a Resmed App called MyAir which logs all your sleep performance and allows the hospital to monitor it for usage. I’m a 100% a night every night of my life guy with Gold Star Awards for my sleep performance.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file