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“How are you feeling?” asked my doctor.

For the past five years, I stumbled around in a constant gray brain fog. I no longer had the motivation to run, to craft, to read. Things I once loved to do, things that I thought defined me, exhausted me. But I chalked it up to being a mom of a high-energy five-year-old.

“I’ve been a little tired lately,” I responded.

She asked if I snored. Yes, but I’ve been a proud snoring snoozer for as long as I can remember. And then I remembered something. After a minor procedure last year, the anesthesiologist suggested I get checked for sleep apnea. That, combined with borderline high blood pressure (which had never been a problem before), sent my doctor’s eyebrows up. We made a deal. I’d take a home sleep test, and if it was borderline for sleep apnea, we’d let it go. If it showed otherwise, I’d go into the sleep lab and get the full hook-up. I went home, strapped on the equipment, and went to bed.

I stopped breathing 20 times an hour. I never hit REM sleep.

Moderate to severe sleep apnea, no question about it. I had to go to the sleep lab.

I thought that might be nice. An evening away. All I had to do was lie in bed, read, watch tv. No dishes, no tidying up, sort of like a mini-staycation just for me. I could not have been more wrong.

I got to the lab, changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth in my private bath, and got settled in with a book and a cup of tea. The technician came in, and wired me up. Wires and patches all over my body tracked oxygen levels, heart rate, brain waves, and all sorts of other vitals. Then he went over the CPAP equipment. The machine, the humidifier, the hose, the headpiece, the mask. For the mask, since I am not a mouth breather and I like to read before bed, the tech recommended a nasal pillow. The nasal pillow is the smallest CPAP mask, a small silicone piece with two bumps that fit right into your nostrils.

This was going to be a piece of cake, I thought, as I settled in with my book. I read for a bit, then turned off the light.

It was a nightmare. I felt like I was suffocating. I would slip into sleep and wake up in a panic, feeling like my lungs were constricted. I couldn’t take a normal breath. To me, it was worse than childbirth. I was in tears. I wanted to rip the mask off my face and storm out. I didn’t. I didn’t because I stopped breathing 20 times an hour, on average, and that scared me.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. All the next day, I took deep breaths, trying to refill my lungs with air. I pushed the experience out of my mind.

Even with the bare minimum of data they were able to collect, the lab confirmed my home results. They would send a nurse out to set me up with a CPAP and mask.

A few weeks later, the nurse pulled into my driveway at home. I was completely honest with her and said I didn’t think this was going to work. I told her about my experience at the lab. She looked at me, told me not to worry, and to trust her. She had sleep apnea too, and recommended that I try a nasal mask, which covered my nose, but did not invade the nostrils.

That night, I had the best sleep I’d had in five years. I woke up refreshed. I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up. I was so used to waking up and rolling right into a routine. I’d forgotten what it felt like to feel awake.

I’ve used my CPAP every night since then. It’s traveled with me to California, to New York and to Michigan. And truly, it’s a spa-like luxury. I put drops of essential oil on a cotton ball placed next to the air intake, so I get a lovely aromatherapy experience every night. When I paint my nails, the CO2 vent functions wonderfully as a polish dryer. I’m not at 100% just yet, but I’m feeling a lot more like myself than I have in years. And I no longer stop breathing in my sleep.


Distracted, working mom seeking short escapes from a hectic life via quick crafts and fast food. Sure, she could meditate, after she cleans the house.

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