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Sleep Apnea Treatment: My ABCD's

Here's a simple way to remember what I wish I had known at the very beginning of my own Sleep Apnea treatment: my ABCD's of Sleep Apnea treatment. The hope is that you will not have to stumble over or run into as many obstacles as I did.

A is for Attitude
The key is that oft-repeated phrase: "whether you think you can, or you think you can't, either way you're right." Sleep Apnea treatment has much to do with attitude. What got me over the hump is realizing that even if it doesn't kill me as fast as cancer or a heart attack would, it slowly would undermine my body and accelerate my path to death, all the while eating away at my quality of life. It's also 100% treatable if the proper treatment is used. Given those two facts, I choose to get serious about treatment. It was as easy as that.

B is for Buying
Tough to hear, but yes, having Sleep Apnea means you will at one point or another have to shell out dough out of your own pocket. We Americans have an attitude that when it comes to maintaining our cars or our lawns, it's normal to pay something to keep these things in good order, but that when it comes to our own bodies and health, someone else, whether it be insurance companies or Medicare, has to foot the bill. Granted, we pay taxes and insurance premiums to cover this stuff, but the hard cold truth is that it won't foot the entire bill. We can agitate for better health care, but in the meantime, we need to take ownership over our lives and pay the difference between what insurance and Medicare will pay and what it will not.

Once we have this consumer mindset toward our own health, we gain more control and can be more proactive. Data capable machines are better to get than dumb black boxes. Auto-adjusting machines give you more options than "straight" machines. The latest mask on the market represents the latest technology in making these things comfortable to use, and will most likely be easier to use than the one that's in your closet not being used because it makes the bridge of your nose sore. You can get all this stuff online, if you're willing and able to fork over the cash.

C is for Collaboration
Getting well with Sleep Apnea is tough to do on your own. The reason is that there's a lot to know, and that there's no "one-size-fits-all" answer to how to make it all work. So you will need to rely on others. The doctor should be your primary collaborator, but for that to be the case you will need a rare type of doctor -- one who's not defensive about what he/she doesn't know, and who will treat someone like yourself (assuming you don't have a medical degree) with an ounce of respect and an open mind. Often doctors can learn a lot about this stuff from their patients, but it's a rare doctor indeed who will try.

Which is why you'll also need to research all you can online, and reach out through forums like this to others who have Sleep Apnea. Even though we don't have medical degrees, the kind of day-to-day stuff you need to know about Sleep Apnea can often be discovered by interacting with other regular people in similar circumstances.

D is for Documentation
Get a copy of your full sleep study and titration reports. Then ask your doctor for, and obtain, as open-ended a prescription for a PAP device and mask as possible -- doctors can write a script for, say, a "ResMed Mirage Micro Nasal Face Mask" (specific), or they can simply write a script for "a mask according to patient's comfort and choice" (open-ended). Make sure they write the latter. Armed with your full sleep report and open-ended prescriptions (which you should keep in a safe place, by the way), you'll give yourself the ability to double check on things and get advice from everyone in the world you trust, including the people on this forum. In other words, you'll give yourself options and control.

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Comment by Chris H on June 3, 2011 at 4:31pm

Options, education,  participating in treatment, knowing that it is a process that when "dialed in" works, others are in the same boat. 

Comment by pittsburgh_leo on February 4, 2010 at 9:31pm
Many people believe that they when they see their PCP (maybe once a year), that they can say "I'm tired"; blood test will be run and voila a pill will be prescribed and their health will be restored. If only it was that easy. Being tired is the most common complaint that doctors hear and without more imput from the patient, your chances of a misdiagnosis is high.

My diagnosis was delayed for over a year because when I told my doctor I was tired, he immediately suspected my thyriod. Not an unreasonable assumption because I was already on medication for Hypothroidism. Based on the results of the blood work, he increased my dosage. Needless to say, this didn't entirely solve the problem. When I saw him in August, I was describe my symptoms (textbook sleep apnea) that led him to refer me to a sleep clinic. Successful diagnosis and treatment is more likely when you take a proactive approach to your health. The more you know what is normal for your body and are able to communicate, to the PCP, any and all deviations; the better your chances for an effective treatment. This is a wonderful forum......let's keep increasing the awareness.
Comment by Peter Hollard on August 13, 2009 at 5:57am
Just diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea at a sleep clinic last night.. need to go back to be be fitted with CPAP gear... hoping that as an experienced scuba diver I will not be intimidated by the mask...
Comment by S C. Osburn on August 2, 2009 at 1:31am
I've had sleep apnea for about 10 years. After hte 2nd night with my mask and cpap machine I felt like a new woman. I still have to get myself 'SIKED UP: to put the mask on at night. I just have a routine that I don't deviate from. It's litterally been a lifesaver for me. If you're in doubt, then see a sleep specialist and get tested.
It can make a world of difference in your life.
Comment by Melba Cooper on March 2, 2009 at 6:37pm
Yes, it has taken me six weeks of peserverance and a museum collection of masks but with the help of my blogging pappers I have made it through a week without Ambien....and a mask that is comfortable and does not irritate my face and skin. Today I feel fantastic. I can actually put my head on my pillow not wonder why I am afraid to go to sleep. The more I talk to folks the more I realize how multifaceted this condition is. My priest just feel asleep at the wheel just before he got home from a trip and had an accident, breaking his hand. He is 80 and the accident was the catalyst that got him diagnosed. As a friend recently said....that mask is a beautiful thing to behold.
Comment by Judy on March 2, 2009 at 2:34pm
Good advice, SleepyCarol, and I would add PPG: Patience, Persistence and a Good sense of Humor!
Comment by sleepycarol on January 13, 2009 at 6:57pm
You might want to try some aromatherapy to help you. It has helped many, including myself. The website is If you email Brett and asked him he will even send you some free samples. Just let him know that you are struggling with the cpap.

I have no interest nor does the forum have any interest in pur-sleep.
Comment by Ron Oliver on January 13, 2009 at 11:12am
Mike, You are so right about the attitude. My wife works for a company that sells CPAP equipment etc... But as much as I try i can only get 2-3 full (5hrs or more) nights sleep with the mask. I've tried many and some nights it just aint happening. Sleeping pills help with keeping the mask on, but I'm on call 24-7 and need to be able to function intelligently at 3am if called. But I keep trying because it's better than the alternative!
Comment by Janice Whitfield on January 6, 2009 at 5:10pm
I am so glad that I found this site. I thougght I was going crazy. Can't sleep, always tired, and mouth and throat so dry in the am. When falling asleep I can feel vibration in my throat, and always wake up, gasping for air. Now I know why. I will certainly speak to my doctor about this. Thanks s omuch for the info. Jan
Comment by Jess on January 2, 2009 at 1:43am
Excellent, Mike. B, C, and D are important but A is so where it is at. Attitude is everything when it comes to CPAP treatment.
Nice job.

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