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Sweet Dreams of a Space Octopus
Well, it's official. I have sleep apnea. Add it to the list of Interesting Adjustments that began after I reached 50 and my warranty ran out: busted eyeball; whacked-out thyroid; weirdo heart rhythms; and now this: sleepus interruptus.
Apnea is troubling because it implies that now I don't even sleep properly. Huh? I've always regarded sleeping as something for which I had a great deal of talent.
But no. Tests have shown that I'm not as skilled as I thought. Not only do I have obstructive sleep apnea - the condition where the soft tissues of the airway collapse, causing an interruption in breathing that puts stress on the heart and makes you feel lousy all day because you're not rested - I dress it with a little hypopnea, which is extremely shallow breathing that causes oxygen levels to drop. You know me. Always going for extra credit. What can I say? I have an aptitude for apneatude.
Apnea is treated with a CPAP device, which is a gizmo that looks like a miniature shop vac, set to exhaust. You hook up the hose to a little scuba mask sort of thing, strap that onto your face, flip the switch and drift off to dreamland. Well, that's what it says in the brochure, anyway.
Here's a little something you probably already know, but I'm going to say it anyway because you can never hear it too many times: Brochures lie.
The brochure says I'll soon have the best sleep I've had in ages because I'll be de-apneated. Instead of going into red alert because my airway is shut, my body will remain in Rest Mode the entire night, and especially during R.E.M. sleep (as opposed to Beatles sleep, Bob Marley sleep, or Benny Goodman Orchestra sleep.
Sorry. Just a little sleep disorder humor, there.
Well, anyway, the brochure and I are so far at odds. I'm not sleeping better, not by a long shot. The word that comes to mind is ... oh, let me think... ah, I have it. Worse.
I put on the mask and flip the switch. Pretty soon I'm being inflated by the shop vac. So far, so good - except that I can't see the television or read a book while I'm wearing the thing. Also, every time the dog looks at me with this contraption on my face, she snickers. Then again, I believe dogs are laughing all the time at stupid stuff we humans do, which I think is rather cheeky for something that spends half the day licking its hinder.
Without a book or television show I have to go to sleep the old-fashioned way. This hardly ever works. I can't get my mind to stop racing. For example, I'm supposed to breathe normally with this gizmo on my face, with my mouth closed. Fine. Except no one has told me where the carbon dioxide goes when I exhale. I spent four hours worrying about that one the other night.
The routine now goes like this: It takes me about an hour to fall asleep. Three hours later I stir from a dream about being attacked by a space octopus, and in a state of half-sleep, rip the mask off my face. Then I sleep another two hours before I snore myself awake.
Call me the Apneator.
Just don't call me after I've gone to bed. I need my sleep, you know.
© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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