CPAP mask makes for restless nights, so far

By Jack Smith

Imagine you are dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween.  Only your mask is too small, it fogs up when you breathe,  your lips are chapped and you are claustrophobic to begin with.

Now you have to slide into bed, hook a garden hose up to your mask and try to go to sleep.

That’s how my first week with a CPAP mask has gone. It’s been a sleepless train wreck. It’s a good thing I don’t operate heavy machinery for a living. Heck, driving and typing (not at the same time) have been hard enough.

I’ve been given a CPAP mask because I apparently suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. While at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, they sent me out for a sleep test. That’s how important they believe a good night’s sleep is to mental health. It appeared almost every patient there was sent for a sleep study.

My results were just at the bottom end of severe sleep apnea. I quit breathing an average of 30 times an hour during my overnight test. No wonder I can’t remember names, forget  my keys and lose my car.

II get the concept of air being pushed down my throat to keep my airway open. I just don’t get how anybody sleeps in fighter pilot gear.  I look a fatter version of Goose in “Top Gun” wearing this ridiculous thing.

Football players can buckle a chin strip while jogging onto the field, but my mask has two snaps you can’t see when putting it on and taking it off and velcro straps that hold it onto your head that have to be undone every time you get up to go to the bathroom, which is a lot on this side of 40.

Insomnia is nothing new for me. As a little boy, I lay awake for hours listening to the grinding throttle of 18-wheeler diesel trucks chugging down the busy highway very close to our house.

My mother tells me that as an infant, I slept in the laundry room. Maybe the hum of the dryer helped me go to sleep, because today I’m very particular about having white noise in the background. We look like the Clampetts checking into hotels as I drag my dusty box fan and favorite pillow along. Without either, I can’t sleep.

Why does all this matter? There a bunch of health reasons, but my doctor told me good sleep and a regular routine are really important for bipolar patients.

I’m trying, doc. I really am.

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9 thoughts on “CPAP mask makes for restless nights, so far

  1. As I prepare to leave for vacation my box fan and my pillow are parked next to the suitcases. It took me over a month to learn to sleep with that machine and I finally decided I just can’t. I found myself always turning it on before I put it in just to make sure nothing had crawled into it! I’m going to try again next year but I’m not real excited about it.

    PS – love your blog!

  2. Thanks Jack for confirming that sleep and depression are related. My daughter suffers from depression and anxiety. We could tell when she wasn’t sleeping well that she tended to spiral downwards. I appreciate your blog and sharing of information.

  3. Hey! Jan fought that blooming machine tooth and toenail! Changed mask styles several times until he found one that was tolerable. He finally learned to sleep in it and it does help. Time time time! Now that his throat is burned to a crisp from radiation he can’t use it. Keep trying- you might finally like it. Keeping you close in thought and prayer. ❤❌⭕

  4. Almost every member of my family, in- laws included, travel just like you! Pillows and fans and their machines. Hey, it works. Took forever to find a mask I could tolerate (that might be another option for you) but once I did, it worked.
    So proud of you for sharing all the things you have . I’m sure many are not aware of the correlation of depression and sleep apnea.
    Stay strong my friend and keep posting. Prayers for you and your family.

  5. Jack, I’ve been following your blog and just want you to know you and the family have been in my prayers. I am so proud of you and for you, for the way you have been able to let your struggle be a positive thing for others. I have used a CPAP machine for several years now. Keep trying different types of masks until you find one that is best for you. I use the nasal pillow style that just fits right against your nostrils. You still have the strap over and behind your head, but is is not nearly as cumbersome as some of the others. Take care. Hope to see you during the holidays.

  6. I’ve been using a CPAP machine for many years and depend on it to get a good night’s sleep. I do have a clip that makes it much easier to get the mask off during the night. Will see if I can find another one and send it to you. It helps a lot. Love, M.A.

  7. Jack:

    I laughed out loud at the Beverly Hillbillies reference. My wife MUST have a fan to sleep and therefore she takes an old box fan where ever we go (the one in our bedroom is a heavy metal pedestal style that I believe was once used for wind-tunnel testing – the roar is equivalent to a jet engine throttling to full speed). We were checking into the Hilton in Tallahassee recently and I made the comment that we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies dragging that thing around. I threatened to make her walk it in alone once I was checked into our room, but didn’t. Rather, I put it on the bottom of the luggage cart and hid it with our luggage. Anyway, thanks for the humor you add to a very serious subject and thanks for your courage.


  8. Just posted a note on your page “About the Author” in which I protested the time it said I was posting – 2:58 AM. Actually 10 PM in GA now. I see you understand the battle of insomnia and perhaps understand my wanting to be sure no one thought I was up in the middle of the night, posting on strangers’ blogs. Your story of the CPAP machine made me smile, thinking of how my husband struggled with his, also using Darth Vader and Top Gun analogies along the way. I laughed out loud when you mentioned your pillow and box fan. All three of my children carry their pillow and box fan with them–the first thing I did upon arriving home from their births was to set up each one’s personal box fan — they say I started their first addiction. I have recently graduated to a sound machine that fits in my suitcase!

  9. I have to use a box fan at night, too. I want the noise as well as the air circulation. I found a small but noisy fan I take on trips but have been known to take my big box fan into a hotel. We both have breathing machines and look like Mr. and Mrs. Darth Vader sleeping but it beats the health risks of not using them. Getting used to the mask and head gear is a challenge. Even after several years of using our machines we still have periods when we have problems with the equipment. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. I found that using the humidifier made mine more problematic so I don’t use it. We get our stuff from Homemed and they are very good about working with us to get our gear to work right. I hope you’re having more success with your machine now. You’re in our prayers!

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