Heavy Breathing: Special Features

You know how DVDs have all that extra stuff, including crappy trailers for other movies and director's commentary? That's what this page is, for my article "Heavy Breathing" in The Magazine.

Sony Dream machines in a thrift shop
Sony Dream Machines - I need more than this for a good night's sleep.

More Things to Read

This isn't the first article I've written about my sleep apnea. I did a three-part series for Mental Floss back when I was first diagnosed and treated. Sadly, the comment threads from 2008 have apparently been lost in one of the many CMS transitions over the years. Oh, well. Looky:

The most poignant thing I've written about sleep disorders is a radio piece called "I've Fallen in Love and I Can't Get Up," for This American Life. It's about a man who suffers from narcolepsy with cataplexy -- a condition that causes him to collapse in a sort of "waking faint" whenever he experiences joy. He has a wife and kids and grandkids. You should listen to it, but keep a hanky nearby.

Questions and Answers

What's it like having sleep apnea? It's not bad. The challenge is simply that my sleep involves infrastructure. I can't take a nap without gearing up. The gear is so minimal that it's not a serious impediment (strapping on the mask and pressing the button takes only a few seconds). But it is a hassle to carry the damn machine around, and worry about what happens if (when) it breaks, and all that. It was also a hassle to get used to the machine, but after a few months it was just my new routine.

I don't snore, but I'm exhausted all the time. Could I still have sleep apnea? Yeah. You don't have to be fat, or snore, or be male, or have a thick neck to have sleep apnea. Those things sure help, but they're not requirements by any means. By the same token, sleep disorders are legion, and while sleep apnea is pretty common, if you have sleep troubles it's entirely possible that something other than apnea is going on. See a doctor, get a referral, and get it looked into. One problem you may face is that if you don't fit the "standard profile" (think beefy male who snores), some primary care doctors will think you can't possibly have sleep apnea. My advice is to push on through and talk to a sleep specialist -- whether you have sleep apnea or not, the specialists know a lot more about sleep, and this is an area of medicine that has advanced a lot in recent years.

I want to hack my CPAP and graph my own data in an extremely nerdy way. Am I alone? I'm so glad you asked. There are totally sleep apnea message boards that include threads on topics like, I kid you not, "jailbreaking" the ResMed S9. While I'm not active on any of these forums, apparently CPAP Talk is good. Lots of people extract their own data and keep track of it.

Where do I get this "CPAP hose cozy" of which you speak? I don't see the one I got for sale anymore (mine is a gray fleece thing made by ResMed), but this thing (affiliate link) is basically it. Mine doesn't have a zipper. The cozy doesn't prevent rain-out, but it sure reduces the issue, simply by insulting the tube. (And for the record, I tend to sleep in pretty cold rooms -- 64 degrees tops.) If you have major rain-out issues and the cozy thing isn't cutting it, talk to your doctor about a heated tube. I gather those are pretty common these days.

More Stuff By Chris Higgins

I write for Mental Floss and The Atlantic and even This American Life this one time.

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