My Experience of Sleep Testing and Therapy
This article is an extension of what I talked about in my Strongman Sleep Apnea article here: http://kayserstrongman.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/strongman-sleep-apnea/. I found that I had way too much information for a simple article and that this second instalment would have a narrower field of interest, so I separated it as best as possible. If you are concerned about your own health and looking for further information on how to get tested or treated for sleep disorders then read on…
I live in Ontario, so the process that I talk about will apply most closely to those of you who are also in Ontario. If you live elsewhere, or just want more information of sleep apnea, listen to this week’s episode of American Strongman Radio (Episode 9). Available on iTunes or at: https://soundcloud.com/americanstrongmanradio/american-strongman-radio-06-11-2014-sleep-apnea As a student with minimal health insurance that doesn’t cover anything more than basic prescription medications, I was apprehensive about the potential cost involved in getting treated. Fortunately, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers the cost of consultations with sleep clinics, so I knew I could at least get some further information about what I might be dealing with.
How to Treat Your Sleep Disorder
You need a referral to get in to a sleep clinic, and since I am away from my family doctor, I was simply able to go to a walk-in clinic and ask the doctor there to sign my referral form (I got this from the sleep clinic’s website, which most of them have). I was in and out with my referral in 5 minutes. I then faxed my referral in and had a response within days for my consultation appointment with a sleep specialist. The process will take at least a month or two, as sleep specialists are busy with a lot of patients in Ontario. I had my appointment about 2 weeks after the phone call. The consultation is just for the doctor to get a better sense of your condition and if indeed it seems you have a sleep disorder. It was about half an hour of background questions about your health and medical history and then I had my sleep study scheduled for the following week.
Nightmare on College St.
The sleep study is by far the worst part of the process. Everything about it was super uncomfortable. They make you go to sleep earlier than you probably like to; they wake you up earlier than you like; the room is too warm to sleep comfortably; the bed is too small to sleep comfortably; you’re hooked up to 40 electrodes on your legs, arms, face, and head; there’s a camera watching you sleep. I could go on… I was super stressed and I couldn’t sleep and this was making me worry that they wouldn’t get any results because I wasn’t sleeping and that I would have to repeat the process. It was awful, to say the least. A lot of sleep clinics now have machines that you can take home to do a sleep study in your own bed. If you are given that opportunity and it works as well as an in-lab study, by all means do it! If you have to do a lab study, take a small fan with you. Fortunately I passed out at some point to give them enough information and after the data was analyzed I went for my follow up appointment 2 weeks later. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, as was expected. At the end of the follow up I was given a prescription for a CPAP machine. The prescription is required by any medical device suppliers in Ontario in order to purchase a CPAP. I was also told I would have to do a follow up sleep study with my CPAP device mask in order to calibrate the pressure to optimize the therapy (oh woe is me!). My next step was to find out how much this machine would cost me.
The Cost of Relief
CPAP machines can be quite expensive. Fortunately there are some regulations imposed in Ontario on the cost. The devices are all set at a price in Ontario, somewhere around $880. Even better, the government of Ontario covers 75% of that cost, so when you go to a CPAP supplier, they don’t even mention this number. The cost is only about $350 when you also include a mask that fits your needs. If you have health insurance coverage, it will mostly reimburse this remaining cost for you too! Most retailers will also loan you out a CPAP device so you can test it out and see if you will be able to comply with it and choose the device that will suit your needs.
I got a loaner CPAP machine immediately and took it home to test it out. It was a very awkward experience at first. Having air constantly blow down your throat takes some getting used to. Having a hose covering your face and going up your nose that makes you look like some sort of robotic elephant also takes some getting used to. My first night wasn’t great. It also didn’t help that I was sick. Fortunately, I got used to the CPAP very quickly and didn’t even notice it after the first night. The devices are very sophisticated these days and are very quiet. The masks are quite comfortable and have become minimal enough that you don’t look like a Top Gun pilot. My loaner device was pretty quiet, but it constantly blew cold air exhaust out of the mask, which was kind of annoying. It also doesn’t shut off if you have to go to the bathroom in the night and sounds like a vacuum cleaner when it is leaking air, because you took the mask off. Rather than turning the machine off, I would usually just stifle the sound under my pillow. The device I went back and bought was the ResMed S9 and the mask was the ResMed AirFit P10. The names don’t really matter that much, but from my experience and reviews on the internet, these are the gold standard for CPAPs and masks on the market today. The mask minimally exhausts cold air out of it, so that isn’t so much of an issue as with the other mask I tested out. The device itself can also be programmed to let off on the pressure when you exhale, which makes it feel more natural to breathe with and makes it even more comfortable than the other device I tested. The other feature I really like is that it automatically shuts off after about 5 seconds if you remove the mask or it slips off. This makes everyone happy, especially my dog, who hates the sound of the air blast. It will also automatically start back up when you start breathing into the mask again. Another great feature of pretty much every CPAP machine is the humidifier which keeps your nose and throat from drying out from the constant air being blown through your nose. It also helps to prevent congestion throughout the night.
I really thought that I would have a tough time adjusting to the CPAP therapy, but I had no such problem. If you would like any more information or advice, please feel free to contact me through the menu at the top of the page.