Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Sleep Machine

I have sleep apnea.  I found this out at my recent sleep study.  I used to think that only overweight people had apnea, but alas I was wrong, just like I’m wrong about everything.  Ask any woman who’s ever dated me.

The sleep center brought me back for an overnight study involving a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine.  There are two kinds.  The first is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which delivers a continuous stream of air.  The second is BiPAP, which reduces air pressure during exhalation.  Either that or it’s for people who swing both ways.

So I went in for my PAP test with my overnight bag containing the essentials for an overnight stay: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, and mouthguard (because I grind my teeth into dust without it).  The mouthguard retails for $400.  I asked my dentist why I should spend so much on this mouthguard when I can go to Sports Authority and purchase one for $2.59.  He said, “Because if everyone did that, I wouldn’t be able to afford my vacation home in Malibu.”

Notice how all my overnight items were for oral care.  This is because the human mouth is a filthy, bacteria-laden, odor-producing orifice.  What really disgusts me is that some people like to put their tongue in their partner’s mouth when they kiss.  I would never let anyone stick their tongue in my mouth unless it had a $50 bill on it.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, my PAP test.  I checked in and went to a room where I would spend the night.  A technician hooked me up with wires, as had been done during the previous study.  There was also a hose coming from a CPAP machine.  The hose had two openings at the end that went in my nose.  I was reminded of Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Kotter.  Air was forced into my nose throughout the night at different pressures.  Readings of oxygen levels, apneotic events, etc were taken in order to see which pressure was best for me.  I felt like Darth Vader would feel if the Empire ran out of face masks and gave him a snorkel.

About a week later I ordered a CPAP machine, and the following week a technician brought it to my home and showed me how to use it.  Unfortunately it’s not like a leaf blower that blows air and that’s it.  No, this contraption has a number of moveable and replaceable parts.  First there’s the water base, which holds water that humidifies the air.  I’m supposed to change the water every day.  I can’t even remember to brush my teeth every day.  Anyway, there’s a dial that adjusts the air humidity.  There’s a long air hose that comes out of the CPAP machine, a shorter one that connects to it, and a nose piece that connects to the smaller hose.  It’s held on by an adjustable strap.  There are also two filters on the machine.  My vacuum cleaner doesn’t have so many parts.

All of these pieces are difficult enough to remember how to operate, but I’m also supposed to clean and replace them periodically.  The replacement costs are, shall we say, a bit inflated.  For example, the nose piece.  It’s a small piece of rubbery plastic.  Here it is.  I put a pen in front of it for size reference.

Now, how much should this item retail for?  A dollar?  Five dollars?  Would you believe $270?  I sh*t you not.  And they recommend changing it twice a month!  Obviously they don’t expect average Joes like you and me to pay $540 per month for this part – that’s what they bill insurance companies.  Under my insurance I would pay only a fraction of that, but it would still amount to well over $600 a year.  Add to that all the other parts replacements and we’re talking about some serious dough.  The machine itself retails for $2500, again to gouge insurance companies.  I haven’t seen such blatant misuse of insurance since Obamacare.

Obviously I won’t be replacing parts nearly as often as the CPAP peddlers recommend.  I will wait until each part turns a blackish shade of green and I develop swamp fever.

The machine operates fairly quietly.  It keeps me from snoring by forcing air into my nose so my soft palate and throat dont close.  I sleep more soundly due to not having apneotic events that are caused by air blockages.  I’m also quieter because I now sleep with my mouth shut.  (And I’ve been told many times to keep my mouth shut.)  Most important, it keeps my girlfriend happy because I don’t wake her with my snoring.  Before I got my CPAP machine, she used to force me to turn away from her in order to minimize the noise.  However, this created another problem: the air that sometimes comes out of my other end was then directed toward her.

So if you snore or sometimes gasp for air while you sleep, you might want to consider having a sleep study done.  It could help you sleep better so that you feel more refreshed during the day.  It could also save your marriage.  I hope you have insurance.