Friday, July 11, 2008

A Rock and a Hard Place

Last night I underwent the second in a series of sleep studies to determine the best treatment for what appears to be relatively severe obstructive sleep apnea. My apnea was discovered a number of months ago when I underwent my first sleep study due to symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. That study did indeed prove that I have Period Limb Movement Disorder, and medication now controls those symptoms exceedingly well. However, when it comes to apnea, I am indeed stuck between a rock and a hard place (when, in fact, I would rather simply have my head on a nice soft pillow).

When one undergoes a sleep study, one is covered with tape, wires and tubes, attached to several machines, and monitored via infra-red closed-circuit TV as you try to sleep in this wholly unnatural and uncomfortable state. Last night was especially uncomfortable, with the room too warm most of the time, and then when the air conditioning kicked on, cold air blew on my face from a vent in the ceiling above the bed. Add to this the periodic sound of the technicians talking (quite loudly) with a neighboring needy patient, irritatingly punctuated by the opening and closing of doors up and down the hall. Yikes. I took this picture of myself around 2am when I was in a state of considerable annoyed exhaustion:

Now, for the past several months, I have been using an expensive custom-made dental device that does indeed help to keep my airway open when I'm sleeping, but unfortunately is causing potentially permanent changes to my bite.

Thus, last night, I elected to spend three hours sleeping while strapped to a CPAP machine in order to see if I can tolerate such an invasive device to control my apnea. Covering one's nose with a soft mask attached by a series of straps to a relatively quiet whirring machine looks sort of like this:

So, dear Readers, what is the long-suffering and apneic nurse to do?

1) Wear the uncomfortable dental device that certainly does control the apnea but may cause permanent and unwanted changes to my bite?


2) Wear the uncomfortable head gear and nasal mask attached to aforementioned whirring machine every night for the rest of my natural life?


3) Do neither, which will cause the following consequences:

a) Disturbed sleep for my long-suffering wife of 19 years, bless her heart
b) Decreased quality of sleep for me, with increased fatigue
c) Pulmonary hypertension and cardiovascular disease from untreated apnea

I now think I know what I need to do, and I'm afraid it may entail looking something like this every night:

God help me.
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