Falling off the wagon
Have you ever struggled to stay compliant with an effective treatment? Sometimes side effects can derail even the best of intentions. At other times, the treatment is so effective that we feel so great that we forget to stay consistent. By the time we realize that we’ve gotten off track, we’ve established habits that make it difficult to return to treatment.
About a year ago, the constant coughing of pneumonia disrupted my sleep and made it impossible to wear my CPAP mask. For a few months, I was only able to sleep in a recliner. Once I recovered, my lungs and sinuses were still so sensitive that using my CPAP was like starting all over again. In addition, my husband started exhibiting symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea that kept me awake. Every night that I tried to use my CPAP I would sleep for 3-4 hours only to wake with sinus pain.
After months of struggling with poor results and stubborn insomnia, I finally reached out for help. The same neurologist that administers my Botox injections also specializes in sleep disorders. So when I asked about it, he agreed to take me on as a sleep patient, too. At our first appointment he recommended trying an auto-pap machine with tracking technology that would send daily reports of my CPAP use to him and me.
Although the new APAP was a significant improvement, I still struggled with insomnia and sinus pain. We tried a few medications to treat the insomnia without success. We also increased the humidity on the machine to ease the sinus irritation. I was finally able to sleep, but not in the same room as my husband. His symptoms (snoring, tossing & turning) were keeping me awake. I even tried sensory depravation by using noise-cancelling headphones, white noise, and an eye mask. All of these measures helped, but created new problems — I couldn’t really get comfortable with all that stuff on my head and face. So I gave up and moved back to the recliner.
After several weeks of consistent APAP use while sleeping in the recliner, it finally occurred to me that using a foam wedge to raise my head, neck, and shoulders might make it possible to sleep in bed once again. The same day that my husband picked up his new APAP machine, I purchased a wedge.
That first night was a success. I was not awakened by snoring because my husband was able to use his APAP. Plus, I had just the right combination of heat, humidity, and elevation to prevent any sinus irritation. For the first time in months, I was able to get a little over 8 hours of healthy, comfortable sleep.
I promised my doctor I would not give up on CPAP treatment. I know the benefits and desperately wanted to be able to sleep well again. It’s been about a year since I first fell off the CPAP wagon. I’ve been clawing my way back on and falling off over and over. Most people would have given up long ago. I seriously thought about it. But quitting is not in my nature. I guess I’m just too stubborn. With all the new changes, I am hopeful that next month’s appointment will yield improved results.
If you are struggling to continue a helpful treatment because of side effects or complications, please don’t give up. Keep trying new strategies. Talk to your doctor, too. He or she may be able to suggest ideas you haven’t thought of or adjust your treatment to make it easier to stick with. Whatever you do, keep trying until you find a solution that works.