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2017.03.22 Australian device is complicating my sleep

By RICH FOLEY

To the consternation of telemarketers, I’m not answering early morning phone calls anymore. Yes, I’m talking to you, those people who like to call from overseas before sunrise. For that matter, I’m not answering calls from anyone that early since I got a CPAP machine.

After a sleep study last year I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which is defined as “a temporary suspension of breathing occurring repeatedly during sleep.” In my case, it would have to be a temporary suspension since my breathing stopped an average of 92 times per hour, or once every 39 seconds.

In retrospect, I’m amazed that I fell asleep at all. With all sorts of electrodes attached, including a number of them on my head, I then had to “sleep” in a totally dark, virtually soundless room, something I never do at home. 

I was given a short survey after the study. I hope they weren’t offended when I answered “no” to the question asking if their bed was more comfortable than my usual one. I had to leave the request to describe my dreams blank. I wasn’t asleep long enough to dream.

Not surprisingly, after my doctors saw the results, I soon found myself back at the sleep center, this time to redo the study while using a CPAP machine. For those of you lucky enough not to need one, that stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The theory is that increased air pressure will help keep airways open and breathing stoppages with be fewer in number and shorter in length.

I was warned by my prescribing doctor that I might have to do this test two nights in a row since they needed data from all stages of sleep and I might not go through all of them in just one night. The idea of having to spend two more nights in that bed with all those electrodes attached wasn’t something I was looking forward to doing.

However, with the help of the machine, I averaged only 16 events an hour and went through all the required stages the first night. In fact, the technician woke me shortly after 4:30 a.m., announced he had all the data he needed and I was free to go. That was slightly earlier than I usually get up in the morning.

Once again, I had to answer “no” to that survey question about the bed. Too bad they didn’t ask about the chair in the sitting room. It had been replaced between my visits and the new one was much more comfortable than the original. Like the first visit, there were no dreams to describe.

In September, my home CPAP machine arrived and my first job was learning the Australian way of doing things. My machine was manufactured in Bella Vista, New South Wales, and the on/off procedure still makes me laugh.

The power button contains a green light that lights up when you shut the machine off and goes out when you switch it on. That’s right, no light means on and a green light means off. I guess that’s how they do it Down Under.

At least I don’t have to wear any electrodes, just a mask that would be great for Halloween. Add a pair of antennae and the resemblance to a giant ant is remarkable. I may answer my door in the mask if anyone ever knocks too early. It would be more fun to scare people instead of just swearing at them.

The CPAP machine has a six foot length of tubing that runs from the machine to the mask. It allows for some movement, but not too much. I found out there was a limit the first time my phone rang after getting the machine. I had moved the phone to a table on the opposite side of the bed to make room for the machine. When I rolled over to answer the phone, I heard a crash.

 It was, of course, the CPAP machine, which I had pulled off the night stand onto the floor, spilling all the water from the humidifier chamber. In the next week or so, I managed to do it twice more before learning to let my answering machine handle the early morning calls. 

Most people don’t leave a message so ignoring the phone is a lot easier than disconnecting from the machine for nothing. And using the machine along with sleeping in my own bed has caused the number of my breathing “events” to continue to drop as time goes by. That should make my doctor happier than the telemarketers. Now if I could only remember that a green light means off.