Like most people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), my diagnosis was the result of a loved one telling me about my snoring. While I was visiting my parents, I fell asleep watching TV. My Mom woke me and told me I was sleeping and snoring loudly. Of course I told her I wasn't. This went on for a year or so. When I visited my parents again, my Mom asked me if I had told my doctor I snored? I told her no.
Finally I decided to tell my primary care doctor that my Mom told me I snored. He gave me a referral for a sleep study. My neck size is larger than 17 inches; I am overweight; my sister has Sleep Apnea; and I have Type 2 Diabetes. With all these classic symptoms, I fit the typical profile of someone diagnosed with Sleep Apnea.
I still can't figure out why, with all the classic symptoms of OSA that my Primary Care Physician (PCP) didn't refer me for a sleep study sooner, besides not knowing I snored. He DID know I had all the classic symptoms (he just didn't know I snored). Once I informed him of that, he put it with everything he already knew and referred me to a sleep study. I strongly suggest that if someone tells you that you snore, that you let your Primary Care Physician know ASAP.
My sleep study was done on May 6, 2001. The sleep study technician told me that if the monitoring indicated that I had sleep apnea that he would wake me up and put a CPAP on me. (CPAP is an acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The CPAP machine delivers pressurized air through tubing and a mask. The pressurized air acts as an air splint to hold open the airway while the patient sleeps.) Part way through the sleep study the technician did wake me up and put me on a CPAP. I slept GREAT...in fact it was the best sleep I had remembered in a long time.
The next morning the technician woke me at 6:00 AM and the study was over. I "unofficially" knew I had Sleep Apnea; however, before a patient can get a CPAP to bring home, the Sleep Doctor needs to "diagnose you", which in most cases is just reviewing what the technician did and writing it up.
Since I now at least "unofficially" knew I had sleep apnea, I wanted a CPAP. For whatever reason, it took the sleep lab A MONTH to "officially" diagnose me. Since I have an HMO, the results went to my Primary Care Physician. Once my PCP had the results, he wrote a prescription for a CPAP, but due to HMO red tape, it needed HMO approval. The process of getting the HMO approval took a week.
While I was waiting for the official results of the sleep study, I surfed the Internet and started researching Sleep Apnea. I found a site that sold CPAP equipment and saw various CPAP machines and masks. They had a link to the TalkAboutSleep website, which is THE BEST website that I've found.
By the time I was officially diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, I had had a whole month to research the various CPAP machines and masks. My DME (Durable Medical Equipment provider -- home healthcare company) told me I needed a humidifier and he gave me one although I didn't yet have a prescription for it. I called my Primary Care Physician and had a prescription faxed over, which took two weeks. My Primary Care Physician had written the prescription for a GoldSeal mask, since that is what was used in my sleep study, but did sign the prescription where patient selection is permitted. My DME said that most people have good luck with the Breeze Nasal Pillows and the Breeze Nasal Pillows were also talked about in a Talk About Sleep online chat, so I took his advice and got it.
Thanks to an online discussion, I have a backup DC power supply for my CPAP, so that when the power goes out, I can plug my CPAP into the DC power supply. I ended up getting Instant Power, sold at Sears for around $70 and got the DC power cable for my CPAP from my Durable Medical Equipment store. Note that not all CPAP machines have DC Power, in which case you have to get an inverter. I want to sleep with my CPAP even if I don't have electricity. I was without electricity 48 hours this past winter when an ice storm took the power out. The Instant Power has a secondary purpose, which is to be in my truck, in case my battery doesn't turn over. It has jumper cables on it, so I can jump-start my truck. (Editor's Note: See our article on Battery Backup for CPAP.)
It's been a little over a month since I started using a CPAP and I have been sleeping MUCH better and will not sleep without my CPAP machine. It has enabled me to watch TV shows and not fall asleep. I also feel like I have more energy and walked to the store (a five to ten minute walk one way) whereas before I would have driven my truck.
Since using the CPAP I feel like I have MUCH more energy! I have started walking on Saturday's. The trick is to leave my apartment in time, so that I will be home prior to 9:30 AM (at least in the summer) when the temperature often is higher than 100 degrees.
Prior to using the CPAP, I use to wake up around 3 AM every morning to go to the bathroom, then I would get something to eat. This led to weight gain. Since being on the CPAP I no longer wake up at 3 AM. The last time I went to the doctor, his nurse told me I lost two pounds. I hope the weight loss continues. My blood pressure is lower, and my doctor and I are watching it. Hopefully at some time I in the future I'll be able to get off of the hypertension medication all together.