How do I sleep when I'm a lab rat?
April 27, 2005 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I'll be going to the hospital for a CPAP fitting tomorrow night, which is a follow-up to a sleep study I had a few months ago. I've been reluctant to schedule the follow-up because in the previous sleep study I barely slept at all. I'd really prefer not to repeat that...

The problem is that I thrash around a LOT both before and during sleep. Having electrodes connected to your body isn't exactly condusive to that kind of behavior though. As a result, I had to try sleeping on my back (not my preferred sleeping position), which made it very hard to get to sleep in the first place, and once I got to sleep, I would unconciously move, pulling out one of the electrodes, and they would have to come in, wake me up, and reattach it. All of this was very stressful and lead to me barely sleeping at all.

So my question to others who have had sleep studies done, what can I do to a) maximixe my comfort and calm myself down enough to actually fall asleep and b) not rip equipment out of the wall if I actually do get to sleep?

Also, to anyone who uses a CPAP machine, given my problems with getting comfortable, will I have the same problems every night with the CPAP strapped to my face?
posted by emptybowl to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
 
Oh man. I can totally relate to this.

Do you know the cause of your disorder? Is it apnea? Restless legs syndrome? Other?

I have struggled with the CPAP. It's best to try many different masks. And you have to train yourself to use it. I had to train myself to fall asleep to music and I go to sleep with my iPod. This works pretty well. Not many people get great sleep with the CPAP right away. They have to work with it for awhile.

I would also try Breathe Right strips. I can't believe how expensive they are compared to when they first came out. But they do help.

SleepNet is a great resource for advice and support.

Whatever you do...don't drink alcohol and try to avoid sleep meds if possible. They may help you fall asleep, but they disturb your sleep patterns.
posted by jeanmari at 8:13 AM on April 27, 2005


I had a sleep study, it sucked.
CPAP sucked too.

I opted for lap-band weight loss surgery (covered by most hmo's)-
lost 120 + pounds and am sleeping like a baby- no snoring, no more apnea.
posted by stevejensen at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2005


emptybowl, is your sleep disorder related to weight? I must have missed that.

Mine is not. I've always had a disorder, even when I was 5'7" and 120 lbs. Most discouraging.
posted by jeanmari at 8:23 AM on April 27, 2005


I toss and turn all the freaking time while sleeping and my mask stays on pretty well. The only issue is in getting tangled in the tubing maybe once a week. I too didn't sleep so well while during the study, but once I got the CPAP, it really made a difference. The feel and restrictions of the electrodes were completely different from the mask.

Some advice of the mask fitting are to make sure the person shows you how they adjusted it. For me, the neoprene will stretch or something gets a little out of whack about every couple of weeks and I need to re-adjust everything. 30 seconds of adjustment and then it fits like a dream. Good luck. Having a CPAP has changed my life for the good 100%. And take a look at this earlier question for some advice on the CPAP itself.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 8:35 AM on April 27, 2005


I haven't used a CPAP, but I have learned to sleep on my back. It wasn't easy, but it's now natural for me and I don't suffer as much from a stiff neck or sore lower back.

Start with a low pillow under your neck (I use an obus form pillow, or one of those ultra fluffy neck collars). It's much easier if you put support under your knees, and if you put pillows on either side of your head. Start lying this way just to relax before bed. It took me a good couple of weeks, but once it becomes habit, you're fine. It helped my sleep, too, but this may not apply to you.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:39 AM on April 27, 2005


This isn't very encouraging, but I've had a CPAP machine for over a year and it's a struggle for me every night. I honestly don't know whether I sleep better with it or not. I feel just as tired.

One thing I did try and did help me a lot was change my mask. The first mask I had was the kind of standard one that straps onto your head and covers your nose with the air hose dangling in front. About 6 months ago I switched to one that has the hose come over the top of my head called a nasal pillow mask. It made a big difference, but it still sucks.
posted by ssmith at 8:40 AM on April 27, 2005


No, my disorder is not related to weight. I am a tad overweight (20 pounds or so), but I've had nasal problems my whole life (stemming from large adenoids, which were removed, and sinus infections as an infant).

The Breathe Right strips did nothing. I'm also taking a prescription nasal spray that's supposed to tighten up the flesh in my nostrils. It helps, but I still snore. And I don't drink or use meds.

I don't have a problem getting to sleep on a normal day. I'm more worried about tomorrow night, and being a zombie on Friday. But it sounds like the rest of you haven't have much luck, so I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it, hoping things will be better when I take the CPAP home.
posted by emptybowl at 8:54 AM on April 27, 2005


By "things being better" I mean the snoring...
posted by emptybowl at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2005


I use a CPAP. The mask is strange at first, but you get accustomed to it quickly -- like wearing a hat.

I found the design that puts separate plugs into each nostril more comfortable than the mask that covers your whole nose, but this is an individual thing.

The harness I have is a bunch of straps with Velcro. It's flexible and thus more comfortable than anything with hard plastic in it. In particular you should avoid anything where there is something hard directly in the back of your head, since you will sleep mostly on your back.

Most CPAPs have a button that lets the fan run slowly for 20 minutes and then gradually go up to the pressure necessary to keep your airway from collapsing. I've found it much better to start the machine full speed. The change in motor speed woke me up when I used the timer, and when I fell asleep, the pressure wasn't enough to keep me out of apnea.

There are dual-pressure BIPAPS, which make it easier to exhale, and adaptive machines that sense apnea and run the pressure up. Thery're a good more expensive than a CPAP, and I think I would be bothered by the change in pressure. At any rate, start off with a CPAP and see how you do.

My wife was slightly bothered by the noise of the machine, but she say's she'll trade that any time for the resonant snoring I do without it.

Good luck. It changed my life.

KRS
posted by KRS at 10:31 AM on April 27, 2005


I use a CPAP. The mask is strange at first, but you get accustomed to it quickly -- like wearing a hat.

I found the nasal pillow design that puts separate plugs into each nostril more comfortable than the mask that covers your whole nose, but this is an individual thing.

The harness I have is a bunch of straps with Velcro. It's flexible and thus more comfortable than anything with hard plastic in it. In particular you should avoid anything where there is something hard directly in the back of your head, since you will sleep mostly on your back.

Most CPAPs have a button that lets the fan run slowly for 20 minutes and then gradually go up to the pressure necessary to keep your airway from collapsing. I've found it much better to start the machine full speed. The change in motor speed woke me up when I used the timer, and when I fell asleep, the pressure wasn't enough to keep me out of apnea.

There are dual-pressure BIPAPS, which make it easier to exhale, and adaptive machines that sense apnea and run the pressure up. Thery're a good more expensive than a CPAP, and I think I would be bothered by the change in pressure. At any rate, start off with a CPAP and see how you do.

My wife was slightly bothered by the noise of the machine, but she say's she'll trade that any time for the resonant snoring I do without it.

Good luck. It changed my life.

KRS
posted by KRS at 10:32 AM on April 27, 2005


I use a CPAP. The mask is strange at first, but you get accustomed to it quickly -- like wearing a hat.

Perhaps YOU get accustomed to it quickly, but it is HELL for me. I've practically given up. I can't afford to sleep worse than I normally do, which is pretty bad as it is, and when I try to sleep with my mask on I barely sleep at all. It's a Catch-22 - I apparantly have to get used to the mask, but I can't sleep AT ALL with it on, which means I go from 50% functional to 15% functional. I need to keep my job. It is literally the most annoying dilemma I've ever had to deal with.

I also did not sleep at all during both my initial sleep test and my mask test. I talked about this with my doctor and he showed me the charts and he said, you did sleep. Basically, because of the apnea I kept waking myself up during the initial test. During the mask test, he showed me that the apnea had been completely eliminated but that I had still slept poorly, although I did sleep. So, apparantly they can separate out the poor sleeping from the poor breathing. I dunno. I'm still a little unconvinced.

I think that the whole science of sleep study is a little bit full of crap and from the hip in terms of diagnosis. That's not to say that things haven't come a long way, I just think that if your problem is not related to weight, they are probably guessing. I could be wrong, but it's the sense I get. I mean, if I didn't sleep well during my mask test, how do they know that the apnea was the entirety of the problem?

In any event, the mask sucks, pure and simple. Obviously others have better experiences, but I can't afford to be a complete zombie for months before my body adjusts to sleeping on my back or with this giant thing on my head. I don't have the luxury.
posted by spicynuts at 11:23 AM on April 27, 2005


How old are you? If you're under 40 I would suggest looking into surgery. CPAP fixes the symptoms, but not the problem. I used CPAP when I was 24 or 25 and it was very uncomfortable for me. I just didn't see myself using it every day for the rest of my life. Some time after, I had surgery (adenoids and deviated septum) and now sleep much better, snoring only when I'm drunk.

BTW, CPAP never worked for me, I would still be a zombie all day when I was using it. Surgery worked, but not perfectly, and I had previously had the lap-band weight loss surgery which didn't help my sleep (or weight) much. I guess I'm just unlucky.

Good luck on the study, and I advise you to take your results to another doctor to get a second opinion before buying an expensive machine.
posted by Penks at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2005


My mom hated the CPAP... anything on her face makes her feel like she's drowning. She had the surgery... some soft tissue and her uvula removed... and she sleeps so much better now. The only downside is she chokes a little more easily... especially if something hits the back of her throat just right. But it hasn't been a serious problem.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:38 PM on April 27, 2005


My study was about a year ago. I've had great luck with the CPAP. As others have stated, your mileage may vary.

Sleeping on my back took a while to get used to, but I still roll to my side on occasion. The CPAP mask has a little vent of air constantly blowing, so I don't roll to my right only to my left. Wife doesn't like the air blowing on her.

When I was fitted for my mask, they had two different types. One was similar to an oxygen mask that only went over the nose. I felt very claustrophobic with that one. The other had velcro straps came over the top of my head. That worked ok for me.

At my recent checkup, they had a new type of mask that is smaller and goes off to the side. (Either side, you can switch it). I really like it.

My unit will ramp up the air pressure as was mentioned above. I really don't like that, and have only used it once.

My unit also has a humidifier with it. I like that. It can heat the water to get a higher amount of humidity in the air.

The study is kind of a pain, but the tech and doctor can glean a huge amount of information from the study. I was actually having about 50 apneas a minute, and was turning blue for most of the night. CPAP has helped me quite a bit.

My wife is also sleeping better. Now, she doesn't have to keep elbowing me to breath all night long.
posted by mcescher at 10:57 PM on April 27, 2005


I tried a humidifying tank that blew the air over a flat tray with water in it on the way to the mask. It made no difference at all. In an unfortunately defunct group, several people discussed this and said that the only humidifier that works is one in which the water is heated to increase evaporation.

I considered the surgery but decided against it. As long as the CPAP works, I'll stay with it in preference to anything more invasive. Also, I'm a wind instrument player (clarinet). My cousin, who had the surgery, says he has trouble blowing up a balloon, and I can't afford to risk my ability to blow air.

Note to spicynuts. Everyone who goes through this gets furious at needing help to do what came naturally from the moment you were born. It's a nuisance to lug the CPAP around, the sleep study sessions are embarrassing and annoying, and forget about any one-night stands.

Nevertheless, you're obviously taking the problem seriously. Go ahead and get the evaluation. If it's any comfort, remember that you don't have to like it. You just have to do it.
posted by KRS at 10:07 AM on April 28, 2005


I tried a humidifying tank that blew the air over a flat tray with water in it on the way to the mask. It made no difference at all. In an unfortunately defunct group, several people discussed this and said that the only humidifier that works is one in which the water is heated to increase evaporation.

Yes, my unit does heat the water, and that helps immensly. Opt for that if you have the chance.
posted by mcescher at 6:41 PM on April 29, 2005


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