3 months in.... still so much to learn
I just went through my first mask change the other week, and with it has come a lot of reflection of what the past 3 months have been like since starting this treatment.
I was diagnosed back in December with both an AHI and RDI of 60.2 events/hr. It was kind of a shock to me-- I mean I'd always snored since I was younger, and both my dad and his father were diagnosed with sleep apnea years ago. So in that sense, it wasn't a huge surprise. But unlike what my father went through 10 years ago, I hadn't begun experiencing any real symptoms, so I had no idea just how bad it was. Then again, I spent 90% of the study supine (on my back) and I always sleep on my stomach to lessen my snoring, for my wife's sake. I may always wonder what my AHI/RDI would have been on my stomach. In any case, I really have my wife's nagging to thank for discovering all of this, and I'm very appreciative. Knowing what I know now, I do believe she's a life saver.
At my 2nd (CPAP) study, I had a terrible experience. The constant pressured bothered me to no end, and I felt terribly drowsy and aggravated the next morning despite having outstanding new statistics during the new study. This is perhaps the most baffling part of my experience. I actually awoke feeling far better, fresh and ready to go after my original study. I've always been an early riser, eager to start each day. I can operate effectively on as little as 3 hours of sleep, and usually don't sleep much past 6-7 hours. Then after a single night of CPAP, I suddenly turned into a miserable yawning zombie, myself. I had to tell the DME company not to ship me the machine that was prescribed because I needed to discuss the experience with my doctor. After doing so, he recommended an auto bipap, and life's been great ever since.
Before my dad was diagnosed, I remember him being a zombie-- falling asleep every time he touched a chair. I was even in the car with him one time while he dozed off behind the wheel and started drifting. It all happened so gradually, that we didn't really notice how much it took hold of him. He's had chronic pain from a previous injury, and we all just associated it with that. Eventually, a doctor noticed that his face was abnormally red. We'd always associated it with our fair skin-- sunburn. But the doc insisted that he get checked out, and it turned out his body was churning out massive amounts of red blood cells to increase his oxygen efficiency to compensate for his apnea. He's damn lucky he never had a stroke! Within a week or so of treatment, he looked like a brand new person. But not even 10 years later, the lingering effects had him in several bouts of atrial fibrillation eventually leading to an ablation procedure (ZAP!) which seems to have fixed it for good. Recently, my uncle is going through this same thing now, and he's just getting to his own apnea diagnosis now.
With all those stories in mind, it feels weird to be going through this at 33 without any real cause. I think the most significant side-effect I've experienced is realizing that for maybe the past 8 years, I've been sleeping far lighter than before. It seemed any little thing could wake me up. Ironic since in my youth, I was known for being able to sleep through anything at all. My original study showed me at 82% in stage N2 sleep and only 2% in stage N3, so no wonder. I truly hope that's the worst of it for me, but all these external reminders of danger have been nagging at me to keep this under control.
I've had a great experience with the treatment so far. I started off with a Philips Nuance mask after asking for a P10, which was my father's mask at the time. The first couple days were a nightmare because I coincidentally came down with a severe stuffy nose. I got nervous getting warning emails about non-compliance, but my nose cleared up enough to breathe a little after 2 nights, and I never had to explain myself after all. I continued using that mask these past 3 months, and decided to try the DreamWear in order to avoid having the hose hanging off my face torquing the mask sometimes. So far so good, but the DreamWear sure is noisy compared to the whisper-quiet Nuance! I lived with it for a week, but now I'm using earplugs. No more complaints! My wife's been away with family, so I'm anxious to see how she reacts to the new noisy mask when she returns.
With the change in masks, I suddenly became preoccupied with discovering which mask is better for my treatment. My AHI has averaged out to 3.6 over these past few months, so the Nuance has definitely been effective. There hasn't been any obvious change since switching to the DreamWear, so I guess it just boils down to comfort at this point. Nonetheless, I was bothered by the fact that these machines try to do so much to tell us how we're sleeping, but they don't address the ultimate question: Are we getting enough oxygen at night? So I did a bit of research and ended up buying a Contec CMS50IW pulse oximeter. It's still in the mail, but I can't wait to gather some good stats to complement all this sleep data!
I just tried out SleepyHead for the first time today, and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner! It's amazing how much depth it provides. I'm still a bit lost with all of the different results, but I hope to learn new things as I try to interpret each day's results. Though I also don't want to spend tons of time each day agonizing over every detail. Does anyone have any good tips on how they use SleepyHead at a quick-glance to find important points in their treatment? Are there any good ways to try to compare data from one mask to the next?