Day in the life: Waking up

Often I wake before the alarm. Usually I snuggle under the covers until it goes off.  The man of the house may already be up, but he knows I’m still “sleeping” until my facemask comes off.

I have moderate “obstructive sleep apnea” (OSA)

Image of my CPAP mask

Manufacturer's pic of my CPAP mask

I sleep with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine) which is basically a fan with a facemask to keep the airway open.  The CPAP is touted as 100% effective in treating sleep apnea among those who actually, you know, use it, and I actually do.

What is sleeping with a CPAP like?  Initially it was very weird, breathing with all that air inside my windpipe.  Exhaling especially.  I felt like I was drowning in air for the first 20 minutes.  I coped by reading (fortunately the mask doesn’t keep me from reading) and after an hour I felt fine.

What does it do for my sleep?

  • I sleep longer without waking myself up.  I generally feel better after 7 or 8 hours of sleep than I used to feel after 9 or 10.
  • My mouth isn’t dry when I wake up.
  • It’s much rarer for me to have a sore throat when I wake up.

My mask actually has a cap on the top of my head – rather like a bike helmet. The air tube connects on my head, then feeds down between my eyes to the nose. Instead of a cap over the nose there are two ‘nasal pillows’ that feed air to my nostrils. It appealed to me because it seemed less likely that I’d roll onto the air tube in my sleep.  (You can see a picture of the style here.) This style doesn’t touch my face much, which means fewer zits  :)

Sleep apnea is considered to be “obesity-related”

I went in meet with a sleep specialist expecting be told, “Yes, you have apnea, now lose weight”.  I had geared myself up for an argument over the ease of losing weight vs other treatment.  I was ready to point out that I KNOW thin people get sleep apnea, because I grew up hearing my thin, athletic father stop breathing between snores.

I found there was no fight necessary.

Going over the intake paperwork, the doc saw that my parents both snored.  He asked me about their snoring; mom’s was steady, dad’s was loud but interrupted, and I sometimes heard him wake up briefly before resuming snoring.  The man of the house confirmed that I stop breathing, too.

“Sounds like you and your parents have sleep apnea,” he said, “It often runs in families.  Me, my brothers, our father, his brothers – we’re all skinny snorers.”

“Skinny snorers?”  It was a new term for me.

“Yup.  Sleep apnea is related to weight, as a physical thing, becase more weight means the muscles have to work harder to expand the chest.  But it is also related to the size of the airway.  Both weight and airways are hereditary, so.” He pulled out a flashlight.  “Mind if I look at the airway in your mouth?”  He peered in, nodded, and said, “You’d probably be a skinny snorer.  Lose weight if you want – but don’t expect that it’ll fix the sleep apnea.”

Will losing weight fix sleep apnea?

Imagine my surprise when I saw sleep apnea listed as a justification to have weight-loss surgery by the NIH among those who are otherwise not “fat enough”.

A study on how weight-loss surgery affects sleep apnea recently released its results.

A new study shows that obstructive sleep apnea often persists after weight loss surgery, but most patients don’t realize that and wind up taking risks with their health. [...]

It’s not that their sleep apnea was unchanged. Their symptoms eased to varying degrees, but not enough to end their obstructive sleep apnea.

You do not have to be fat to have sleep apnea.  Before she died, my mother and I tried to get my father in for a sleep test, both before and after I got my CPAP.  Dad refused.  He still refuses.   I hope others out there have more sense.

(And be glad they have CPAPs now.  Much nicer than a tracheostomy!!)

15 thoughts on “Day in the life: Waking up

  1. Ok…so I’ve just discovered your blog after reading your comments on Shapely Prose. A million “thank yous” for you and this blog! I, too, hover at the dreaded 400# mark and am learning to live just as I am, not as I wish I was.
    I have the dreaded sleep apnea and had the exact same girding-of-the-loins response as I went to see the pulmonary dr. after my sleep test. What a relief to hear him say thin people have sleep apnea too. I own and use the exact same mask you have. The over the nose masks would leak and create drops of condensation that would drip down my nose and wake me up…..maddening, to say the least.
    Being 42, fat, married, and a mother, I’m not diabetic, hypertensive, nor riddled with over the moon cholesterol. Until the past year, I could relate so much to the mindset of your mother. Though I rarely showed a lack of confidence on the outside, I felt it shamefully on the inside. I saw me in your description of her not leaving the house much because of crowds or not being accepted. It’s difficult to shake at times because I have lost friends due to their rejection of my weight…as long as I was self depracating about my weight, they didn’t mind being my friend, but once I started talking about accepting me at the weight I really am, they ran the other way…because damn, no one wants to be THAT fat!
    I don’t know why I am telling you all of this, except that I find you interesting, ballsy, fantastic, and smart and love reading your blog and comments on SP. Thanks for hearing me out. I hope to get to know you better.

  2. Welcome, Regina! Wow, near 400#s, 42, sleep apnea, not diabetic or hypertensive, normal cholesterol….maybe we were separated at birth? :)

    Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad you like the blog.

  3. It’s quite possible! My parents had 7 kids..though all of them are accounted for…even the ones I wish weren’t! ha ha
    AND you live in the Seattle area? Oh the ironies!

    Glad to meetcha!

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  7. I always hate it when doctors or people in general say, “Oh, because you’re so obese, you stop breathing in your sleep.” I mean, those are generally when I hear about people stop breathing in their sleep (mostly from Maury, though, with those kids that are very large for their age) but I always knew it was possible for un-obese people to stop breathing as well.

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  10. hello my name is tricia, i hae sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure. i used to be over 600 but now i am bouncing back and forth from 300 to 360. i have a baker’s cyst on my left knee and i gave up on ever walking normally again. that was until i met my husband 3 years ago. he came to me and basically told me to “suck it up you’re not dead. i love you and am here for you.” that was all the encouragement i needed. now 3 years later i can walk a small store or go straight to the back of walmart and back to the front. i can walk but still limp and if i have to get down on the floor. all i ever wanted was someone in my corner saying you can do it. why do doctor’s act like losing weight will solve everything. i told my doctor i want to be able to walk again like i used to when i was bigger. he said lose weight and you will. well how could i lose weight and exercise if it hurt. now i have found the x- factor bands for your door and can kinda do those. but still need to strengthen my knees. i found this just out of sheer luck and i thank you for having a voice and helping out us bigger people.

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