The CPAP Experience

For those of you, like I didn’t know previously, CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. After my first night, I would have thought Continuous actually stood for Crappy, but that problem went away very quickly.

The reason that I now use a CPAP machine is that I have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where airways collapse while you’re sleeping, which means you stop breathing for a short time. This can lead to stroke, heart conditions, high blood pressure, general exhaustion, and a host of other possible conditions, such as hypothyroidism, acid reflux disease, and depression. Hmmm. The missing link, because I have hypothyroidism, acid reflux disease, depression, and general exhaustion. I’m pretty sure that they’re not all from sleep apnea, but there you go.

I use a pillow pack mask. Like many of you, I thought that a CPAP mask came in one flavor: the Darth Vader special, that covers your mouth and nose. Not so. You must be a mouth breather to rate such an ensemble, and it turns out that in this matter, at least, I can keep my mouth shut. Here’s more or less what my mask looks like:


I know. Suitable for wearing to glamorous occasions. That said, it is the least invasive of the CPAP options. Two little nose plugs are strapped onto your head, and air is blown continuously into your nose. If you open your mouth, the effect of getting the pressure down your airways is negated.

The CPAP is not uncomfortable for me. I do have some trouble with the hoses, which I sometimes lay on, and getting up at night (usually once or twice, like most people). Then it has to be turned off and taken off, but I have a pin on the left side which helps me re-affix the mask without turning on the light. Sometimes the mask gets a little askew, but I readjust.

Have I noticed a difference? Well, the super secret CPAP squad who are monitoring my usage for the first month tell me that my airways shut down a mere 1.5 times a night now, instead of the 10 times an hour they were shutting down before. Remember, kids, 10 times an hour is a pretty mild apnea. Some people shut down 100 times an hour.

Do I feel peppier? When I first wake up, sometimes. However, I still fall asleep in the car. NOT while I’m driving, but I would like that to stop. Overall, the thing is improving my health, and I am getting used to it. Sometimes I can imagine that it is not there, and sometimes it feels fairly comfortable. Other times I wake up pretty dry, and I think it’s a pain in the ass.

What can you do to make your experience with a CPAP better? There is a humidifier attached, which I use. I also tie my hair back at night to keep it out of the way of the straps. I already use Flonase because of my dust allergy, but if you don’t, it’s recommended that you could use a nasal spray to help keep things from drying out. And when you start using the CPAP, you can reduce your level of air pressure for a while.

How expensive was it? Well, that depends on your insurance. Mine has helped me set up a monthly payment plan, so overall I’m pleased with that process.

Regardless of whether you have a harder adjustment time or an easier one, the CPAP is not something you should blow off. Many CPAP owners decide they do not like the machine, and want to give it up. I say that it’s better than having a stroke or the issues that come with it. Of course, if you’re lucky enough not to need one, that’s best.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

2 thoughts on “The CPAP Experience”

  1. I was stuck with a full-face mask (life-long mouth-breather), and used the CPAP for a bit over a year. I hated it — I had to swap machines to a model with an unheated humidifier, because I couldn’t tolerate either dry air or the heated humidified air — but it was powerful motivation! I stopped using it (without consulting the doctor *slaps hand*) after weight loss seemed to alleviate symptoms. I believe my initial study said I had 4.5 episodes when stomach-sleeping, more like 15 per hour on my back — so I just stomach-sleep now, and don’t seem to have problems at all except when on strong painkillers or having a serious cold.

  2. My wearing a C-PAP is the only way my wife can sleep since it stops me snoring,

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