When I was about seven I kept my self up one night worrying that if I quit paying attention to my breathing, I might suffocate. Thinking back it seems this might not have been as crazy as it sounds, since it was about the time I learned to swim; where it is undeniable that if you don't pay attention to your breathing, you are in grave danger.
Fortunately my mother reassured me that it was my worrying that was keeping me awake; I should just give in, relax and my breathing would take care of itself. Like much of my mother's advice, it served me well for several decades. Now in my (early) retirement I have the freedom to question any of the apparent truths of my childhood.
The first inklings of a problem came when my wife told me that our son's orthodontist was offering "free" screening for sleep apnea. His diagnosis was maybe. Since I was working full time and raising two boys, I didn't have time for maybe. My wife began reporting that she heard me gasping in my sleep. But I was already frustrated by fruitless hunts for noises my wife heard in the night, so I did nothing. After I retired, another dentist screened me for apnea and referred me to a sleep testing business. But I felt the target of a sales campaign and resisted.
I ran into two more problems in deciding on where to have my sleep test done: pricing and ownership of computer test results. The lowest prices were on my insurance company web site, put those phone numbers were no longer in service. The next lowest prices were cash prices. The highest prices were the ones the insurance company had negotiated (Why am I paying for this upside down negotiation? Because my former employer is picking up most of the bill. I get angry when ever I think about our insane insurance / health care economic / system?). My kindly PCP recommended a sleep clinic if I wanted a lot of data.
I decided I would do the sleep test only if I could get full access to the computer record, but knew receptionist / scheduling people would not know what I was talking about. Finally on the sleep clinic web site I found the phone number of its Chief Sleep Technologist. I figured with that grand title, he couldn't feign ignorance about my request for data.
I bought a pulse oximeter from Costco online and it was reporting alarming AHIs of 15. I finally went and saw the sleep doctor and he referred me for a sleep test. He didn't seem alarmed by my oximeter data since it seldom fell below 90%.
The sleep test was a fairly miserable experience. The appointment was for four hours before I normally go to sleep. The sleep technologist said they would make a decision at 2 PM if I had enough sleep. At midnight I asked to take the Ambien the doctor provided since I wasn't sleeping. She said I actually had slept but not enough to do the CPAP nitration. Was I going to have to endure another sleep study to get a CPAP? Sleep professionals like to say they can tell when you're sleeping even when you deny it. It's not really a fair argument because of massive sleep amnesia, but Gayle Green, author of Insomniac, says the EEG is an imperfect measure of sleep; fMRI studies have shown brain activity at deeper layers than an EEG can sense, in insomniacs that claim they are awake, when the EEG says they are asleep.
Back at the sleep doc, he wants to prescribe a dental appliance, and sleeping on my side. I tell him I've been mostly sleeping on my side for many years since my wife started noticing the gasping for air. I told him I was psyched up to get a CPAP (not telling him the excitement was from reading apneaboard.com). I was shocked when he agreed and told his office to call in a prescription to vendor#1. I asked, didn't he have to prescribe a pressure, and he replied, "These days they are all set the same".
I also asked to have my prescription sent to my in-network DME supplier. But when the DME finally told me the rental and purchase costs after deductible for a ResMed 10 without a humidifier, I decided to purchase what I wanted directly from Supplier #1
. Maybe I'll let them buy me a backup machine when my deductible is used up.
After three more phone calls I finally got all my sleep study data: 1.5 pages of narrative, 1 page of graphs, 3 pages of tables, and a DVD with two giant files: an AVI video of me sleeping (or not) and megabytes for binary data. I've started writing code to extract useful data, but nothing much to report yet. In addition, I got permission to record with my own oximeter during the sleep test.
I've been studying my APAP data in Sleepyhead, pulse oximetry data, Sleep for Android (maybe I have stopped snoring), and Garmin Connect.
There's lots more to say, but this post is getting long, so I'll post now so you'll have a chance to respond.