Sleep Apnea | The Not So Silent Killer

Feature image of Ryan Houtekamer demonstrating the choking sensation of sleep apnea.
| March 20, 2020
Categories: Op-Eds

Hey, everyone, my name is Ryan and I had sleep apnea. It turns out my constant tiredness, snoring, and randomly gasping awake was my body slowly killing me. I had to eventually swallow my pride and see a doctor and find out what was wrong with me.

I know at least a handful of people reading this are going to say “I might have sleep apnea but I don’t want one of those CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines hanging from my face”. People seem to almost feel it is embarrassing and that they will somehow just get better by being stubborn. It turns out that won’t really help you and things will only get worse with time.

Sleep Apnea Diagnostics

When the sleep therapist asked me how often I can remember having a dream I drew a blank as it barely ever happened. She asked me how often I snore or gasp awake but I was not keeping track of that sort of thing. I was given a machine to wear home for a night in order to monitor what my body was doing while I slept.

Sleep apnea diagnosti device - Philips - Alice NightOne

The Alice NightOne home sleep testing (HST) device helps you get your study done right the first night.

The machine I had was the Philips – Alice NightOne and it consists of a little pack with a belt you attach around your chest. From it is a small hose you have the ends up in your nose and a finger sensor. The whole thing is easy to set up and the machine has lights that tell you if you are doing everything correctly. I am a side sleeper and for the most part, it was unobtrusive to sleep with. I will say I wish the finger sensor was a tad larger as it made my finger numb. I have sausage fingers after all so your results may differ. Your sleep therapist will let you know how many green pie pieces you require in the morning. If you don’t get enough because you dislodged a sensor then you might need to do it again. The video below explains how the setup for the test machine works.

Understanding the Results

Once you return this little pack back to the sleep therapist they will send it off to get the data analyzed. This was the scary part when they reviewed the data with me. I only had very mild sleep apnea but was still not breathing for two and a half minutes at a time and having events like this fifteen or so times an hour. As I said this is on the very low end of the apnea world and most sufferers are far worse off then I was.

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Sleep Apnea Treatment

It was at this point it was recommended for me to try a CPAP and see how it would go. I was given a ResMed – AirSense 10 AutoSet for Her (why they decided to add a pronoun to it is beyond me) and shown how to use it and fitted for a mask.

For sleep apnea: The ResMed - AirSense 10 AutoSet for Her has AutoRamp™ with sleep onset detection. It starts by delivering a low pressure for greater comfort and then after you fall asleep, it gradually increases the pressure to the prescribed level.

The ResMed – AirSense 10 AutoSet for Her has an AutoRamp with sleep-onset detection. It starts by delivering low pressure for greater comfort. After you fall asleep it gradually increases the pressure to the prescribed level.

Let me tell you this is a Goldilocks sort of thing and will take a bunch of trial and error. You will need to fiddle with the settings — I got into the hidden menu to set mine up, much to the clinic’s annoyance. You also might need to try a mask or two before you find one that works. My first mask caused a ton of irritation in my nose and I had to try a few others before finding one that worked for me. The machine is pretty damn quiet and my wife never complained about it… I mean anything is better than snoring.

A Mask that Works

Sleep apnea CPAP device: Philips - DreamWear. This mask has three interchangeable cushion options: nasal, gel pillows, and full face so it's a bit easier to find one that's comfortable for you.

This mask has three interchangeable cushion options: nasal, gel pillows, and full-face — so it’s a bit easier to find one that’s comfortable.

I ended up finding the Philips – DreamWear to be my ideal mask. The hose on top of my head allowed me to roll easier without getting tangled up and the dual tubes meant my nose kept a constant flow going to it even when I had one side pinched off when I was sleeping. I wore this mask until I was finally cleared of having sleep apnea.

When I started with my CPAP machine my wife and I decided to forsake pretty much all carbs and begin the Keto diet. You see, my weight had gotten away from me over the years. As it turned out, it was the source of my issue. My face and neck fat would physically close off my airway and that is when I would gasp awake. I lost almost 90 lbs in a couple of years and to this day I still maintain a very low carb diet. Here I am now two years after no longer needing a CPAP machine to ensure my body fat wasn’t killing me.

Here’s Why it’s Worth it to Address Sleep Apnea

The long term effects of sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, depression, and much more. Read about it here. I am sad to tell you that weight loss and a healthy lifestyle won’t fix all forms of sleep apnea but then again you should be doing them anyway. Who cares if you have to use a little machine for the rest of your life. I can make it through the day without falling asleep in my chair when watching a movie I want to see, I don’t snore so loudly that my wife contemplates murdering me. Also, dreams and morning wood returned. Those things are greatly affected when you have sleep apnea because of the interruptions in your sleep patterns. What do you really have to lose if it means you might gain back some of that quality of life? Don’t be a coward, real men (and women) are willing to ask for help when things are wrong. You only get one body in this lifetime and sometimes it needs some corrective maintenance.

Read more of Ryan Houtekamer’s articles on Breach-Bang-Clear.

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1 Comment

  1. David

    I fought against a sleep apnea diagnosis for years. I just couldn’t see having some Alien face sucker on me all night while trying to sleep. Heck, I couldn’t even sleep with a mouth guard in to help with grinding my teeth. But, it got to the point where my doctor said, “Try it, or I’m not seeing you anymore.”
    So, I did. The machine is dead quiet, the mask isn’t that bad, and I wake up feeling a whole lot better than I have since I don’t know when. I went from 35 incidents of stopping breathing in an hour, every hour of sleep, to less than 2 in an hour.
    I hate, hate, hate to admit I was wrong, but I even put my cpap on if I’m taking a short nap.
    Save yourself and give it a try.


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