For as long as I can remember, I’ve had sleep apnea. But not knowing what my condition was called, I thought my life was just like that – a perpetual cycle of sleep deprivation. It was how things were for me and there was nothing I could do about it.
Oh how wrong I was.
I realised much later on in life that the reason I never wanted to wake up before noon was because I wasn’t getting quality sleep night after night – even when it seemed like I was.
Around eight years ago, I went to a sleep clinic in Sydney to see what was wrong with me. They diagnosed me with a ‘mild’ case of sleep apnea, only waking up 71 times each night.
I wanted to scream at him that 71 times a night was not mild.
I was told to lose weight, eat better and do some exercises. That was it.
Then I got pregnant and my sleep apnea got worse. My husband could not sleep because he was afraid he’d wake up to find me dead. I was making choking sounds in my sleep that lasted for ages. He was losing sleep watching me sleep. It was ridiculous.
Of course, since I was very sleep deprived (and the child wasn’t even born yet), I would fall asleep on my desk at work. Thankfully, since I was pregnant my boss brushed it aside as pregnancy fatigue. I thought so too until hubby insisted we do something about it.
We did our research and found out that there was such a thing as a CPAP machine for sleep apnea patients. The problem was that back then, they were over $1000 each – money we didn’t really have especially with the baby coming.
Lucky for us, one of hubby’s workmates had an older model just lying around in her closet. She’s only used it once and didn’t like it so she gave the machine to my husband for free.
Admittedly, at first I thought it was such a cumbersome equipment to have on my face at night. A mask with a tube that runs to a machine that pumps air up your nose so you don’t choke while you’re sleeping. But I was pregnant. I had to think about the baby’s wellbeing.
The manual said it sometimes takes two weeks for patients to be comfortable with the mask. For me, it took one night.
I was so tired with years of sleep deprivation that the first time I put on the mask, I did not wake up or move until it was already morning. It was like a revelation. So this was what everyone’s been talking about having a good night’s sleep!
I was refreshed. Revived. I had no idea that my previous normal of waking up 71 times each night was not normal at all. We were elated. I put together a giant hamper of thanks for hubby’s workmate for her generosity.
It has been over six years since I started using my CPAP at night. Yes, granted I look and sound like Darth Vader when I sleep, but it’s a win win all around. Hubby sleeps well. I sleep well. I don’t get cranky. He doesn’t feel like I’m going to die during the night.
When I was waking up several times each night when my daughter was still an infant, the CPAP helped a lot. It meant that my four hours of sleep were solid four hours. It was enough to sustain me during the day.
I’ve since moved on to a newer model, which I ended up paying only half for as it is covered by health insurance. My old model, still working very well, is now with my brother in law in the Philippines. I diagnosed him one night when I heard him sleeping. He told me all his symptoms (choking in his sleep, waking up at night, falling asleep several times during the day etc) and I quickly knew he has sleep apnea.
My sister and my brother in law are very happy with the positive changes after using the CPAP machine.
Today, there are new technologies emerging to help sleep apnea patients sleep better. Late last year, CSIRO introduced the trial of their 3D printed sleep apnea mouthpiece. I tried to get in as test monkey but they were already full.
This year, Airing started their crowd funding efforts to start production of their product. It’s a portable nose plug for those who don’t like the tubes. It is really great for travelling too. I really want to try this one out for those times when we’re on holidays.
There are now more options out there. With all the illnesses that come with sleep apnea, there is no more excuse to live a sleep-deprived life. See someone about it.