Hope on the Horizon

Friday night was the follow-up sleep study.

They gave me the same intake form, describing my day, gave me the same technician (Carl) to wire me up, gave me mostly the same wiring configuration – everything but the nasal cannulas – and then fitted me with a mask.

It was a nose pillows type of mask, with a small piece of silicone forming the seal between the mask and my nose. The silicone part had two holes in it to correspond with my nostrils, and with the help of a few straps around and over my head secured the mask tightly to my nose. We’d also tried a nasal mask, which is similar in design to the full face mask that covers the nose and mouth, only this one covers the nose only. It had a fatal flaw once air pressure was activated: the shape of my face prevented a tight seal from happening, and the mask was leaking in such a way that the air was blowing straight into my right eye. So we switched to the pillows.

I’ve used a CPAP machine twice before, for not a long time before setting it aside due to comfort issues with the full face mask I’d used both times. The nose pillows mask is by far the most comfortable mask that I’ve ever worn. It felt natural in every way except when trying to speak – the air pressure that’s coming through the nose tends to interfere with the lungs’ ability to get enough air out to speak, and so it’s like fighting uphill to talk with the mask on. However, it’s nowhere near as bad as trying to talk with a full face mask on, where air pressure is forcing its way into both nose and mouth, fighting against the lung power needed to squeeze out words, that are then muffled by the mask itself.

I climbed into bed, lights out happened, and I was in the process of texting my wife good night when she sent over “you’ll never guess who’s on the air.”

I told her I didn’t have a clue. She responded with the name of a DJ that’s been away from the station for over a year dealing with “real life.” It was a surprise to everyone at the station except for our station manager – apparently even from her husband too, who’s also a DJ with the station.

So I spent the next twenty minutes trying desperately to give myself access to be able to talk to our returning DJ, and finally did so. I was in the channel long enough to say “hi, you were missed, how the hell are you” and get a perfunctory conversation before I felt that I really should try and shut things down and get some sleep – after all, this wasn’t a talk-on-your-mobile-until-all-hours-of-the-night study I was wired up for.

I shut things down on my phone and started my sleep sounds app and shut my eyes, trying to unwind mentally and get some rest. (The app, incidentally, is called Relax & Sleep II for Android platforms; it’s free and it’s extremely customizable with the ability to program set combinations of sounds from the library of a few dozen available, as well as the ability to adjust each individual sound’s volume and save “playlists” as favorites that can be recalled with a tap.) And it wasn’t too long afterward that, with the gentle air pressure into my nose feeling almost natural, I dozed off.

The next thing I remember was the knock at the door waking me up at 5:00 am. I had slept for five and a half hours uninterrupted. I cannot remember the last time I had gotten so much sleep in one go.

I was well rested, I was alert, I wasn’t groggy at all. I cleaned the wax off my head, changed clothes, filled in their exit survey, and after a short wait to be picked up was on my way back home, where I slept for another three hours or so.

That Saturday was a busy one – we had visitors in the middle of the afternoon and more visitors later that night for a free-for-all of a radio show. There wasn’t much opportunity for me to sleep during the day, but I noted that I didn’t need to. I wasn’t tired or lethargic at all, although saying I was full of energy might have been stretching it just a bit. I had a great time being social and was even social for a few hours on Sunday as well. It was a good weekend and I had a great time.

Either today or tomorrow, the doctor at the sleep center is going to write my prescription for a CPAP machine and I’ll likely get an in-home visit from the respiratory therapist to get it set up and fit the mask correctly. I’ll be specifically requesting the nose pillows for home use. And for the first time out of the three times I’ve tried a CPAP machine, I’m actually looking forward to it coming in and getting started with it.

And then maybe, just maybe, I can start to keep a more regular sleep schedule again.

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