I roll over in the night and wrap my arm around her. There is a soft sibilant accent to her breathing. I snuggle up to her face and am greeted with cold, clammy rubbery skin. I move and a tentacle wraps itself around my arm. There is a sudden rush of cold humid air in my face and I realize that I have awakened the octopus.
And then, fully awake, I realize that I have dislodged my wife’s CPAP mask.
About six months ago I was lying awake listening to her breathing and realized that she wasn’t – breathing. After what seemed like forever she gasped, took a deep breath and began breathing again. And then she stopped again.
I suspected that she had sleep apnea, but was a little confused. She doesn’t snore. Not really. A little maybe. So, I told her. We talked about the possible consequences of sleep apnea, the treatment, and what to do next.
She went to a sleep laboratory after seeing her primary care doctor. The test was positive and then it was back to the lab for another night to try different headgear. It turns out that the masks range from full Darth Vader to “pillows” that fit over the nose.
Fortunately, I can’t see well enough to see what she looks like with the gear on. I wouldn’t ever see it anyway. She puts it on after the lights go out and takes it off before they come on. Sort of the way she did when she wore curlers back in the dark ages.
I should be more upset about sleeping with the octopus, but I’m not. Listening to my wife of 46 years not breathing was terrifying.
She hates the whole thing. Says she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep since she started wearing the mask. Traveling requires taking a pillow, a stand to support the hose (otherwise it really does get all tangled up) and of course the machine. The machine is about the size of a portable typewriter. Maybe I better pick a better analogy since there are grown men and women now who have never seen a portable typewriter. It’s about the size of regular laptop computer but lighter. You also have to take distilled water.
The alternatives to not treating sleep apnea are falling asleep while driving, developing high blood pressure, heart disease, having a stroke, and having an early death.
It turns out that I had a misconception about sleep apnea. I thought you had to be overweight and snore heavily. It is true that most patients have this sort of obstructive sleep apnea, but a minority have central sleep apnea (your brain just forgets to tell you to breath) and more have a combination of the two.
I found out that there are teenagers with sleep apnea. It’s related mostly to too many soft drinks, obesity, and obstruction to breathing.
Forgetting to breath is more another age thing. Like those lines in your increasingly brittle nails. I haven’t told my wife about the age part yet. She probably knows. It’s just better not to bring it up.
“Things were just going along fine until they weren’t” A friend’s summary of life.