Among some other physical/medical type issues I've been dealing with on which I won't bore you with the details, I've been not sleeping well. As in snoring loudly, apparently - with the stopping/gagging/choking thing... much to Kevin's unending delight, but waking up in the mornings very tired and with a daily headache of intensity ranging from searing-need-an-ice-pack-gonna-barf to just awful. I have never really slept well, and I have a tendency to wake often through the night. But I thought my increase in problems sleeping was related primarily to the neck issues I had in 2007 that resulted in surgery early 2008. Seems like since back then, really since 2006... I just haven't slept worth a damn.
So on Wednesday, June 22nd, I went to the Midland hospital's Sleep Lab for a Sleep Study. One of my sisters did this a few years ago, and I kinda knew I had to do this, but I just didn't want to. The thought of a machine for sleep apnea... well, I just didn't wanna think about it at all. But my headaches have increased in intensity lately, and I feel like crap pretty much all the time. I just got plain sick and tired of waking up every morning feeling sick and tired. Seriously, it began to feel like why even bother going to bed... and sometimes why even bother about anything. I know, I know, let the pity-party jeers commence. But critical times call for critical measures, plus my doctor (who is really a PA, but she's really my doctor - my life, my terms... plus she's awesome and amazing and super duper smart) told me I had to do the sleep study.
So I go to the Sleep Lab, not sure what to expect and feeling a bit anxious... but it was not at all like a hospital room, it was actually a bit like a lovely bedroom...
And there was a huge recliner there, where I relaxed and used the hospital's high speed wireless Internet while waiting for my turn to be hooked up and plugged in...
The documentation I received beforehand warned me that attaching all the wires for the sleep study could take 2 hours, but it didn't... it took less than 20 minutes. The technician puts all these wires all over your head and chest area, plus 2 stretchy belt things around your chest (on women, above the boobs under the armpits) and your belly, both over top of your clothing, plus some more wires on your legs (because they monitor for restless legs, too). Yes, it was a lot of wires, but it wasn't invasive. I didn't have to get undressed at all. I didn't wear pajamas, I wore my comfy Tigers jersey and a pair of stretchy sweatpants, which made me feel more comfortable there. I think I would have felt more, I don't know... anxious or vulnerable in my pajamas. No hospital gowns, either, thank goodness.
I also knew you were watched and recorded during the study, by this wall-mounted camera...
And I also signed a document allowing them to use the results, i.e., the recording I assume, for teaching purposes. At first I didn't want to sign that paper, but then I thought, what the hell, people have to learn somehow, right. Plus, really, what do I care? I have given birth twice, people at hospitals have seen me in much, much worse conditions than snoring loudly while hooked up to a bunch of wires all over my head. And I hope the part when I farted makes them laugh! (Oh, come on! everybody farts!) (I also think I'd like to donate my body once I'm dead... coz those medical students have to get their cadavers from somewhere, right.)
I was much more relaxed than I thought I would be for the sleep study, and it was primarily due to this person, Neal...
Such a smart young man, and when he was hooking me up, he started explaining about sleep apnea, how it happens, what it does to you... all in a very practical way that I could easily understand. Neal put me at ease, and I felt that he was caring and totally non-judgmental... he made me feel comfortable and that I was doing the right thing for myself in going through the sleep study.
I have, of course, done my research on the 'net about sleep apnea. Wiki explains it ok, and it states this:
Most cases of OSA are believed to be caused by:
old age (natural or premature),
brain injury (temporary or permanent),
decreased muscle tone,
increased soft tissue around the airway (sometimes due to obesity), and
structural features that give rise to a narrowed airway.
I don't really agree with Wiki... frankly some of their listed causes seem like OSA results not causes, and I don't really agree with the order of the listing of their causes, here's why: Neal explained that many of his family members have sleep apnea, primarily because of their related physiological makeup resulting in narrow airways. He also said that sleep apnea isn't always the result of a person being overweight, but a person with sleep apnea who is not being treated for it often will end up overweight because of sleep apnea, due to the resulting lack of energy.
It's kind of what came first, the chicken or the egg...
I could relate to that. I've been trying to get more exercise in my life, but I just don't ever seem get to it... I know that if I exercise, I will expend all my energy and won't want to do anything else like, for example, go to the pottery studio, and I know if I go to the pottery studio, I usually use up my energy allotment for that day. The last time I really had good exercise was back when I was walking a lot in late April, early May of 2008, once I was off the antibiotics/PICC line and was starting to feel a bit more like myself again... but then once I started back to work half-days I had no energy for walking.
Anyway, Neal was awesome. His momma must be very proud and his wife is one lucky lady... her name is Heather, I know coz I inquired about the tiny bit of ink I could see on his arm - and then I got him to let me photograph it... what a great guy, huh?! He designed it himself and got the tattoo the day before their wedding...
So... the sleep study. Neal explained that if they noticed signs of sleep apnea, he would possibly come into my room at about 2am and wake me to try me on a CPAP machine; there was one sitting next to my bed.
Neal woke me at about 1am, and he explained that in the study, a person stopping to breathe is called an "event" and 5 events per hour means you are diagnosed with sleep apnea. If you have more than 30 events per hour, that is severe sleep apnea. Neal then told me that I had 112 events per hour. He also said my blood oxygen level dropped to 79 often, when they didn't want it to get below 90. So he put me on a CPAP machine with a pillow instead of a mask, which is kind of like the oxygen tubes in your nose in the hospital. I adjusted to that very well, and then he woke me again around 3am and tried me on the mask, not the full-face kind, just over my nose. I didn't like that so much, but Neal had to wake me up at 6:30am. I woke up in that bed with the mask on my face, and it was the first time in years that I didn't have a headache and I felt actually rested.
It was amazing to me.
Neal also told me that I never hit REM in that time before 1am, but I did with the CPAP. REM sleep is pretty important.
When Neal was unhooking me, using some kind of stuff to take the adhesive off my skin, he and I were talking some more about sleep apnea and what I should expect. He listened so well and answered all the questions I could think of. I have to admit I was a bit distracted because my mind kept interrupting me with, "Holy shit, I feel good, look ma, no headache!" And then I remembered I wanted to take photos, and Neal let me photograph him (such a nice guy!). I forgot to get a photo of myself all hooked up with all the wires, though... that would have been interesting. Then Neal said he'd let me get ready to go and then he'd walk me out, show me to the elevator. So I go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and I see this in the mirror...
Cracked me up! Just thinking about carrying on a conversation with Neal and me looking like this... Sah-weet!
On my way to Little Chef to meet Kev for breakfast after the study,
I kept going over all the stuff Neal had said to me. I kept thinking no wonder I'm forgetful, no wonder I have no energy, no wonder...
Seriously, my short-term memory has totally sucked the past few years. And my energy level also sucks.
I forgot my pillow at the Sleep Lab, by the way. Of course! (It is a special, very expensive pillow that I got because of my neck problems.)
So this past Tuesday, I was able to get a CPAP machine. It usually takes a couple of weeks from the date of the sleep study to process all the paperwork to get the machine, but since my sleep apnea was pretty severe, I got pushed up to the top of the stack. Yay! Or ummm... damn.
But... what I was dreading, I now urgently desired...
The CPAP I got came with a humidifier, which is nice for the nasal passages. I got the pillow thing, which goes around my head and at my nose, and it's not really that bad. I can sleep quite comfortably. The machine is very quiet, too. My first night on it at home Kev said I was as quiet as a mouse. So of course, he slept much better, too. I refuse to photograph myself with my head gear on, so here's what it looks like from the product documentation:
Not a big fan of the pink, clearly a man made that marketing decision.
And thank the Good Lord for medical insurance...
I have not had a wonderful morning on my CPAP like I did in the hospital, and I'm still waking with a bit of a headache. I am having trouble adjusting to the CPAP and the new sleep routine... frankly, quite a lot of trouble. But the sleep I'm getting is better for me, I can tell... I can't explain how I can tell. I'm still feeling quite crappy but also I'm not... that's the best explanation I can come up with now. Further 'net research agrees with what I heard about adjusting to the CPAP, which is it could take a month to a year. Everyone adjusts differently. I think I am going to try and get the nose mask instead of the pillow, to see if that helps me better. It was less comfortable, but that is what I was using in the Sleep Lab when I woke so nicely. Worth a shot.
If you have a loved one who snores, and if you have medical insurance, talk them into a sleep study. It's worth it. The long-term effects of untreated sleep apnea are unpleasant. A good night's sleep... priceless.