MeFi prevents brain damage! April 7, 2009 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Hey, AskMefites, thanks for potentially saving my life.

I asked this question about my anxiety over getting a sleep study and was reassured by a dozen Mefites. Bolstered by their encouragement, I made an appointment for a sleep study. I got the results last week, and they were shocking. I stopped breathing 394 times in a 6 hour period. My oxygen level dropped to 72%. This is obviously not good. My doctor said that people with my severity of apnea are at high risk for heart attacks, stroke, and brain damage.

But thanks to y'all, I'm getting it treated. AskMe rocks.
posted by desjardins to MetaFilter-Related at 8:56 AM (53 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Good for you for going! Glad to hear this.
posted by salvia at 8:57 AM on April 7, 2009


Hey I'm glad to hear this. Yay for taking care of yourself.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 AM on April 7, 2009


Oh wow. Thanks for the follow up. I'm so glad you're getting treatment. I wish you the best of health.
posted by goshling at 9:02 AM on April 7, 2009


Wow, good for you for going! Feel better.
posted by tristeza at 9:02 AM on April 7, 2009


I knew we were good for something!
posted by aheckler at 9:04 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we categorize this under "things AskMe does right"?
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:08 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gracious! I have a friend with that level of apnea.

At some point, the surgery recommendation will come along, for a tonsillectomy, maybe rhinoplasty, pretty much anything to get your airway open. When that time comes, if you decide to do it, MeMail me. I have a regimen for dealing with those particular post-surgical issues that put me back on my feet in about four days, and a friend who mostly followed it mobile in a week.

Sleap apnea is nothing to mess about with, so good on you for looking into it.
posted by adipocere at 9:10 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Surgery's been ruled out due to some birth defects, so I'm getting a CPAP machine prescribed for me. I had the calibration done last night, and I have a doctor's appointment next week, so I should be good to go in a couple of weeks.
posted by desjardins at 9:12 AM on April 7, 2009


Huh, and here I was thinking MeFi causes brain damage. Anyway, glad to hear you're getting fixed up!
posted by Quietgal at 9:19 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Glad to hear you're going to be ok. Hurray for breathing!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on April 7, 2009


Good to hear that you got treated, sleep apnea is serious business.

And to everyone else: if you think or someone you know has apnea make sure they get it checked out. My dad had untreated apnea for years until I read about apnea online and suggested that he ask his doctor about it. Sure enough, he had similarly scary results from a sleep study and they gave him a CPAP machine which has helped a lot.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2009


yay!

sorry i missed the question first time around. but i've got a CPAP and i have to say that getting my apnea treated was one of those "whole new world" experiences.

i thought *everyone* was this tired all the time. and that it was some character defect on my part that kept me from being able to stay awake.

good luck getting treated!
posted by rmd1023 at 9:47 AM on April 7, 2009


Good to know you'll still be rocking the posts for a long, long time, desjardins!
posted by Lynsey at 9:51 AM on April 7, 2009


Wow, I'm glad you asked that question, because that sounds awful. I'm glad you're getting treated.
posted by Caduceus at 10:00 AM on April 7, 2009


I'm so glad! Here's hoping the CPAP not only saves you from heart attack and brain death, but dramatically improves quality of life.
posted by not that girl at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2009


So how was the sleep study? I'm psyching myself up to get one too. What was it like?
posted by mudpuppie at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2009


I'm seconding rmd1023 - getting a CPAP really changed my life. I used to fall asleep constantly while I was watching television or even reading a book - I'd snap awake when it fell out of my hands! And I didn't have any idea that something was actually wrong with me... until I was hospitalized for an arrythmia.

I remember the nurse shaking me awake and asking me if I knew that I tended to stop breathing when I fell asleep. She looked kind of concerned about it.

Now... I just feel completely different. I haven't fallen asleep on the couch in over two years. Ok... harsh truth. In my CPAP gear, I suspect I look like the world's biggest dork. But I just tell myself that no, in truth, I look like a super cool fighter pilot.
posted by John Smallberries at 10:19 AM on April 7, 2009


I know several friends and extended family members who have used CPAP gear and while it can take a bit of getting used to at night, it has made a world of difference.

Glad to hear you'll get the treatment you need!
posted by canine epigram at 10:23 AM on April 7, 2009


if you think or someone you know has apnea make sure they get it checked out.

What sort of things are indicators for apnea?
posted by inigo2 at 10:27 AM on April 7, 2009


mudpuppie - it was pretty much exactly as it was described in the thread:

1. asked to fill out a questionnaire about how I'd slept the previous few nights, how tired I was now, how much caffeine/alcohol I'd had that day
2. changed into pajamas
3. hooked up with electrodes - almost entirely painless, except that they scrub your scalp a bit to get a good seating. Also very chaste - the tech won't see you naked.
4. put to bed (like you'd find in a hotel, not a hospital bed). You can watch TV or whatever until you fall asleep.
5. They monitor you through infrared cameras while you sleep.

I had my first test a few weeks ago, and I had to get up exactly once to go to the bathroom. He unhooked me from the main box, handed me a smaller box and I went to the bathroom (which is a little awkward while holding a box full of wires, but doable).

Last night (my second test) was the same as 1-5 except they added a CPAP mask. I didn't sleep all that well; the mask takes some getting used to, but it wasn't painful or restricting, just awkward. They are lightning-fast at responding if you need anything, though. I waved my hands at the camera and BOOM they were there within 5 seconds. I've been in intensive care and haven't gotten that kind of response time.

P.S. if anyone is near Arlington Heights, Illinois I'd be glad to recommend this place.
posted by desjardins at 10:33 AM on April 7, 2009


I have a good friend who has this condition and it's really no joke. He's in the same position as you, getting treatment as probably quite literally saved his life. I'm glad that you found out and that you're getting suitable treatment.
posted by ob at 10:35 AM on April 7, 2009


inigo2 - from webmd:
The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that you may notice include:

Excessive daytime sleepiness, which is falling asleep when you normally should not, such as while you are eating, talking, or driving.
Waking with an unrefreshed feeling after sleep, having problems with memory and concentration, feeling tired, and experiencing personality changes.
Morning or night headaches. About half of all people with sleep apnea report headaches
Heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth at night.
Swelling of the legs if you are obese.
Getting up during the night to urinate (nocturia).
Sweating and chest pain while you are sleeping.

Symptoms of sleep apnea that others may notice include:

Episodes of not breathing (apnea), which may occur as few as 5 times an hour (mild apnea) to more than 50 times an hour (severe apnea). How many episodes you have determines how severe your sleep apnea is.
Loud snoring. Almost all people who have sleep apnea snore, but not all people who snore have sleep apnea.
Restless tossing and turning during sleep.
Nighttime choking or gasping spells.
I can check all of these off except for swelling of the legs (I'm slightly underweight).
posted by desjardins at 10:38 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks.
posted by inigo2 at 10:40 AM on April 7, 2009


huzzah!
posted by lia at 10:42 AM on April 7, 2009


Sorry I missed that thread, desjardins, I would have loved to offer some advice. Believe it or not, my sleep apnea is even worse than yours. I stopped breathing 88 times an hour, for up to 2 minutes at a time! (Obviously not 2 minutes every time. I only bend space/time when I'm awake.) One of the things I've discovered since going on CPAP is that my lifelong battle with depression was largely the result of chronic deep sleep deprivation. I promise you that this will change your life. On the other hand, CPAP has its own set of challenges, especially since I assume that with your level of severity you will probably be using a full nasal mask, not just the nasal pillows.

Please feel free to MeMail me with any questions you may have, or even just to vent. In the meantime, a few thoughts:

1) You will be taking the machine with you whenever you travel. If you fly, bring it as carry-on. As I just discovered on my recent trip to New Orleans, TSA already has policy in place, which is to treat CPAP machines like laptops. When you go through security, remove the elecronic components of the CPAP machine from the bag and place them in a tray. Otherwise, they will chew you out and slow you down.

2) If you get a machine with a humidifier and decide to travel without the humidifier attachment, be sure you do a dry run (so to speak) before you leave to ensure you know how to run it that way and that you bring all the necessary components.

3) Clean your mask and humidifier chamber every morning. Wash you face thoroughly before wearing the mask every single night and every single morning after you take it off. Always have face scrubs and acne medicine in your cabinet, and use them.

4) Use your CPAP every night, and every time you nap. When you get sick of it and throw it across the room, get up, make yourself a nice hot cup of herbal tea, go back to bed, and put the goddamn mask back on.

5) When you wash your mask, use hotter water than they call for in the instructions, and leave it to soak for awhile in the sink in mild soap (think Johnson's baby shampoo or Ivory liquid hand soap). Buy a large jug of white vinegar, and at least once a week, dump at least a cup of the vinegar in with the soapy water and let the mask and humidifier tank soak.

That's all that comes to mind off the top of my head. Like I said, please feel free to MeMail me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


IRFH,

That explains a lot about your comments :-)

I posted on Ask about my sleep apnea. It's not as bad as yours or desjardins', but I haven't been able to get used to CPAP. I actually became more claustrophobic with it as the months went on. I also failed epically at using a 'sleep appliance'. I need to try harder.
posted by lukemeister at 11:37 AM on April 7, 2009


Sleep studies (going into my third) are about as annoying as getting an MRI. They take longer, but you should be asleep for the bulk of it, so it's kind of a wash. Nothing to be worried about, unless you have some specific phobia....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:28 PM on April 7, 2009


AskMe may have saved you this round, desjardins, but it can't watch you all the time.

I almost got you with my sleep apnea scheme, but I was foiled by those meddlesome kids. Next time though... yes, next time.

Perhaps I'll use... frogs.

Mwahahaha!



Good to hear you are going to be safer. Seriously.
posted by quin at 12:39 PM on April 7, 2009


That explains a lot about your comments

When the doctor who delivered me spanked me to make me cry, I pissed in his face. Also, my momma dropped me on my head when I was a baby. The more you know.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:00 PM on April 7, 2009


Good for you, I'm glad you are getting treated. Though I do always think when I read those health related AskMe questions, that if someone has any doubt (which they do if they are asking about it) the only real answer is 'go to a doctor'.
posted by Elmore at 1:00 PM on April 7, 2009


IRFH, Like this woman, I bowed with hands folded right after I was born, but it's been all downhill since then.
posted by lukemeister at 1:25 PM on April 7, 2009


My own personal experience with sleep apnea would lead me to warn you not to get too excited yet, as I've found it nearly impossible to sleep with that thing on my face and I've tried about 10 different masks. So my choices are lack of sleep due to apnea or lack of sleep due to having a fucking octopus on my face all night. However, you're just starting, so maybe you'll have better luck than I. I, on the other hand, think that treatment of this problem is largely a crap shoot. Having participated in a few focus groups with other sufferers, I can verify that I'm not alone. Good luck though!
posted by spicynuts at 1:33 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sleep studies (going into my third) are about as annoying as getting an MRI.

I've had two sleep studies and three MRIs in the last nine months and I'd take a sleep study ANY FREAKING DAY.
posted by desjardins at 1:56 PM on April 7, 2009


That is great. A good friend of mine died in his sleep of heart-related problems due to sleep apnea; he was in his mid-20s.
posted by medeine at 2:28 PM on April 7, 2009


I feel your pain, spicynuts. I've definitely had (and continue to have) issues with my masks. It's a struggle. But for severe apnea sufferers, all sleep lost is not equal. There is a huge difference between lack of total sleep due to discomfort and frustration and the kind of serious physiological damage we risk each and every time we sleep without our masks.

Yes, CPAP can be a real challenge, but there are support groups, as you say, and online communities full of helpful suggestions. I think the most important thing from my perspective was to make an absolute commitment to never sleep without it. It's a promise I made to my wife, and as difficult as the promise is to keep, keeping that promise has sometimes been the only thing that made me stick with it. And then there are phases where it doesn't bother me at all.

Best of luck, spicynuts. And don't be too nervous, desjardins. It sounds like you tolerated the mask better than I did during the study (I had to be drugged), so I'm sure you'll find a way to make it work.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2009


I am shocked - SHOCKED - at some of the Sleep Apnea victims who are respected MeFites. I've known a couple people with CPAP machines (once even slept with one, ifyouknowwhatImean) and considered it a major nuisance even as an absolute medical necessity. In the last year, my doctor, investigating a couple of the symptoms on the Apnea list, sent me to a sleep study, and I was never happier to learn afterwards that it was a waste of time. (It turns out I am getting so much oxygen in my sleep, I tend to inflate)

Seriously, I respect all of you who do live with the condition and its treatment... and am very happy that you are all living with it.
posted by wendell at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2009


Not to be the last one on the puppypile, but add me to the list of folks who would probably be dead (or unemployed or homeless) without CPAP: I have an AHI of over 120, which means I stop breathing twice a minute without my buddy on the bedside table. Luckily for me, I've never had a compliance issue with respect to the mask, I actually look forward to putting it on at bedtime, much like pulling up the blanket on a cold night.

If you're having compliance issues down the line, keep at it, never have there been so many choices in adjusting the system to your needs -- masks, adjustable pressure, humidifiers, CPAP/BiPAP, &c.

MeMail me for anything at all. Good luck!
posted by Kinbote at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2009


I have to say that I really have come to like the mask. I breath through my mouth a lot so I have to use a full face and something about the whir of the machine and the pulsing of the mask as I breath in and out is very comforting. I traveled a few weeks ago and forgot the bring my machine and I had a hard time falling asleep without it. It has become my little "don't let me stop breathing" security blanket.
posted by lucasks at 4:57 PM on April 7, 2009


As someone who can breathe through his nose and wake up feeling rested, and relishes these relatively new abilities every day, I wish you the best.
posted by potch at 5:12 PM on April 7, 2009


You know, I'm glad you made this post, because I missed the earlier thread, and this has convinced me to get a sleep test.

I have suspected I have sleep apnea for a long time. The waking up, the sweating, the snoring. Friends have repeatedly told me, "You don't sound like you're snoring -- you sound like you're dying!"

Glad you're getting the help you need, desjardins. Wish me luck!
posted by trip and a half at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


My husband has sleep apnea -the difference in his quality of life is incredible since he got the cpap machine-and so is mine. Old boy snored like a fiend!

Seriously, I am so glad you have your diagnosis and are gonna get treated-you'll be shocked at how much better you will feel now!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:56 PM on April 7, 2009


For anyone who is reading this and is worried about whether they've got sleep apnea but doesn't have medical insurance, you can buy (starting around USD60$-USD80$) or borrow a home pulse oximeter that connects to a computer and does long-term recording (because some do not) and do a crude home sleep study yourself. (This is more likely to return a false negative than an actual laboratory study, of course, but if the apnea is present and severe enough you will show depressed levels of blood oxygen during the night. Note that the device is non-invasive even though it measures your blood.)

(I am not a medical professional of any sort but I am a sufferer of sleep apnea.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:44 PM on April 7, 2009


Yay! Awesome news. I have always loved your contributions.

Good luck, and good health!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:18 PM on April 7, 2009


Thanks also to every one who memailed me. I am sure I'll be memailing you back with questions once I have my doctor's appointment next Thursday.
posted by desjardins at 7:26 AM on April 8, 2009


A couple of people on MeFi strongly encouraged me to have my wife do a sleep study, after I mentioned her snoring in an AskMe. They scared the dickens out of me, and I passed that fear along to her. The study results were equally terrifying, and she went on CPAP. Since then she's lost a ton of weight, no longer needs the CPAP, and her apnea is nearly gone.

I thanked them in MeMail back then, but as long as we're sending out a little public love, thanks, you two -- you know who you are (don't wanna call you out in case you don't want me to.)
posted by davejay at 11:03 AM on April 8, 2009


desjardins, I think you can add me to the list of people who might be getting a sleep study done thanks to your thread. I have enough matching symptoms, and I'm seeing enough doctors for other problems, may as well add one more to the list!

(I'm a medical mess...)
posted by CrayDrygu at 4:44 PM on April 8, 2009


XMLicious, can you link to some of the pulse oximeters you are talking about? All of the ones I'm finding are more like US$450...
posted by oats at 7:17 PM on April 9, 2009


oats, A search for 'pulse oximeter' at Google Shopping lists two at $65 each.
posted by lukemeister at 7:23 PM on April 9, 2009


Neither of those looks like it has any external interface. If I'm going to try to monitor myself in my sleep, those won't help.

I was searching for 'recording pulse oximeter', for what it's worth.
posted by oats at 7:41 PM on April 9, 2009


Good point, oats. This looks like it's about half the price you were finding.
posted by lukemeister at 7:47 PM on April 9, 2009


Ordered. Thanks lukemeister!
posted by oats at 6:08 PM on April 10, 2009


Sure, good luck, oats!
posted by lukemeister at 11:11 PM on April 11, 2009


Sorry I missed replying to you oats. The one lukemeister pointed out looks like it has considerably more features and is worth the price, but the CMS-P model from the Chinese company Contec Medical is the one I have and it's $99 and works great. It does not have an internal display, it just hooks up to the computer via USB. I could have sworn I saw even cheaper ones when I was searching - I picked the CMS-P because it got a good review on an apnea site - but of course I'm not having luck finding them now.
posted by XMLicious at 11:55 AM on April 19, 2009


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