St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Forty Winks

It has been 40 days since I started using a breathing machine to keep me from stopping and starting breathing at night. Forty days and nights, for those of us with religious upbringings, is a significant time --a good time to evaluate breathing with a machine.

According to my sleep study overnight at Mayo,40 days ago, I had severe sleep apnea, stopping breathing, waking, and starting again an average of once per minute all night long.

I was not really aware of this, but had been complaining of tiredness for nearly 15 years and not knowing what was wrong. My outlook on life, was one of resignation, looking forward to the end of all of my toils; life was a burden to get through with responsibilities that must be met, but not much to look forward to.

So what has changed 40 days later?
First: although the machine is a nuisance, it doesn't bother me much, because I fall asleep quickly with it on, and sleep soundly most of the night now. I am resigned to living with it for the rest of my life. Margo sleeps better too.

Second: I do find that I wake up refreshed and much more alert, ambitious and enjoy my days much more! It is wonderful to get a good night's sleep.

Third:, I had forgotten what dreaming at night was like. My tests showed that I never got into REM sleep, the dream stage, without the machine. Now I dream wildly, regularly and vividly. I had forgotten about dreaming, having not done it for what I estimate to be 10-15 years. Dreams are fascinating!

Fourth: I am rather impressed with my "new" doctor at Mayo. A year of so ago, I changed doctors when my old one retired. He was very much of the minimal testing type, more diagnosing based on listening and asking. My brand new one, fresh from medical school and residency, is test oriented--a basic health check and go have some tests. She, though her persistence in pushing me into heart, breathing, sleep, and other tests, got to the root of one of my major problems--not sleeping.

In summary, the sleep machine has changed my outlook on life to one that really looks forward to each day and the future. Before, I felt so tired that I lacked much of the drive I used to have, and probably looked ahead more with resignation than enthusiasm. Amazing what a good nights sleep can do for a person!

I downloaded some free software, called "Sleepyhead" that reads the sleep machine data (it has a computer that is tracking all sorts of details of each night's sleep) so I can look at the quality of each sleep. I have adjusted the machine to approach a goal of 3 or less sleep stops per night now, as compared to hundreds before. I like the technical aspects, the wonderful colored graphs, tables and scientific info that I find.

The sleep machine has been a wakeup call for me. With my new knee scheduled for the 12th, I am looking forward to another 20 years of agitating my friends and neighbors!