It is tough coming to terms with a diagnosis that requires treatment with a CPAP or BiPAP device. I know, since I was in my twenties when a sleep study revealed that I had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
I was worried that the diagnosis meant that I wasn’t going to have the same freedom to go places and do things, and I was also self-conscious about having to wear a mask attached to a machine for something as simple as sleep.
What I didn’t realize is what my quality of life was like before CPAP therapy, and what my life would be like afterward.
For years friends and family had complained about how loudly I snored or mentioned with concern that it appeared as though I would stop breathing then suddenly gasp for air while asleep.
I could spend 12 hours in bed asleep only to wake up feeling exhausted. I slept right through alarms; I was chronically late for work. It even cost me a couple of jobs. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
After I was diagnosed with OSA, I was prescribed my first Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device. As awkward and unnatural as it seemed I was determined to give it a try. The first few nights were particularly rough. I would put the mask on as I was ready to go to bed and it felt sort of like the over-pressure feeling you get when you stick your head out of a car moving at 30 mph. For a week or so, I would find that I could eventually fall asleep with the mask on, but I would take it off during the night.
The second week was better. I began to sleep through the night with the mask on until I woke in the morning.
After the first two weeks something changed. I could no longer go to sleep easily without my CPAP, and if I did I would wake up in discomfort. That wasn’t all. I also found that I was sleeping better. Suddenly, I could sleep 7 or 8 hours a night and wake up feeling alert and refreshed.
Now, almost ten years later, I have two CPAP machines, a nice, quiet Respironics machine that sits by my bedside at home and a unit from Transcend which I keep ready to go for travel. The Transcend is a little louder than the Respironics machine, but it can also run off of a battery pack, which allows me to take naps during flights or road trips, and more importantly to go camping.
Would I prefer not to use a CPAP machine? Sure, but not if it meant going back to the way my life was before. It takes time to get used to CPAP or BiPAP therapy, but when you do it can really change you life for the better.