Dialysis and Sleep Apnea

CPAP image

Update 6.18.13: I found this site that is really informative about CPAP and Sleep Apnea.  To get there CLICK HERE

Update 6/10/13:  The questions came up:  “Can CPAP be used during dialysis?”  The simple answer is “yes” but there may be issues such as transporting the machine back and forth and in some clinics, they don’t like you plugging in the machine to their outlets. That being said, it would probably be beneficial to use the CPAP if you sleep through your sessions.  That three or four hours is a considerable amount of time to NOT have the CPAP.  And, I’ve seen (and heard) many fellow patients who suffer from Sleep Apnea while they were on dialysis.

This is a good topic!  I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2007 a year before I started dialysis.  I don’t think there’s a link between the two (dialysis and sleep apnea) but many dialysis patients suffer from it.  In fact, as many as 50-90 percent.   Even the nephrologists aren’t sure if there’s a direct connection between the two but they’ve noticed that many patients suffer from sleep apnea.  I’ve noticed it too.  I can hear some patients snoring loud enough to wake the dead.

Before I was diagnosed I displayed the classic symptoms:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Attention problems

Although I was diagnosed in 2007, I had displayed many of these symptoms for several years.  My son told me he could hear me snoring while he was in the next room.  So, it’s not just snoring but LOUD snoring.  I sounded like a “Hippo in heat”, he said.  For me, it was the daytime drowsiness and the morning dry mouth and throat that bothered me the most.  This is probably the most common symptom of SA and one of those that means you should see a doctor according the Mayo clinic.

Fortunately in 2008 my boss told me I should see a doctor about it.  I kept falling asleep in meetings.  It wasn’t the only time I had that problem.  I had been showing this symptom for a couple years. He told me he had the same problem.  I really appreciated his intervention!  If he hadn’t been so understanding, I probably would have lost my job.  Who knows?

I went to a Sleep Disorders specialist and he had me do a sleep study.  It’s really simple;  you sleep while they watch you and record all the events that take place as you sleep.  The complicated part is you need o be connected to an EEG machine and other connections that measure your eye and leg movements.  Because you’re connected to all those wires, you must sleep on your back.  You can’t roll over on your side and be comfortable.  I know.  I tried. The technician came in and told me I had to sleep on my back.

Half-way through the night, you’re awakened to put on a CPAP mask and they measure the effect of sleeping with that device.

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine delivers a constant flow of air into a mask you wear while sleeping.  It’s the only method of dealing with sleep apnea at this time.  For some, the mask in uncomfortable.  However, there are a wide variety of masks so there will probably be one that works for each person.  It may be uncomfortable at first but the pleasure of being able to sleep comfortably is worth it.  I’ve gotten so used to it that sometimes I have to make sure its running!

As you sleep,  you go through several states of sleep but most importantly, you fall into a deep sleep and that’s where most of the symptoms of sleep apnea occur.  Another related symptom is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) .  Of course, I had that too.  About 5am, I was awakened and all the wires were detached.  I was offered a shower but it was chilly and I hate taking a shower in a cold bathroom!  I cleaned off all the sticky spots that had held the wires, dressed and got out of there.

A couple weeks later, I met with the doctor and the diagnosis was: Severe Sleep Apnea and RLS.   He prescribed the CPAP machine and a medication for the RLS.

I got the CPAP machine from a local supply company and started sleeping with it.  It’s awkward at first because you have the mask and a long tube that connects to the machine but like most things we dialysis patients have to endure, you get used to it.  As I said, I am really used to it now and don’t notice it at all.  I really appreciate it.  I sleep all night and awake well rested. It’s worth possible discomfort or inconvenience.  I also don’t have any drowsiness during the day.  I can go through hours of meetings now and never get drowsy.

The mask you select is important. There is a wide variety of masks and you need to try several to find the right one.  Don’t take the first one they offer.  The Mayo clinic offers some advice about common problems with the mask.  For me claustrophobia was a problem and so after trying several, I found one I was comfortable with.   It’s been about six years now and I have gone through a couple machine and masks.  The manufacturers continue to improve both machines and masks.  I’m very impressed with the new machines.  They are easy to operate and adjust.  They also contain an SD chip card that records your use of the machine. A month after I started, I returned to the sleep doc and they removed the chip, printed out the data. I aced it! I was 100% utilization.  Geeze! Like I would not sleep with it!

The Renal Support Network has an article about Sleep Apnea if you should need or want more information.  And I happened upon this blogsite where the blogger writes about common problems and solutions with CPAP masks.

Update: 4/11/13:  I came across this blog post about a person’s first experience with a CPAP machine.  Informative.  Click HERE to read it.

About DevonTexas

I am a person with ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) which means my kidneys don't work. Forty or so years ago that would have been a death sentence but today there is Dialysis which means I could be hooked up to a machine that would clean my blood as the kidneys should. Three days a week, I went to a dialysis center and had too very large needles stuck in my arm to remove and replace my blood as it passed through a process where it was cleaned and the fluid was removed, a process taking a little over four hours each time. In November 2017, I received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. My life went into overdrive. With a "new" functioning kidney, I no longer had to go to a dialysis center and my days were not open to be lived rather than recovering from dialysis which meant dialyzing for three days and resting for 4 days a week. I work full-time and often 50 hours per week. It is something I never imagined. I highly recommend it! HeeHee I want to advance knowledge about dialysis and transplant so that others can learn from my experience and mistakes. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel, eh? There is so much to be learned and experienced about our predicament. There are vast resources available to support us and enrich our lives but many patients don't know about them. There are also many issues that we have to deal with whether we want to or not. So I blog about them in www.DevonTexas.com All comments are confidential until I approve them. If you don't want your comment public, let me know and I will respect that. So, feel free to leave a comment. I also blog in LegacyTales in WordPress if you are interested in the ramblings of a Old Man. Give a peek and let me know what you think. https://legacytales.wordpress.com/ Enjoy.
This entry was posted in dialysis, ESRD, insomnia, New Patient, Restless Leg Syndrome, RLS, Sleep Apnea and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dialysis and Sleep Apnea

  1. What a great resource for others on dialysis. Back when I worked as a nurse, there was no Internet…I’m glad now you can share your story and help others!

  2. hollybernabe says:

    I think my husband has both sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. It is as hard for me to sleep with him as it is for him to get sleep. But he doesn’t want to wear those CPAP masks at all. He doesn’t like tubes and stuff draped across his body. If the dialysis clinic even tries to move him to a chair where his tubing does that, he goes apey, for example. It makes him feel claustrophobic, I think.

    • DevonTexas says:

      I’m sorry for that. He’s not alone in that. I find many people with SA who don’t like the mask. But there are many masks available. Mine, for example, is a nasal mask. it doesn’t cover my nose and mouth. It’s like a large version of the one they use in the hospital that fits under the not and has two nostril tubes that fit into my nose. I find it less constricting because, I too, suffer from claustrophobia.

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