One of the things I don’t wear at home, but often carry with me when traveling is a sleep mask. You know the kind. You wear it over your eyes so, maybe, you can fall asleep. I can generally sleep without them but it sends an important signal to my fellow travelers: I’m trying to sleep, let me be. Also, in the quest for shuteye at 35,000 feet, every little bit helps.
However, it turns out I really do need a mask to sleep. Not just at 35,000 feet, but anytime. And not just any mask, but one attached to a CPAP machine.
I generally don’t have a problem getting to sleep. However, when I am sleeping, I tend to do so very loudly, as my wife will attest. Not only that, my sleep is not always restful. I’m getting better at sleeping the right amount, but clearly there’s a problem.
My doctor recommended a sleep study with a particular pulmonologist in the area. I had a sleep study done some time ago, so I had an idea of what to expect. Back then, it didn’t point to any treatable issues, so I had my doubts if any would be found this time around.
Despite not being woken up during my sleep study to wear a CPAP mask, which I was told was a possibility during the study, the pulmonologist called me ahead of our upcoming appointment to tell me I need a CPAP and that I should come in sooner if possible to get started right away. Sadly, between my doctor’s vacation and my work travel schedule, the appointment I have already scheduled is the soonest I can see him.
For those who don’t know, CPAP means Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It’s a treatment that involves wearing a mask hooked to a machine that forces air into your nose and/or mouth to aid in breathing. It is used to treat sleep apnea (which I clearly have), among other respiratory disorders. This means wearing the mask while I sleep.
I briefly tried two different CPAP masks while I was awake at the sleep study. One mask covers just the nose and the other covers the nose and mouth. There are some variations within these mask types, but generally, you use one type or the other. My preference was a mask that covered both the nose and mouth based on the brief test I did. The pressure on my nose and nasal cavity felt a bit weird in both cases.
One huge issue with CPAP treatment in general is non-compliance, namely patients don’t like wearing a mask to sleep. I admit the idea does not appeal to me, but like with many new experiences, I am approaching it with an open mind. Even if doesn’t work for me, there are several other options.
However it turns out, I’m looking forward to getting a good nights sleep for the first time in a long time.