Day 18 of 30 – The Pursuit of Better Sleep

I’ve always had trouble with getting a good night sleep for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I’d often had nightmares and admittedly was letting my imagination get the better of me after watching scary movies. To be fair, Chucky was really fucking scary for a doll lol.

But as I grew older I noticed (or my siblings who slept with me in the same room noticed) that I snored. It became so unbearable for them that they moved to my grandma’s room while I slept alone. They’d have to endure it though whenever we traveled and had to share a room which wasn’t easy. My dad was also a snorer so my siblings kept suggesting I room with my dad instead while they room with my mom.

One time we found this pillow from Osim that claimed to help minimize snoring. We bough two pillows and gave it a shot. It was this candy shaped pillow that required the user to sleep on the side with one arm under one of the grooves of the pillow. Supposedly it will support the jaw and neck line in a way that will allow for better airflow and thus reduce snoring. I think it helped a bit but I had a hard time with it because whenever the pillow would get hot I would need to move around and find a cool spot. This meant I wasn’t keeping the recommended position thus negating the benefit. My dad had better luck with it and my mom slept better as well.

So years passed with no one really getting bothered with my snoring except for when we traveled. But like when I was younger, I’d still regularly get nightmares, the type where you feel you’re awake but can’t move and you think there’s a presence in the room. I’d be so freaked out I’d turn on the lights and not sleep again after episodes like that. Later on I read that this is quite common for some people who deal with sleep apnea and is most probably not related to something supernatural.

I also struggled with low energy since high school probably when I started snoring. I didn’t really connect all of it but it was weird playing sports regularly and working on conditioning but somehow feeling like I’m getting tired way too early given the amount of work I’d done to prepare for a game.

And worse, I often felt so sleepy during classes. And yes I’d dozed off in class more than once. Actually way more than once lol. The most embarrassing was freshmen year in college during Theology. I sat in front because of my surname and towards the end of the class just gave up and dozed off. Father Estrada was already leading the prayer and everybody was standing up except for me, enjoying my unscheduled nap. He kept calling me using the mic and my seatmate had to really shake me to wake me. Needless to say that was quite an impression to make. I even had a red mark on my forehead lol.

Granted, I wasn’t always sleeping early and enough back then whether I was working or playing Call of Duty. So lack of sleep plus the bad quality of the sleep I did get likely contributed to my always feeling tired. Anyway, fast forward to getting married and now Ellen had to endure the snoring. It took a while but she eventually got used to it and said she didn’t mind it, that it became sort of like white noise for her. What she did make me do is sleep earlier than what I got used to. She even got me a Jawbone UP band to help me track my sleep.

What I found out was even when I was not sleeping 8-9 hours, I’d still wake up feeling dead tired. And I don’t mean the usual feeling most everyone gets of wanting to stay in bed. But more like really tired like you just finished running the whole length of EDSA, which is a super regular recurring dream of mine all these years to the point that I’d joke that I don’t exercise anymore because I literally do it in my sleep. The data from the app showed this as well, I wasn’t getting enough deep sleep per night and was awake too many times to really get restful sleep. It’s almost like my sleep quality being bad due to apnea actually made sleeping longer worse because there’s more time for the apnea to be triggered.

But what finally made me decide to have myself checked in a sleep clinic was when we had Elian and we felt his sleep was being affected by my snoring. He’d get startled and awakened by my snoring especially when I would make choking sounds. Unless I planned on sleeping separately from Ellen and Elian, something had to change. So about a year ago I had myself checked in for a sleep study under Dr. Keith Aguilera in St. Lukes BGC.

Lo and behold the test confirmed what we knew all along, that I had sleep apnea and it was pretty bad. It showed that I was stopping breathing for more than 50 times per hour or something like that which meant I wasn’t getting oxygen as well. (NOTE: I’ll update this post with the actual results when I find my records.)

Dr. Keith immediately prescribed the use of a CPAP machine since the test also showed my breathing and sleep quality improved during the second half of the test when I was on the machine. My uncle from Canada happened to have an extra machine (his medical insurance entitled him to a new machine every 5 years and since he just got an upgraded one, he sent me the one he just stopped using) so he sent it to me through my sister’s childhood friend who was flying to Manila.

I’m not going to lie, using the machine was not very comfortable with the mask and tubes and being conscious not to move too much at night so it won’t get dislodged. It took me about a week or two to get used to it and to feel the effect which was that I wasn’t waking up with my heart pounding anymore. Plus Ellen and Elian finally get to enjoy a quiet sleep which was definitely worth the inconvenience of having a mask on my face the whole night.

After a month of using my uncle’s machine I looked for a smaller machine that I can bring with me when we travel. I ended up buying a Fisher Paykel APAP machine which had a built-in humidifier and is half the size of my uncle’s CPAP machine. It is truly one of the best purchases I’ve ever made despite it being a bit pricy due to the many advanced features. I’ve always brought it with me during out trips even on overnight staycations. In fact both Ellen and Elian have gotten used to me not snoring, if I forget to use it or if the mask gets loose at night and I start snoring, it gets so jarring for them that they both wake up irritated with me lol.

About a month ago, I had the data from the machine (it comes with a handy USB that records my sleep data) downloaded by Aunty Charity who is the official distributor of Fisher Paykel here in the Philippines. The results came out really positive. From the 50+ times I used to stop breathing in the sleep study, it was now down to just 4-5 times per hour.

So while I still sometimes wish to be able to sleep well without a mask, the results just confirmed how I’ve been feeling since I started using the machine a year ago which is that after having poor quality sleep for most of my life, I now have much improved sleep quality. Oh and that recurring dream of running the length of EDSA and the nightmares? I have not had a single incidence of both for a year now. That’s a tradeoff I’d take any night for sure.

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