The Tale of Darth Babar

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Yesterday I wrote about how I’ve started the ball rolling towards a sleep study. This will be my third one. My first one said that I had sleep apnea but that I had averaged six times an hour where I stopped breathing – not a particularly severe case, but one that merited a CPAP machine. The second was years after that one, and it said that the number of times I stopped breathing per hour had increased, although I never learned to what degree. They were just a lot more insistent that the CPAP become a thing. It is almost a guarantee that they will have determined my sleep apnea is getting progressively worse over time, and that the CPAP is now no longer an option – I’m going to have to have it if I want to get any sort of restful sleep at all.

I hate CPAP machines. It has always been my impression that, because I’m prone to snoring, a full face mask would be necessary. For many years, I wore a closely trimmed Van Dyke that would interfere with the seal on the mask, and so to make sure the seal was tight enough, I would have to strap the headgear holding the mask in place extra tight. This would not normally be a problem, except that in early 2000 I shaved my head, and only once since have I let it grow out, a decision that my wife immediately demanded be reversed. (She’s also insistent on the Van Dyke, otherwise I look like I’m 12, which is a bad trait in a married 47-year old.) That means that the headgear is so tightly affixed to my skull that it imprints into my skin, and those imprints take at least half the day to fade. They’re obvious on a bald head and very unsightly. I also toss and turn a lot in my sleep, from one side to the other, and as a result dragging the air hose around the bed as I squirm in my sleep becomes somewhat restrictive. Finally, I have a tendency to read in bed until my phone (thank you, Nook app) falls out of my hand and onto my face. The problem here is that full face masks go up the nose and across the bridge in order to achieve a seal, and I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three – meaning that I would have to put my phone down, take off my glasses, put on the mask, and then try to go to sleep while this device gently but insistently tries to force air into my lungs. It’s not something that I relish. But this time I think I’m going to be told that I don’t have a choice anymore, that CPAP usage is going to be mandatory.

I think I’m going to go with a nasal mask this time. This mask only covers the user’s nose or nostrils, and often doesn’t use the extension up the bridge of the nose to reinforce the seal. If I can get a nostrils mask instead of a nose mask, that would be ideal – the only point at which there needs to be a seal is on the nose itself, rather than around it, which would mean a compromised seal due to my mustache. (Do a Google images search for “cpap nasal mask” and you’ll discover what the difference is and see many examples of the kinds of masks that are available.)

Breathing with the first CPAP I had sounded a little like someone using a SCUBA regulator which, when combined with the air hose extending from my face, resulted in my nighttime look being dubbed “Darth Babar.” Fortunately the technology that goes into CPAP machines has greatly improved, making them quieter and considerably smaller. I don’t much like it, but I imagine that Darth Babar is going to be making a reappearance soon.

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