Decades before the whole issue of sleep apnea appeared, I used to listen to my father snore when he napped. He snored really loudly, and then he would stop breathing. I would hold my breath, too, until with a gasp, he resumed breathing again.
I didn’t know it then, but that was my first exposure to sleep apnea. Much later, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea myself. Fortunately, mine is being successfully treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, and I continue to drive a truck. Many drivers are reluctant to admit that they might have sleep apnea and are afraid of being forced to quit driving if they are diagnosed. That doesn’t have to be the case.
In my case, my husband was complaining of my snoring, and I was feeling very tired during the day. I reluctantly agreed to be tested at a sleep center in my home town.
The sleep study was very high tech, with the exception of the bed I slept on, which was very low tech and comfortable. I brought comfortable clothes to sleep in to help sleep come as easily as possible. A clinic technician then stuck electrodes all over my body to measure my sleep patterns. I didn’t particularly like the gooey stuff in my hair, but that’s what has to be done. I then laid down on the bed in a comfortable sleep position while the tech retreated to a monitoring booth and turned out the lights. You would think you’d be unable to fall asleep, but you can.
When I had the test, they measured my sleep patterns without a CPAP, and then measured them with a CPAP. The CPAP machine continuously blows air into your nasal passage through a hose that is attached to a nose mask. It keeps the collapsed tissues in your through from blocking your breath while you sleep. Nowadays, the study is often conducted with the two parts on different successive nights.
My test determined that I had moderate to severe sleep apnea. I had actually stopped breathing several times during the portion of the test without a CPAP. When I wore the CPAP, I didn’t stop breathing once. Needless to say, I was fitted for my own CPAP machine.
Having a CPAP machine really isn’t as burdensome as it sounds, and fortunately, most insurance plans will pay for it. CPAP machines now come with an SD card which measures the amount of time during each sleep period that the CPAP is actually being used. Don’t ask me the details of how the technology works, but it does. This SD card, also called a compliance card, can be mailed into the trucking company to monitor your compliance with doctor’s orders. If you’re compliant, you are cleared to drive, but non-compliance with the sleep apnea treatment can result in termination. The FMCSA shares more information for truck drivers with sleep apnea.
At first I hated trying to sleep with the hose that makes me look like an elephant, but I got used to it. And there was no more snoring, which made my husband happy. The best part was realizing that I was no longer tired and sleepy when I needed to be awake. Now, I can’t do without it.