Straight CPAPpin’

January 17th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  4 Comments

So last night was the first night on the CPAP.

Getting at the device was a challenge. Portland got hit with a mild-by-Indiana-standards snowfall that managed to shut the place down, so driving around was tricky. I wasn’t going to risk 205, and 82nd was a hassle because it was teeming with … I’m gonna drop the j-bomb … jackasses who confuse the relative stability of their SUVs with a collective capacity to deal with their abrupt maneuvers and passive-aggressive right-lane passing.

Anyhow, I made it to my appointment on time by giving myself 40 minutes for a 10 minute trip. The technician who was supposed to fit me wasn’t so lucky, so I spent 25 minutes reading the paper in the lobby while he got himself together.

The CPAP device itself is the Respironics M Series I was anticipating. Though my doctor neglected to prescribe one, the medical supplier included a heating humidifier attachment for it as well, since my sleep study included mention that I was mouth-breathing until the tech attached a humidifier.

The CPAP is a pretty simple device. It’s a plain gray box that could fit in a 9×9 cake pan, though the humidifier sidecar probably widens it enough to make that a tight fit. It has a flip-up panel cover that conceals a simple LCD display and a few control buttons, and it has three lit buttons on the front that turn the machine on and off, turn on the “ramp” function, and control the “C-Flex” setting.

I’ve got a pretty moderate pressure setting dialed in on the CPAP. The tech told me that people with much more severe problems have much higher pressure settings and they tend to have a hard time adapting to the device. The ramp setting starts the machine at a lower base pressure setting then gradually increases pressure so the user can get to sleep ahead of the full pressure.

C-Flex is a proprietary-to-Respironics setting that helps the machine back the pressure off during exhalation, making breathing less of an effort. Evidently a C-Flex setting that’s too low can cause some people to wake up with abdominal aches as if they’d been doing situps all night, since they end up enlisting their abs to push air back out.

So after 45 minutes of going over the buttons and options and asking questions about how easy it is to get a CPAP through airport security (very, which is something that has changed over the past few years as the TSA people get used to the devices), I was headed home.

Trying to get to sleep with the thing was a little hard because I’ve been anticipating this thing for a while, and because Al was sort of excited about it, too. Going upstairs and into the bedroom felt more like a small procession than going upstairs and into the bedroom. I made it a point to do some reading before trying to go to sleep.

The mask was pretty easy to get on. It doesn’t cover my mouth, just my nose. There’s just one clip that needs to be snapped in. I got a model with gel pads around the nose to help mold it to my face. The machine recognized I had put the mask on and started automatically. I didn’t bother with the ramp setting because I don’t find breathing with the mask on particularly disturbing or difficult.

It was a little tough getting to sleep because the mask, while fairly small and unobtrusive, is still there and attached to a hose on a swivel. The hose is big enough to fit a normal marble, but one of those big marbles or a small superball wouldn’t fit.

Unlike most nights, I had to lay there for a bit waiting to go to sleep instead of plopping my book on the floor and conking out. There was a slight wooshing noise to get used to (Al could barely hear anything at all), and the hose got in the way of where my hands usually go when I roll over to go to sleep. I had a few false starts. The last one was the worst because I swallowed some air somehow and it created a strange pressure-drop flutter in my ears.

I woke up a few more times over the course of the night, very aware that I was wearing a mask, but it wasn’t disturbing at all, and it was easy to just go back to sleep. Around 3, I woke up to myself taking off the mask. The sound of the air coming out of the hose woke up Al, so she told me to put the mask back on even as I was figuring out what I’d done on my own.

“It’s o.k.,” she said this morning when we discussed the incident, “you just subconsciously knew there was an alien face-hugger attached to your head.”

According to Al I ended up on my back a few times, which would cause my mouth to open briefly, which created some additional noise, but she said I was a lot less awful to be in bed with with the CPAP. Frankly, I’d pay for the whole device on my own instead of my 20 percent co-pay if all it did was make it easier for Al to sleep next to me without sometimes work/sometimes not earplugs.

So when the alarm went off early this morning (Ben’s home because daycare’s closed, Al’s got to get in to work today), I woke up feeling pretty good for having gotten less than seven hours of sleep. Rested. I’m not putting a ton of stock in my impressions right now because the conversations I’ve had with the techs leave me with the belief that the real benefits will take a few weeks to manifest: higher overall energy levels, less likelihood to hit a hard wall in the early afternoon, and a sleep schedule that doesn’t involve bonking myself over the head with trazodone or similar to regulate it.

Tonight I’m going to try the other mask I was given. It’s the same kind as they used in my sleep study, and it’s a little more light/less bulky than the model I used last night.


  1. gl. says:

    January 17th, 2007 at 2:10 pm (#)

    oh, good! i was going to ask how the cpap went. i’m so glad alison thinks it’s worth it! looking forward to seeing an update with the next mask.

    “…asking questions about how easy it is to get a CPAP through airport security (very, which is something that has changed over the past few years as the TSA people get used to the devices)…”

    are you planning on making a trip with it?

  2. mph says:

    January 17th, 2007 at 2:19 pm (#)

    are you planning on making a trip with it?

    It’s going to come up. It looks like I’ll probably be at Interop Vegas this May, Virginia in March or April; and Al & I are planning a road trip in May, when the grandparents come into town to mind Ben for a week. That’s more travel in three months than I’ve managed in the three years since Ben was born, and I expect things will quiet down after.

  3. pk says:

    January 19th, 2007 at 8:55 am (#)

    So how’s it going after a few nights? Easier sleeping? Noticeable changes by day?

  4. dot unplanned » CPAPpin’ II: Electric Boogaloo says:

    January 23rd, 2007 at 1:14 am (#)

    […] As I mentioned last time, I was given two masks: one that’s sort of the standard low-end model, and another with fancier stuff, like a gel liner. The fancier one bothers me less because of its fit and finish and more because it’s a little noisier … there’s a sort of whistling sound through what I take to be vents where the hose connects to the mask’s swivel. I guess the way the mask straps work is a little fussy, too. I woke up early in the morning twice this past week to take the mask off, which has meant a few seconds of fumbling around with the closure strap to get it back on. It involves a ball on the end of one half of the clasp and a slot on the other half. It’s not the most intuitive thing, but its design offers a way to untwist the straps without having to take off and reclip the straps. Anyone who’s rassled with a kid’s car seat strap will empathize. […]

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