A few years back, my husband was urged to have a Sleep Study. The physician wanted to see if my husband might have Sleep Apnea. What is Sleep Apnea I asked? According to the NIH, Sleep Apnea is defined as:
Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Sleep Apnea usually a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of sleep and into light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep Apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.
I don’t know, is it just me? It seems like everyone I talk to these days has this diagnosis or is about to. Of course with my husband’s Afib heart condition, I was in full agreement that he should follow through. He did so & was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. He was fitted for a CPAP mask, that Bless His Heart…looked like a cross between Snufflelupagus and Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.
It was quite a large production to fill the water into the machine and then put the entire contraption on. If we didn’t get our goodnight kiss in before the routine, well..we missed our chance. And by the way, we need to have all talking completed before the mask is put on, as he is unable to speak or hear once he’s strapped into his mask. Clearly, this is not a process that anyone wants to repeat more than once a night..and for many, not even then. And if you have a bladder matter that requires frequent trips to the potty..it could still be a long night.
Did It Work?
Well, the answer is..I think it works..if one can tolerate the mask. By design, the mask is so tight with pressure, that no air could possibly escape or sneak in (unless intended to.) I could see an improvement in my husband’s sleep, but admittedly feel sorry for him in having to wear this funny-looking contraption each night. I feel even worse for him each time that he removes the mask to reveal a pale, colorless suction-cup shaped, impression around his mouth. It reminds me of when our daughter was young (and like all kids) went through a period of licking her mouth until she developed what I call “clown mouth”.
To be honest, I have thought to myself and even whispered to a few friends, I feel sorry for him…I KNOW I could never wear a mask like that. And to be clear..what Sjoggie could? We are already dry enough without assisting ourselves into choking mode, right!
On several occasions, my husband has pointed out to me that he is sure that I likely have Sleep Apnea because of the way I wake up with sudden loud gasps for breath. And with my ridiculous fatigue level, he could be right. In fact, at my Pulmonologist appointment last week, my doc suggested that I have a sleep study. I explained to him, that while I think it is a good bet that SjoDry does indeed have Sleep Apnea..I have avoided pursuing it, because I don’t need any assistance in worsening my dry mouth at night, and that is my biggest concern.
Here’s the rub..if I am going to go in to see my doctor and complain about my lava-resembling fatigue, then I can’t poo poo the suggestion to have a sleep study to see if this could be a contributing factor to my lack of sleep each night, and my all-encompassing fatigue each day. What is it that they say? You can’t have it both ways. So my appt. with the “sleep doctor” is on the calendar.
Even my Mom is going through the same process and in search of the perfect, or should I say, tolerable CPAP or Bi-PAP mask. While part of me feels like Sleep Apnea is the new “designer” disease created for the purpose of selling expensive face masks, the researcher part of me..says that the medical explanations, diagrams, videos and possible serious consequences of ignoring Sleep Apnea, do make sense. In fact, I had never really thought about Sleep Apnea as a very serious problem (at least in comparison to the rest of my medical issues.)
The Good News
The good news is that I have been researching the huge variety of face masks available. Of course, one’s individual Sleep Study results vary in terms of which mask may be most appropriate for them, but there are what appear to be tolerable masks with warm humidifiers in the same unit. Many Sjoggies, myself included, require the use of a humidifier each night anyway.
After asking the question about Sleep Apnea masks on the Sjogren’s World Forum, and talking to other Sjoggies I know, I am feeling less anxious about my possible/probable need for one.
The Bad News
The bad news is that they say that when you have been married a long time, you start to look alike. But matching CPAP masks is not what I envisioned.
Here’s to fresh oxygen..All Night Long!
May the Oxygen be with us!