Friday, November 30, 2012

Sleep Apnea

I've recently discovered I have sleep apnea. Additionally, I have a breathing disorder where I stop breathing, not only at night but during the day. I was totally unaware of this until the pulmonary specialist told me. Wow! So she scheduled me for a sleep study at the local hospital because she suspected I had sleep apnea.

That sleep study was a disaster. I got less than an hour's worth of sleep, and during the night I stopped breathing an average of 95 times an hour. As a result, I had to get a CPAP machine to aid me in breathing properly at night. The air conditioning was broken in my sleeping room during that first test, resulting in my inability to fall asleep because the room was so hot. Last night I had my second sleep study at the hospital, to see if I've improved since I got the CPAP, and it was worse than my first study! This time, the room was sufficiently cold, but the air conditioner blasted so much air into the room that it kept blowing across my face--something I really dislike. And it's hard to get comfortable with a million wires glued to your head, neck, face, chest, and legs. Also, they tried something new with the CPAP and it was so bizarre that I kept fighting the machine. For some reason, my pulmonary doc wanted them to calibrate the machine so that it "aided" me in exhaling. This meant that as I was breathing in, and before I had completed the air intake, it suddenly created reverse pressure, sucking the air out of my lungs!

Gahhh!!! It made me feel like I was suffocating because I couldn't finish an adequate intake of air before it was being sucked out. Complicating the situation was the fact my back and leg were killing me, and the pain kept me awake. And here's something really weird: I got a Charlie horse on the inside of my thigh, from groin to knee! I've never had that happen before! The end result is that I am classified as having severe sleep apnea. The technician said, "Severe, as in VERY severe." Oh dear.

I also have a problem with the nose mask I was given when I picked up my CPAP machine last week. It blows air on my face, especially my eyes and lips, and because I cannot tolerate that, I have a hard time falling asleep at home. I wake up with swollen eyelids and dry, cracked lips as a result. Also, my nose mask keeps poking me in the eyelids due to the way it's constructed. I'll be exchanging it for a more suitable model when I go back for a check-up next week.

Despite two highly unsatisfactory sleep studies, I have high hopes that the CPAP machine will improve my life. The most significant change so far is that I don't have to get up 5 times a night to tinkle. Yaaayyy!!! At the most, I get up only once at night, and many times I sleep straight through to the morning. I'm hoping that with a better nose mask I will begin to feel refreshed in the mornings instead of my usual lethargy. I keep hearing how wonderful people feel after getting on CPAP, and I'm hoping that eventually applies to me! (Me . . . ever the optimist)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Take a deep breath. Let it out. Take another deep breath. Breathe. BREATHE.

Today a pulmonary specialist told me that I'm not breathing properly. As in, several times during my consultation with her, I stopped breathing. When she asked me to walk around her office so she could observe me, I stopped breathing. When I talked to her, she pointed out when I had stopped breathing during the conversation. I remembered when I was in the recovery room last December after my hysterectomy due to endometrial cancer, the nurse told me that I stopped breathing several times, up to 20 seconds at a time.

I was flabbergasted. I mean, breathing is automatic, isn't it? Who would intentionally stop breathing or hold her breath? Turns out, I would. And I don't know why I do it. I wasn't even aware I did it! But it has caused a host of other health problems, including irregular pulse and a heart working too hard.

So I'm making signs saying BREATHE and posting them all over the house. And I have officially retired from Holmes Editorial Services. I'm keeping some of my old clients, but not taking any new ones. For the first time in my life, I am learning how to breathe.