Broke but suffering from sleep apnea.
July 24, 2006 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Unemployed and uninsured but suffering from sleep apnea. What can I do?

A few years ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. A CPAP machine was recommended to me, but I (foolishly) did not take the prescription because the thought of sleeping with a machine strapped to my face was appalling. Now, several years later, my apnea has become a serious problem!

Now I'm unemployed and uninsured. I need a CPAP, but aquiring a perscription would surely mean a visit to the doctor and most likely the sleep tests again. I simply can't afford it. What are my options?
posted by SilverTail to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
If you're overweight, you can try losing some pounds. Weight is a major contributing factor in sleep apnea.
posted by wubbie at 6:25 PM on July 24, 2006

I have apnea as well with a CPAP. Some things my doctor recommended when I couldn't use it were taking a decongestant spray (Afrin) to fully open my nasal airway, being sure to NOT sleep on my back, not use alcohol or sedatives (they can cause your body to react too slowly in trying to wake up) and if all else fails, sleep in a chair.

There really isn't an answer that will completely help without the CPAP and the above, epecially the decongestant, may be too much to do every night so be careful.

Good luck, I know how much it sucks not to be able to sleep well.
posted by karmaville at 6:44 PM on July 24, 2006

Try checking with local teaching hospitals/research universities/sleep clinics in your area. A lot of them have sleep studies going on where they need volunteers who have been officially diagnosed with sleep apnea. I think it would not be hard to get a prescription after you've completed one such study.
posted by sk381 at 6:46 PM on July 24, 2006

Lose weight, stop drinking and attend to your allergies if these things are issues. This cures many, if not most, case of sleep apnea.

Get a job, one with insurance, even if you hate the job. Get to a doctor and explore your options, including getting the machine just in case. If you attend to the other things you may very well be able to do without, but in the meantime it pays to have the machine. There are surgical options as well, but I think you would be foolish to pursue those without first losing weight, stopping drinking and attending to your allergies.
posted by caddis at 6:57 PM on July 24, 2006

A low tech approach, and definitely not nearly as good as a CPAP, or most of these other suggestions, but: lots of pillows. I've heard of apnea patients sometimes even sleeping upright in a lazyboy chair. (Basically as far away from on-your-back as possible.)
posted by ruwan at 6:58 PM on July 24, 2006

Lazy-boy chairs really work, not as well as blubber reduction, but they do really work.
posted by caddis at 7:14 PM on July 24, 2006

BBC: Daily playing of a didgeridoo can help alleviate sleep problems, a study says.
posted by a. at 7:44 PM on July 24, 2006

Loads of information here:

and here:

and here is a program for redistribution of used CPAP equipment:
posted by friarjohn at 9:20 PM on July 24, 2006

I realize that you're in a situation with no genuinely good alternatives, but you may want to check out this:

Your state's Medicare program may cover CPAP machines. My brother obtained a CPAP machine from California's program, for his sleep apnea. No job, no assets, and a health-threatening condition (and sleep apnea is a very serious condition) should be all you need to qualify. Your chances will probably be better if you live in a blue state.
posted by curtm at 9:27 PM on July 24, 2006

Get insurance, tell the doctor the CPAP didn't work for you (I've heard anecdotally that it only works for 20% of patients, or that only 20% can stand it, whatever), and they will probably do a surgery where they remove your uvula, tonsils/adenoids if they're not already gone, and excess tissue at the back of the throat. Caveat: My mom had this surgery and it's slightly easier for her to choke now.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:50 PM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Great suggestions, thanks so much!
posted by SilverTail at 11:28 PM on July 24, 2006

BreatheRight nasal strips? It's very much not an apnea cure (it specifically states so), but it does make sure your nasal passages are a little more open.
posted by WCityMike at 8:38 PM on July 25, 2006

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