How Sleep Apnea Changed my Mental Health Outlook

Sleep and I never got along. I am not sure exactly when it started to affect my life, but since my childhood, I have never put much stock into the idea that sleep is possible in my life. Sleep is very important to mental health.

In 2016, my diagnosis became mild sleep apnea, and I was told it was affecting my mental health. My anxiety at the time was at an all-time high, but trouble with the CPAP machine, mainly that it was causing severe dry mouth that was keeping me from using the machine, made my insurance take back the machine before I could get the right mask. It sucked because I needed it, but I decided that it was too much trouble to keep dealing with the insurance and the machine.

Fast forward to 2019, where I began to once again get very little sleep, little did I know that it was worse than I believed. In the first sleep study, I found out some troubling news. One, I was not getting any REM sleep. That is bad for anyone wondering. The worst part? My sleep apnea was now severe to the point that, as an average, I stopped breathing around 87 times an hour. If you do the math, in eight hours, I was not breathing half the time. One of the worst was when I stopped breathing for approximately 57 seconds. That scared me to death. It meant I was waking up so many times a night it was borderline that I could die in my sleep.

In the second sleep study, about a month later, I got sick in-between studies, they added the mask and the CPAP machine this time around. I saw better improvement. It was interesting how advanced the devices had gotten since 2016. I still had sleep apnea events about 32 times an hour, but that was a significant improvement. Things could realistically look up in my life.

In September, I got my CPAP machine. I was hopeful that I could finally start conquering this sleep issue and at the same time, improve my mental health. What amazed me about the machine was that it starts out at a low level of air pressure. As you begin to sleep, it increases to the number that they found during the second sleep study as the best pressure for me to sleep. It starts out at a four, and increases all the way to 15, which is very high but necessary.

Nothing happens overnight, but I could tell in the first week that I was sleeping more through the night and waking up less. The dry mouth was no longer an issue as my new machine had a better dehumidifier. It was gradual, but within a month, I was sleeping around seven hours without waking, which for me, is out of this world. The best part? My sleep apnea events went all the way down to less than one event per hour. I don’t have to tell you how amazing that is, and since I have bought into the idea.

It is not a perfect world. I still have some issues getting to sleep, and the mask is cumbersome. But it works. Slowly the dark circles are disappearing. Its December and I am getting seven hours of sleep. I feel rested. I am more productive and alert. It was something I needed to commit to, and I have more than fulfilled the goals I set this time around. It is amazing what sleep can do for a person.

My point is that in this mental illness life, find things that will help you. I feel as if my anxiety is something I can work on, and my panic attacks will become less of an issue the more rested I am to start the day. I can finally start immersion therapy for my panic disorder. On occasion, I oversleep something I never did before, and it feels good! I will continue to stay committed and who knows where I will come in December 2020.

If you have any questions about sleep studies, sleep apnea, and CPAP machines please leave a comment and I will share my wisdom further.

Always Keep Fighting

James

P.S. If you have time, please purchase my book. You can find it on Amazon by looking up my pen name James Edgar Skye. The name of the book is The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir. It is available in print and Kindle edition. Thank you for your support. I will also link my Amazon page below.

https://www.amazon.com/author/jamesedgarskye

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Sleep Studies, Sleep Apnea, and Sleep Apnea Machines Pt. One

Working on the Sleep Part of my Mental Health

Image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

The First Step

Over the past three months, I have been working on my sleep issues. Those that are new and old to this mental illness life know that sleep is paramount to mental health.

The first step in the process was getting back into my sleep doctor to get the process moving. It was slow going because my sleep doctor is only in town three days out of the month, so it takes time just to get into to see the doctor. I knew already that I had sleep apnea, but because I went through this process three years ago but had issues with the machine. Anyway, I met with my doctor, and through his office, I set up two different sleep studies.

The First Sleep Study

The first sleep study is where they determine if you have sleeping issues. The process is long as it takes about an hour while they hook up wires all over from your head to your legs to they can analyze you through the night. It is tough because sleep is rough with all the wires, and you really have to stay sleeping on your back position. I slept roughly seven hours that night but it is the results that show I was not sleeping.

The results of the first sleep study were terrible all around for me. I stopped breathing (or my breathing was obstructed) in those seven hours no less than 872 times for about an average of approximately 80 times an hour or more an hour. Some were less than a second, and my longest was at 56 seconds. An okay level of not breathing an hour is around 32 times an hour, and that is bad, and so I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. The worst part is during the first sleep study, I got 0% rim sleep, which is also bad as rim sleep is the most critical part of your sleeping.

The Second Sleep Study

The doctor ordered a second sleep study, and the process was the same with one exception. The sleep technicians would be adding a sleep apnea machine with a full face mask. What this machine does is allow constant air keeping the airwave open so that you don’t stop breathing. Throughout the night, the technician watches over you and changes the air pressure until they find the right air pressure that gives you the best sleep possible.

The results were a lot better with the machine. I still stopped breathing throughout the night, but I got it down to about 36 times an hour, still bad and severe, but an improvement considering the setting and the conditions. I also reached rim sleep about 30% of the time, which means that was the best sleep I probably got in my life.

The Next Step

After the second sleep study i had to wait two months to see my doctor and I suffered the entire time with not sleeping well. I will be chronicling my experiences in getting my sleep apnea machine and how the first week went in the next blog post later this week.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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