RE: Your Personal CPAP Success Story - Post Here
Four weeks in, about to meet sleep doc for 30 day followup, so putting my thoughts in order.
First thing to say is that, although I am apparently lucky in that the initial mask is working for me, I really would not have been able to make it work without reading the experience of people on this forum. Here are some of the lessons I take away already.
1. Cleaning equipment is much more important than I was initially advised, especially so if you live in a mildew friendly environment, near the ocean in my case. Upper respiratory tightness and shortness of breath really worried me, but went away after vinegar treatment. I learned from you guys that wiping down everything daily is not enough, so now I am religious about washing daily, emptying the humidifier daily, and disinfecting weekly. I think the docs worry that if they emphasize daily cleaning it will hurt compliance, but for me it was the opposite. I would have been forced to stop if I had not shifted into a more rigorous cleaning regime.
2. Mask does not have to be tight in order to seal. I have a big head and lots of hair (including facial), and the head gear has to be expanded even beyond the max, otherwise I get bad sore on the bridge of my nose (nasal mask). I learned from you guys about loosening, and also about using a little piece of surgical tape as an extra padding. Again, compliance would have been impossible without the tweak. Thanks!
3. Hose works better if it comes from above. Initially I put the machine on the floor (trying to hide it from my wife, who found the whole contraption much too similar to hospital ventilation in intensive care, freaked her out). Now I put it on the bedside table and loop the hose over the headboard. I learned that from you guys. Again thanks! (Wife has now adapted also, since no snoring, but also no gasping, and a more alert and less grumpy spouse.)
4. Tracking data helps. I haven't yet downloaded sleepyhead, though I expect I will (I live on my laptop already). But I did enable the MyAir feature on my Resmed Airsense 10, and rather look forward every morning to checking my numbers. It's like a little reinforcement mechanism, confirming your felt experience. During the mildew episode my AHI numbers spiked, confirming that something was wrong and incentivizing me to search for answer. Last five nights I have been under 2 every night. (I was 25 before, so only moderate, but after only four weeks I am also sleeping two hours less, and not napping during the day, hence my screenname!) Working for me, most definitely.
5. Adjustment is cyclical. The very first week my numbers were great, but there have been two noticable multiple-night spikes since then. I learned from you guys that the body just needs time to get used to the treatment. After only four weeks, I suppose I am not yet fully adapted, but my body seems to be craving the CPAP, like it knows what is good for it. It reminds me of yin yoga. When you start, it is very painful because you are opening areas that have been closed for a long time, but with time the body learns and begins to crave.
6. Dream adjustment to normal takes time. Initially I think my body was catching up on years of REM-deprivation, as I had very vivid and very physical dreams, including nightmares. Over time that has calmed down, probably to something more normal. I think I learned about this symptom from one of the sleep information sites I found, the NIH sight on "Understanding Sleep". I found it quite helpful to learn a bit about what sleep is for, as a way of emphasizing the positive.
Anyway, it was a long journey to get here. Lots of stupid snoring solutions that didn't work, then an ENT doc, then home sleep study, then an overnight titration study, and finally the prescription for machine. It was a long journey, but I feel like I finally am doing the right thing for myself. I started yoga when I realized, at about 40, that I would soon be a cripple if I didn't address the issue; I could not touch my knees but today at 56 I can step on my palms. Similarly, I started CPAP when I realized that what I thought was just a personal need for extra sleep was actually a symptom of a problem that was getting worse and worse with age. Say what you will, CPAP works a lot faster than yoga!
If I have to use the machine for the rest of my life, I guess that will be okay, because it does help a lot. But having experienced a month without apnea, I am also incentivized to try to lose a bit of weight (it was either that or didgeridoo!). At 5'11 I am 190 lbs, so my goal is 180 by the end of summer. I learn from you guys that probably ten pounds will not cure apnea, but only lower the pressure I need. Since I am on 7 cm only, I am mainly looking to get to the point where I can skip a few nights when I am travelling on business (about one international flight a month) since I want to travel as light as possible. But that's just a goal, not a necessity.
Friday I meet with the doc, who will download the detailed data. Probably that will inspire me to learn how to download and interpret myself. I'm finding the whole thing pretty interesting, opening up a whole dimension of life, mind-body connection, that is new to me.