The Dish At Ten: The View From Your CPAP

A reader writes:

I too suffered (unknowingly) from sleep apnea for years.  I too had a wired-up sleep Cpap study - and was informed I had an average 150 disturbances an hour. I too tried the CPAP, but couldn't stand the Darth Vader aspect of it.

I found a doctor who fit me with a clamp that fits over my teeth, top and bottom - sort of inside-out false teeth  The clamp keeps my mouth closed, and prevents my jaw slacking back, so my tongue won't slip back down my throat.  Altogether more discreet and more comfortable than the CPAP - indeed, I'm happy to leave the device in after I wake up in the morning until I need to talk or eat, it's that comfortable.

What's it called? Another writes:

I also was diagnosed with sleep apnea a couple of years ago. My experience was very different from yours.

My wife said that sometimes I stopped breathing in the night. So at her urging I went to my doctor and he arranged a sleep study. I too had numerous tentacles attached to my body, my head, and my legs. I was unable to fall asleep and for the first time I took sleeping pills. After a couple of doses of pills any many hours of staring at the ceiling I fell asleep. I was told I had severe sleep apnea and would need a CPAP. I dutifully got fitted with a mask and bought the machine. (The machines cost over $1200 for those that do not know. Masks start at $100 and go up from there.)

I spent weeks trying to get a mask that fit. I could never get a seal with my face. The constant rushing air made such a noise in my skull I could never fall asleep. There is no way to dampen the sound when it's inside your head. If I did finally fall asleep - from total exhaustion - the poor seal of the masks would crank the air pressure all the way up and would wake me.

The "cure" was driving me insane. I tried the machine every night for months, always with the same results. I'd eventually fall asleep and about an hour later the mask would unseal and I would tear the machine off my head and rip the power cord from the wall. About two minutes later I'd be fast asleep.

Of course I told this to my doctor and the "sleep therapist". I was referred to a doctor that was a sleep "specialist" and he made adjustments to the machine that made things even worse. Using the machine was completely intolerable. I was prescribed sleeping pills. Taking them made things worse yet. Now I had to fight off the feeling of being drugged in the morning in addition to getting no sleep.

I kept trying the machine and the pills and complaining to my doctors. I was then referred to a Ear, Nose, & Throat surgeon to see if anything could be done surgically. After a brief exam she said that I did have a very soft palate and that is why I snore. Nothing can be done about that. Upon looking into my nose she asked how long I had played hockey. I told her I never played and she said she asked because it was clear my nose had been broken very badly and because of the way the bone healed I had severely obstructed nasal passages. She recommended surgery to fix this.

The surgical procedure was interesting to say the least. They don't use general anesthesia because it's too dangerous so I was drugged just enough so I was on the verge of passing out. I could hear the doctors talking and could feel the chisel blows in my head. I remember a few sharp pains but not too much else.

This was the first time I had ever had cocaine. Yes, medical grade cocaine. It's used to constrict the blood vessels in the nose so when the incisions are made the bleeding is kept to a minimum.

After the surgery I am now able to breathe through both nostrils. I no longer get nosebleeds. My wife tells me I snore much less and the sleep apnea has almost completely stopped. While I get more rest I am not experiencing a profound change in my energy levels but I feel somewhat better.

I know this rambled a lot. I really do wish you the best of luck your treatment. I bet your husband gets a better night's sleep from now on too.

I'm still addicted to mine, and go nowhere without it. Not great for one's love-life, of course. And I hear countless stories like the one above of just not being able to handle it. But it's time for me to go back and get re-tested. My reader's first option is intriguing. The second: not so much. I've never had my sinuses or nostrils examined although I'm pretty sure they're screwed up. But I'm leery of surgery like this. I've met people who have described real trauma with the surgery and minimal success. The best advice is to get a sleep study and if you have apnea, try a CPAP first.

(Remix of Terry Colon's cartoon created by a Dish reader.)