Friday, September 18, 2009

Sleepy Thoughts

I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight.

That’s because today I got my CPAP machine. CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure”, and this little machine helps people like me with sleep apnea. What it does is pump a stream of air up my nose, so that I don’t have to wake up many times a night like a fish gasping for air on a boat deck.

I was tested for sleep apnea, and the good doctors at my local sleep center hooked me up to an array of monitors and other equipment that showed I was waking up on average 45 times an hour because I couldn’t get my breath. Apnea occurs because of muscle tissue that relaxes and blocks the airway during sleep. This interrupted breathing can occur many times a night, and in effect a sleep apnea sufferer is waking up all night long, gasping for air. You’re not conscious of most of these episodes, but they’re still disturbing your sleep patterns.

And you can’t wake up all night long without paying for it the next day. Sleep apnea sufferers are chronically tired, even fatigued. When I was diagnosed recently, it made me realize that I’ve been feeling tired for years now, and there are many times during the day when I get sleepy sitting at my desk.

On top of that, I wonder if it’s affected my mental sharpness. Have you ever read about those studies where people are kept awake for 24 or more hours, and tested periodically to see how the lack of sleep is affecting them? The first things to go are your creativity and your higher mental function. Miss a night’s sleep and you’ll have a harder time doing algebra problems or writing a coherent essay. When I think of all the disturbed sleep I’ve had over the last 10 years, it makes me wonder if I could have written the Great American Novel by now if not for that danged apnea.

Well, we’ll see -- if I have a sudden burst of creativity and write three novels, a collection of poems, and a screenplay in the next year, it’ll be due to the fact that I’m finally getting a good night’s sleep.