Sleep Apnea Guide

I have sleep apnea and use this blog to provide unbiased info about sleep apnea to create sleep apnea awareness. If you have sleep apnea, it is important to seek treatment.

What is Sleep Apnea?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines sleep apnea as "A temporary suspension of breathing occurring repeatedly during sleep that often affects overweight people or those having an obstruction in the breathing tract, an abnormally small throat opening, or a neurological disorder."

The current definition in Wikipedia (the human edited encyclopedia) is this:

Sleep apnea (alternatively sleep apnoea) is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. These episodes, called apneas (literally, "without breath"), each last long enough so one or more breaths are missed, and occur repeatedly throughout sleep. There are two distinct forms of sleep apnea: Central and Obstructive. Breathing is interrupted by the lack of effort in Central Sleep Apnea, but from a physical block to airflow despite effort in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In Mixed Sleep Apnea, both types of events occur. Regardless of type, the individual affected with sleep apnea is rarely (if ever) aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes, or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). The definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea is made by polysomnography.

The Wikipedia content referenced in this article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sleep apnea".

Is there a way to prevent CPAP headgear strap marks?

Sometimes during the continuous quest to prevent mask leaks, I strap on the mask too tight and wind up with red marks from the straps. The strap irritates my neck and ears. Appearantly, this is common enough to have a solution.

There's at least one product that helps prevent strap marks. I haven't tried it, so I cannot say if it is any good or not, but the name is "StrapGuard". It looks like it is just a soft cloth that wraps around pretty much any CPAP mask headgear strap. One place I saw this online charged $15. If you know how to sew, you could probably make your own.

I'd prefer that my insurance company paid for these types of things. I'm not even going to try asking, because I know they won't. It would be nice if headgear manufacturers actually build this cushioning into their products.

Lazy Smurf diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

I was looking through some old toys and stumbled upon a few plastic Smurf figurines from that popular cartoon television show of the 80s. Playing with the toys as I had in my youth, I pondered how the Smurfs dealt with Lazy Smurf’s snoring. Would complaints of snoring lead him to seek remedies? Was his snoring a sign of sleep apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) prevents people and Smurfs from breathing freely while sleeping, resulting in a lack of oxygen and a very bad night’s sleep – every night. Some frequently occurring symptoms include loss of energy, trouble concentrating, anxiety, depression and failure to contribute fully to the Smurf Village. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, psychiatric problems, impotence, cognitive dysfunction and memory loss. For a Smurf, this increases the risk of capture by Gargamel.

Besides snoring, remember that Lazy Smurf always appears quite tired. Cartoon zzz’s frequently escaped from his head. He even fell off my toy box a few times. These are among the classic indicators of sleep apnea.

In the Smurf Village, Lazy Smurf’s behavior was considered disruptive. Lazy Smurf snoozes on the job. His sleepiness became a real problem to himself and those of the Smurf commune.

Many Smurfs complain to Papa Smurf about trouble sleeping due to Lazy Smurf’s loud snoring and strange gasping sounds made while sleeping. Vanity Smurf emphasizes the importance of beauty sleep.

Brainy Smurf points out the likeliness that Lazy Smurf suffered from sleep apnea. “In fact, the word ‘apnea’ means ‘not breathing’. Lazy Smurf’s gasping sounds originate from a lack of oxygen and a reflexive attempt to start breathing again.”

Papa Smurf refers Lazy Smurf to Doctor Smurf. Doctor Smurf has Lazy Smurf do a sleep study, known as polysmurfography (a polysomnography for Smurfs), conducted by Sleep Technician Smurf.

The diagnosis is severe obstructive sleep apnea, just as Brainy Smurf had known. From now on, Lazy Smurf was to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine while sleeping.

The results are phenomenal. After being on the CPAP for just a few days, Lazy Smurf is no longer sleepy and appears energetic.

The other Smurfs look at him strangely. “What have you done with Lazy Smurf?” asked Papa Smurf, thinking that an imposter has entered the village. Lazy Smurf stomps away angrily.

Early the next morning, with the other Smurfs still sleeping soundly, Lazy packs his bags and heads into the forest. “They don’t like me ‘lazy’ and they don’t like me energetic either,” Lazy Smurf says to himself.

When the other Smurfs awaken, they cannot find Lazy Smurf. Papa Smurf thinks he knows why and recalls what he said to Lazy Smurf. Brainy Smurf explains to Papa Smurf the positive effects many sleep apnea patients have when using a CPAP machine. Papa Smurf tells the Smurfs to go looking for Lazy Smurf.

But it is too late. The sinister wizard Gargamel captures Lazy Smurf and locks him in a cage.

Gargamel holds Lazy Smurf for ransom. A ransom note decrees, “Either tell me the location of the Smurf Village or Lazy Smurf will be made into Smurf soup.”

Papa Smurf gathers the Smurfs together to go over the rescue plan.

The Smurfs gather in the woods near the cage with Lazy Smurf inside. Smurfette shouts loudly to get Gargamel’s attention. As Gargamel walks towards Smurfette, Vanity Smurf uses his mirror to shine the sunlight in Gargamel’s eyes. Gargamel stumbles onto the ground. Meanwhile, Handy Smurf grabs the key and unlocks the cage to rescue Lazy Smurf.

We cut to a scene where Papa Smurf explains sleep apnea to the other Smurfs. During a big Smurf ceremony, Lazy Smurf’s name is changed to “Sleep Apnea Smurf.” Everyone smurfs happily ever after and I put my toys away for another day.

Mattel's New Sleep Apnea Barbie?

Ok, this Barbie is not from Mattel, but by a doll costume maker who's husband has sleep apnea. The creator says of the custom Barbie, "I do not mean to make light of it, but rather to amuse those who have to live with it." Take a look at the pictures, I think you will agree.

More pictures

The joy of the sleep clinic

Here's a funny commentary that captures the joy of the sleep clinic, entitled "Sleepless in a Sleep Clinic" (Read). I think it captures the experience well.

My experience was slightly more unpleasant as a result of the sleep technician's office being in the room right next to me and paper thin walls. I was trying to get to sleep but was distracted by every little noise. By about 2 am, I was just about ready to fall asleep. Then I hear shouting from the technician. He was on the phone shouting in a foreign language to someone far away. After what seemed like an hour of his unintelligible one-way conversation my blood was boiling.

Not realizing there was a microphone in front of me for monitoring, I shouted something like "which part of this being a sleep clinic do you not understand?" alongside a few vulgarities. It was immediately silent and I eventually calmed down and fell asleep.

He was very quiet in the morning when he woke me up.

The challenge of keeping the mouth closed while using a CPAP

Keeping my mouth closed when sleeping has always been a challenge. I used my chin strap for the first month I had the CPAP. It was irritating and had to go. I tried putting a sock in my mouth and that didn't work either.

Years later, I only sometimes use the chin strap, because it slips off and is still uncomfortable.

The chin strap I have is the black, 1 inch wide strap that has a hole for the chin. For some reason I have been breathing with my mouth open a lot lately, so I need to try something new.

I've seen some alternative ideas around that I may try. Some home-brewed ideas include using a 2" waterproof adhesive tape or any kind of easy to remove medical or sports adhesive tape and taping the lips with it, being sure to have an easy way to remove it. Others have tried duct tape and found it just a little too adhesive. Go figure.

There is even an anti-snoring tape product out that is similar, except that it tapes around the mouth without sealing the lips. Ya, that'll work.

There seems to be a lot of chin strap products out there. The problem is that each is a little different and everyone has a different head. One version may work for you but not for me. I have enough problems with my nasal mask headgear rubbing against my ear. I don't want a chin strap to rub my ear too.

To get an idea of what is out there, this vendor has a lot of large pictures of different chin strap products. View.

Another vendor provides this 2 minute video that shows some chin strap product options in use. Video

Note that among these samples, nobody is sleeping with cats. Cats and headgear don't play well. 8 cats and headgear play worse.

Another thing I've read is that chin straps are not always needed for long term use. If one has regularly breathed with an open mouth while sleeping, changing to closed mouth breathing is a change of habit. Habit changing does not come easily, but once the habit has been changed, it should stay for a while until a new habit is formed.

Alternatively, one could pursue using a full face mask (FFM) instead of using a nasal mask. Though slightly less attractive when trying to be romantic, the FFM may have the potential for good results if I can find one that fits.

Sleep Apnea - my story

Like many others, I had no clue that I had sleep apnea. In fact, I had never heard of it. I found out by chance.

My spouse could not stand my snoring and had to sleep with earplugs - or even in another room!

I asked my doctor about how to stop the snoring. The doctor asked me a bunch of questions about sleeping hadits and had me do a sleep study. I did the whole sleep study thing and ending up with a diagnosis of severe sleep apnea. Great. Do I get a free t-shirt or something?

That was three years ago. I have been using a CPAP machine every night for treatment. At my level of sleep apnea, the treatment is good, but not great. I plan to research the options and see if there are ways to improve my sleep apnea. Hopefully, this will be useful to others in a similar situation.

I've moved. Visit!!!

Visit my new website about sleep apnea - for more information about sleep apnea!!!!

About this blog

This website aims to create awareness about Sleep Apnea. I'm not a doctor or an expert on Sleep Apnea. If you have questions, please see your doctor.

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