Why My CPAP is the Best Thing Ever

Photo by Cris Saur on Unsplash

I’m tired… a lot. It used to be much worse.

It’s not surprising that an out-of-shape 37-year old father of two toddlers would be tired so much, but that’s where I found myself last spring. It was getting bad.

I would sit at my desk in the afternoon, staring at my computer screen, completely unable to think straight, and some afternoons, keep my eyes open.

I thought that it was because I just didn’t sleep enough. I was trying to go to bed at a decent hour, but I would wake up several times in the middle of the night — either because of one of my two children, the dog or the cat. I woke up tired, went through the day tired, and drank an unhealthy amount of caffeine to keep me going.

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

After moving to a new town in the summer of 2017, it was time for my wife and I to find a new primary care physician. We put it off for several months, but finally decided on one. During our initial get-to-know-you appointment, we just talked about a few things that have been bothering us.

I’m not one to complain. I rarely go to the doctor. In fact, I once went three years without seeing a doctor for an illness because, outside of the occasional sinus infection, I just don’t really get sick. So, when I was talking to the doctor, nothing really was coming to mind. I mentioned some heel problems that I have been having, got a referral to a podiatrist and couldn’t think of much else.

Then my wife said, “He’s been tired a lot more than usual,” which was absolutely true, but I didn’t think much about it. Turns out, she had. I had been more irritable lately, had a shorter fuse, and just didn’t have the energy to do anything. So, the doctor referred me to a sleep specialist.

I got a call from the sleep specialist’s office a week later to set up an appointment, which was going to be a month or two out, and then I didn’t think much more about it. When the day finally came to see the sleep specialist, I was still tired, still had a shorter fuse, and still lacked the energy to do much more than the bare minimum.

The doctor started talking to me about sleep apnea, and thought that I had some significant signs of it. So, we took the next step. I was scheduled for a sleep study.

When I was in high school, I went through a period where I was tired all the time as well. Of course, I was involved in several music ensembles at the time, and had an entire month that looked like this:

7:00am — Leave for school

7:30am — 2:30pm — Classes

3:00pm — Pit orchestra rehearsal

5:00pm — percussion ensemble rehearsal

7:00pm — Winter drumline rehearsal

9:00pm — 11:00pm — Homework

On the days when I didn’t have rehearsals, I worked from 3:00–9:00 instead.

At the time, my doctor recommended a sleep study. He gave me this take-home kit with all kinds of tubes and wires that I was supposed to hook up to myself, and then get a good night’s rest. The first run did not go so well. The results were inconclusive, so I had to do it again. Do you know how hard it is to sleep with tubes and wires dangling from your head? Well… it’s not easy, I’ll tell you that much.

At the time, the results came back normal, and my exhaustion was just chalked up to being too busy.

With this history, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the possibility of doing another sleep study, especially not with two children under the age of 3 and two pets that would wake me up if the children didn’t. This test, however, would be different.

Instead of getting some take-home kit that I had to figure out on my own, it was going to be an in-hospital sleep study. I got to check-in at the hospital at 9:00pm, have some guy put a bunch of electrodes on my head with this weird sticky goo, and then get told to go to sleep while in an unfamiliar bed, without my own pillow, while he stayed up all night monitoring my sleeping patterns, both with the monitors and the very conspicuous camera that was hanging in the corner of the room.

I did not sleep well that night. It took more than a couple of hours before I finally got to sleep, and by 5:30am, I was brought back to reality when this same guy walked into my room, woke me up, and began removing the wires. He told me that we would have to wait on the test results, but that I probably had mild sleep apnea.

Turns out, every time I would come close to REM sleep, I would stop breathing. Not for very long; just long enough to pull me out of a deep sleep. So, while I was getting sleep, I wasn’t getting restful, restorative sleep, and hadn’t been for quite some time. My oxygen levels dipped during the night as well, going as low as 85%.

The next step in the journey: another sleep test; this time with a CPAP to figure out how much pressure I need to prevent myself from trying to suffocate… myself.

All geared up for sleep study with CPAP… or ready to fly a fighter jet, you decide.

A couple weeks later, the same scene played out. 9:00pm check in, stranger attaching wires, weird bed, not-my pillow, monitors, camera… and a CPAP mask. It another: “here’s your uncomfortable situation; go get some sleep” scenario. Once again, I tossed, I turned. I had to get up to go to the bathroom. And then, I finally fell asleep. I only got about 4 hours of sleep when it was all said and done… and felt more rested than I had in a long, long time. I think I even dreamed a little.

Later in the week, I got set up with a machine at home, and have been using it since the end of July. The first day after I started using I could not believe the amount of energy I had. I was buzzing all over the house, getting things done. I even mowed the entire lawn (about a 3 hour job at my house!), and didn’t feel dead for the rest of the day — significant progress.

I heard a lot of horror stories about CPAP in the past. Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of having to get one. I knew people that ended up sleeping in separate rooms because the machine was too loud. The idea of having to wear a mask at night didn’t sound particularly comfortable either. I normally sleep on my stomach, so trying to do that with the mask on my face was practically impossible. However…

I’m getting rest. I’m getting deep, restorative sleep. I’m not almost falling asleep at my desk in the afternoon. I’m still getting slightly irritated with my daughter, but she’s the one who gave understanding to the term “threenager”. (Forget the “terrible twos,” those are a breeze compared to the threenager stage.)

In short, my CPAP has given me a fresh quality of life that I was missing because I was so tired all the time. I have the energy to do what needs to be done during the day (even if I sometimes lack the motivation).

So, why am I sharing this story with you today? I guess you could say I’m a bit of a CPAP/sleep evangelist. You cannot underestimate the importance of a good night of sleep. It changes… everything. And I don’t think that is an overstatement.

Your best tomorrow starts tonight.

Go to bed earlier if you have to because most of us can’t sleep late like we want to. Get a good night’s rest, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do!

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Matt Swisher

Matt Swisher

Just some guy who is looking to make my pocket of the world a better place. Life is a journey; let’s walk together and help each other along the way.