My CPAP Weight Loss Story: The Diagnosis
About ten years ago I was having a very difficult time staying awake during the day and I almost never felt fully rested. I would start to nod off on my drive home from work every day, I often felt depressed and I lacked the energy and motivation to do anything beyond the minimum required daily tasks and I was quite overweight.
Now a few years before that, my father was diagnosed with a sleep condition called “sleep apnea.” Sleep apnea basically means that while you sleep your airway becomes blocked and you temporarily stop breathing. And, of course, this means that your body is not getting the oxygen that it needs to fully function. Once diagnosed, the most common treatment is to use something called a CPAP machine.
CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” Before you go to sleep, you strap a mask over your nose or face and the attached CPAP machine continuously blows into your airway so that it stays open. This allows you to breathe through the night without interruption.
Once my Dad started using his CPAP machine at night he told me that it changed his life. He could actually sleep through the night and feel well rested the next day. No more living in a constant state of sleep deprivation.
So based on his experience I talked to my primary care physician and he ordered a sleep study for me. When I got to the sleep center they hooked all sorts of wires and belts to me so they could monitor my brain activity and eye and body movements throughout the night. I was told that if needed, they would wake me up in the middle of the night and hook me up to a CPAP machine so that they could determine the amount of pressure it would need to use to keep my airway open.
I remember just praying that they would wake me up and put the mask on me because that would mean that there was a good reason why I have having all of these symptoms and that there was a treatment option available. And sure enough, they woke me up in the middle of the night and put a mask on me.
My CPAP Weight Loss Story: The Machine
Soon there afterwards I was given a CPAP machine and I started to use it each and every night from the very beginning. And for me it was a blessing. Most of my symptoms disappeared or greatly improved. The machine was doing what is was supposed to do.
However, using a CPAP machine still means dealing with some other problems.
Problem #1: Learning to Sleep
First, trying to sleep with a mask strapped to your face is not easy to get used to. In fact, some research suggests that only about half of the people diagnosed with sleep apnea and who get a CPAP machine are still actually using it several years later. Many of them never really start using it in the first place.
Problem #2: Unpleasant Sleep Experience
Second, even if you do get used to sleeping with a mask strapped to your face, it still makes for an unpleasant sleeping experience for you and your spouse. That is because the machine itself makes noise, the hose makes noise as it rubs against your bed, if the masks leaks a bit that makes noise. It also limits your mobility in bed and even when it is on properly it constantly blows air out of your mask.
The air blowing didn’t bother me as much as it bothered my wife. She would be sound asleep and if I moved a certain way in my sleep my mask would suddenly blow right on her face. It would wake her and she would have to move or tell me to move.
Problem #3: Traveling
Third, traveling with the CPAP was a real pain, especially when flying. Anytime you travel overnight you have to pack up your machine and bring it with you and then set it up again at the next location. If you are traveling through the airport, you take it with you as a second carry on. And when you go through security you usually have to unpack it in front of everybody and put it in a separate bin like you would a laptop. Sometimes they even pulled me aside to look at it and swab it. And then I would have to repack it while I stood there with no shoes or belt on.
Problem #4: Cleaning the Machine
Fourth, the CPAP is a hassle to keep clean. You’re supposed to wipe of the mask itself every morning and clean most of the other components weekly. You have to wash them in the sink and then let them air dry. I’ll admit I cleaned it far less frequently that I should have. This wouldn’t be such a problem if it just meant I was exposing myself to some extra germs. But when you don’t keep it clean, the mask can have a harder time sealing around your face and then it is more likely to leak, make noise and not keep your airway open which is the whole point of the CPAP machine.
Problem #5: High Cost
And last but not least, CPAP machines are expensive to buy and expensive to maintain. Your insurance may help cover some of the costs, but you often still have to meet your deductible and copays. Depending on how often you replace your parts you could easily spend $500 to $1,000 a year in supplies and that’s if you don’t replace the parts as often as recommended and you use source your parts online from a website like cheapcpapsupplies.com.
So even though the CPAP machine can be a literal lifesaver, it still creates its own set of problems and challenges.
That is why I was so excited when after a recent sleep study I was told that I no longer had sleep apnea and no longer needed to use my CPAP machine. But I think my wife was even more excited. In fact, we both got a little emotional as we realized that I would no longer be tied to this machine (figuratively and literally).
My CPAP Weight Loss Story: The Cure
So how was I able to beat sleep apnea after 7 years of using a CPAP machine? Well, I found an approach to weight loss called Bright Line Eating®. I first read the book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free® by Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson. And the book made so much sense that I joined the online Bright Line Eating® Boot Camp. Using this new approach to weight loss I shed 150 pounds in less than a year!
A new sleep study confirmed that I no longer had sleep apnea! No more CPAP machine!
If you want to learn more about this effective weight loss approach, please read the book and visit the Bright Line Eating® website. I also have a YouTube video where I discuss my experience in the boot camp. Who knows, maybe you’ll have your own CPAP weight loss story.
My CPAP Weight Loss Story: Epilogue
Keep in mind, there are different types of sleep apnea and reasons other than obesity that people have sleep apnea. Some very skinny people have sleep apnea and losing weight is not going to help them.
However, based on everything I’ve read and my years of experience sitting in the waiting room at the sleep doctor, most people who have sleep apnea are significantly overweight and many, like I was, are morbidly obese.
Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not suggesting that a specific program or solution will cure your sleep apnea. What I am saying is that obesity is highly correlated with sleep apnea and losing weight may help in many cases. You should talk to your doctor to see if losing weight would make a difference in your case and if it might even eliminate the sleep apnea altogether.
Also, if you currently have sleep apnea, please comply with the recommended treatment from your doctor. Sleep apnea is a very serious and potentially life threatening condition. Even if you lose weight and eventually no longer need a CPAP machine, it is important that you still use one until your doctor tells you to stop.