• Thought Leadership

Confessions of a sleep apnea patient

Scott McCown, BHS, RRT | May 17, 2021

Hi! I’m Scott, and I have sleep apnea.

My sleep quality started to decline as I got older, and at some point I started to wonder what the possible problems could be…. I don’t snore or gasp at night. I don’t have underlying health issues. So why am I not sleeping? I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s just stress from work, stress from home or just STRESS.” This train of thought became my justification for not managing my sleep health, and I just continued with my “new normal” of sleep.

My sleepiness got worse.

It wasn’t until I started dozing during meetings, falling asleep while sitting on the couch, and finally one worrisome event when I nodded off in my car at a traffic light that I realized I needed to find out what was going on. That was my “wake up call.”

So I volunteered to test a device.

I work for a sleep medicine company, but I still didn’t make the connection that I had sleep apnea. Or maybe deep down I didn’t want to believe I had it. I didn’t have all the symptoms and risk factors, so there was room for denial. At the time, our company was in its early days and we were doing final testing on some devices, so I volunteered to try one out.

Learning my diagnosis.

As a respiratory therapist (RT) myself, I know the drill. But it’s different when you’re the patient. An RT on the team reviewed my results with me, explaining the diagnosis and recommendations from the interpreting doctor — I had mild apnea (mild being between five to 14 breathing interruptions per hour). I’m well aware of the long-term effects of untreated sleep apnea and how it can affect the body over time. Blood pressure issues, increased risk of heart problems, intimacy issues, increased risk of diabetes, etc. These are all issues that we may have to deal with as we get older, and I did not want poor sleep working against me.

So I started treatment.

I started positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, the gold standard for sleep apnea treatment. My PAP machine arrived and I worked with an RT on the setup. Once again, I had the benefit of my RT training and experience working in sleep medicine, but it’s different when you’re the patient. Having a compassionate and understanding RT walk me through everything and lend an ear about this big life change was truly helpful.

I saw results.

I have to be honest: It took some getting used to. Even though I knew using a PAP machine was a health benefit and that it changes people’s lives, I found it took some time to get into the habit of using it on a daily, consistent basis. It has become part of my sleep routine, and I really do feel better. I don’t notice the mask anymore. The quality of my sleep has improved. I don’t fall asleep during meetings or at traffic lights. I’ve also noticed that my short-term memory is much better.

I’m now a healthy sleep advocate.

Now that I’m on therapy, I’m more sensitive to others talking about their bad sleep habits. Whenever possible, I open up a conversation and tell them my story and hope that it moves them to evaluate their own sleep and consider the possibility of a sleep disorder (which may be something other than apnea).

And having gone through the process of adjusting to a PAP machine, I completely understand the initial resistance and the psychological process you go through to get to where you want to use the device. I understand how people become non-compliant and fall off the radar. But SleepCharge is different from other companies, and I was able to experience this firsthand. We have a care team that works with patients through any ups and downs getting used to the device. And they don’t give up — you’ll go from being a naysayer to singing the praises of the good night’s sleep you get with a PAP.

Stay rested my friends.

Scott McCown, BHS, RRT
Director of TeleClinic Operations

SleepCharge

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