Getting used to the CPAP mask

During my last post I briefly shared my experience going through two sleep studies. Overall I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. But I did get some good sleep on the second sleep study. In this post I will share my experience about trying to get used to the CPAP mask.

First, a brief word about why this ties into cancer

Some people have asked why I am sharing my sleep study experiences on a blog about cancer. To them I say it is because going through cancer and chemo have completely changed how I sleep at night. Admittedly I’ve had sleep issues for many years. Being deployed to Bosnia while in the Army back in ’95-’96 was really the start of my sleep issues. But since going through chemo I have almost come to dread nighttime. I am tired of not knowing if I will be able to get enough sleep. I’ve spoken to many other cancer patients who have experienced the same problems since going through chemo. Many cancer patients seem destined to go through sleep studies.

Picking up the CPAP machine

Once the doctor ordered the CPAP machine I had to set up an appointment with the medical supply store. The appointment didn’t take long, about twenty minutes if I recall correctly. Most of this time was spent adjusting the mask to my face and getting a crash course on how to use and maintain the CPAP machine.

I would say the only problem we had when fitting the mask was deciding which size of mask to use. I happened to fall directly between two different sizes. The large mask was very uncomfortable, and the medium mask just seemed too small. After trying both masks on multiple times I ended up getting the medium mask. A month later I came back to get the large mask due to pain in my teeth (that had to do with an abscessed tooth, and will be the topic of a future post). In the end I went back to the medium mask and am happy with that. I only mention all of that because I want to relay the fact it is important to find the best size of mask in order for the CPAP experience to work optimally.

Luckily insurance paid for my CPAP machine, mask, and accessories 100%. Thanks to chemo and maintenance all of my out of pocket expenses were met back in January. I guess there is an upside to going through expensive medical proceedures.

I should note my wife was also recently prescribed a CPAP machine. When she went to pick up the machine she found out that it would cost hundreds of dollars due to insurance not covering the machine. This is the same insurance plan I am on. She refused to pick up the machine and the doctor has reordered the CPAP for her. It was probably one little thing wrong with how the original order was done causing insurance to deny the claim. It is very important that we patients are looking out for things like this and making the doctors fix any errors.

Getting used to the CPAP mask

Getting used to the CPAP mask is very hard for me. It has been a couple of months and I still am not used to it. At night I move around a lot. Having a tube sticking out the front of my face doesn’t work well when rolling over constantly. A friend of mine suggested I move the tube to going directly above me and then over to the machine. That small change actually made a big difference. Since doing that I haven’t once pulled the mask out of the tube.

It isn’t just the tube that is the problem. At night I appear to want the mask off. I can tell this because in the morning I will have found that I have taken the mask off at some point. Usually one or both of the clips will be disconnected. Sometimes I will find the straps have been undone. The medical supply tech noted that sometimes people will take their masks off at night when they awaken. This appears to be what I am doing. I am not fully awake at the time, I don’t once remember taking the mask off. But I am apparently awake enough to understand how to take the mask off. Luckily this is happening less often. I would say that about half of the time now I awake with my mask still on. That is much better than before when I would awaken every time with my mask off.

Has the CPAP helped?

This is a tough question. Personally I do feel better rested when I sleep with the CPAP machine going. I don’t seem to be getting any more sleep than before. Actually if anything I appear to be sleeping for shorter amounts of time. But the sleep I am getting appears to be much better quality and I am feeling better rested.

Here is a recent fitbit report showing one typical week of sleep patterns for me.

A couple of things to note in this report. The times shown sleeping do not add up to the times shown on the right. That is because the times on right reflect how much of that time is actually spent asleep, and not restless or awake. You can also see that July 1 appears to be missing. That is because about once a week I’ll have a day where I simply can’t sleep at all.

That three and a half hour average is actually down almost an hour when compared to a few months ago. But a few months ago the sleep graphs showed almost all red; meaning I was constantly moving and in either a restless or awake state. Having the CPAP machine assist my sleeping has allowed me to actually get some rest. (I should note I planned on showing a graph of three months ago for comparison, but my fitbit app is having issues and I’m not able to get that graph right now).

Wrapping it up

So yes, I do believe the CPAP machine really is helping. Going through chemo and now maintenance has made my already bad sleep habits even worse. But at least the CPAP machine does seem to be helping to ensure what little sleep I am getting is of a better quality. Getting used to the mask has been a pain in the rear; but again the irritation of wearing a mask is nothing compared to benefits of getting better sleep.

Song of the day

Today’s song has nothing to do with this post. Later today my middle son and I are traveling to JazzFest in Sioux Falls. We are both psyched up for this. One of the acts we are looking forward to is MarchFourth. Here is the song Swiggity they performed at the Sioux Falls JazzFest two years ago.

Bonus Song

Last year I attended JazzFest in Sioux Falls. One my personal highlights from all of the great performances came from the Zero Ted Band. It was just great to see a Zappa song played on the stage!

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