a sleepy person's tale

It all started when I went to the movies with my sister. She said mid-way into the movies she noticed heavy breathing. I was seated next to her and she thought I had fallen asleep and was snoring. She looked over and saw that I was wide awake and “just breathing.” She insisted something was wrong and escorted me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. She explained to him the abnormality of my breathing and he referred me to a Sleep Disorder Clinic. The Doctor there thought I had sleep apnea. This was all new to me as I had come to accept my breathing as “normal” and my labored breathing when I slept at night as nothing out of the ordinary. As I look back today, the way I felt when I woke up can be likened to being run over by a truck. I was always tired, never having enough energy to get through a day. I felt plain lousy. Mind you, this was after 12-14 hours of “sleep.”

I was tested at the Sleep Disorder Center, a short sleep-in overnight. The results were startling. I indeed had sleep apnea; my sleep was being interrupted every 40 seconds! No wonder I felt lousy in the morning. I wasn’t getting enough sleep at night. They explained to me that I was not getting what they refer to as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) which most people get in the early morning hours of sleep. This is what I call “deep sleep.”

Anyway, the doctor gave me two alternatives. The first was surgery (not fool-proof) and the second was the CPAP mask. I would use the mask upon retiring and this would allow “deep sleep” and prevent all those interruptions. I chose the CPAP mask. This was over a year ago. I have a slight confession to make. I only started using my mask 6 months ago. When I first got my mask I was afraid to use it. I could not stand the thought of wearing something over my face at night. But as the months rolled on I began to feel worse and worse. I was gaining 10 pounds a month, sleeping 12—14 hours a day (and still needing a nap) and had little energy to even perform simple household tasks. As a last resort and a desperate attempt to “feel better,” I started using my mask daily.

It has been 6 months now and it has changed my life. Not only am I writing this early in the morning but I do grocery shopping at 6 a.m. and laundry at 7 a.m. There is no hint of a sleep hangover as I am wide awake and feel terrific.

Getting proper sleep has put my body back in “sync.” I have lost 32 pounds since November 1998 and am gradually losing the 10 pounds a month I was gaining. I take my mask everywhere I go. It fits nicely in a small carrying case and only needs to be plugged in.

Thank you for letting me share my story with you. Charles McPhee of the Santa Barbara Sleep Disorder Clinic has been most helpful. (I tried to give the mask back at one point and he wouldn’t accept it.) The rest is history.

—Pauline, Age 44, Ventura, CA, USA

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