For the millions of people around the world who suffer from sleep apnea, Alex and Molly’s story will sound all too familiar; you have met your perfect match, only to realize your partner’s snoring is keeping you both from getting a good night’s sleep. We spoke with real-life couple Alex and Molly (names changed for privacy) who experienced this first-hand and chose treatment for sleep apnea through CPAP machines.
CPAP stands for ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’. They are the gold standard treatment device for sleep apnea disorders. Sleep apnea can interrupt your breathing during sleep, so the CPAP machine ensures you are receiving a steady flow of oxygen throughout the night.
If you are about to start your CPAP journey, Alex and Molly’s personal insights can help you understand what to expect.
Listen to your partner, then go to a professional
Alex: I didn’t know I snored until I met Molly ten years ago. Our first night sleeping next to each other, she turned to me and said, “You snore, a lot. Seriously, I don’t think you breathe at night.” Eventually, she pushed me to get a sleep study done and I was diagnosed with severe obstructed sleep apnea.
Molly: During the sleep study, they found over 300 instances of sleep apnea. After that, Alex started with the CPAP and it was a real game-changer for both of us.
Prepare for a sleep adjustment period
Alex: The CPAP machine definitely took some getting used to. They come in different sizes and styles to fit all types of sleepers and there are different ways the face mask can attach depending on how you breathe. I sleep on my side and turn during the night, so having a mask and hose attached to my face was a tough adjustment.
You have air constantly blowing at you during the night when you use a CPAP, which is challenging to become accustomed to. I choose not to use the humidifier option on the machine, so I breathe dry air all night and can wake up with a really dry throat. CPAP machines also emit a dull noise, which kept me up at first.
Molly: With Alex’s first CPAP machine, I was able to sleep without earplugs most nights. There was a constant in-and-out rhythm of air flowing but once I got used to that I was sleeping much better than I did with his snoring – his snoring was rough! Overall, the CPAP helped us both sleep a lot better…until he got a new machine.
Find the right CPAP machine for you and your partner
Alex: I got a new CPAP right before the pandemic hit. It doesn’t fit quite right so it makes a buzzing noise that the old one didn’t. For a while, due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns, I didn’t feel comfortable going in because they would have to get close to my face when making adjustments. I know the noise is impacting Molly’s sleep though, so I plan to get it fixed soon.
Molly: The new CPAP makes a humming noise on the exhale that penetrates through my earplugs. When he moves, the humming gets worse, it’s louder than his snoring used to be! In recent months, Alex has stopped wearing the CPAP because the humming of the CPAP was so disruptive to my sleep.
You will notice the difference
Alex: I definitely notice a difference when I use the CPAP machine. I wake up easily in the morning, when waking up used to be a huge struggle for me. I feel more refreshed in the morning and feel generally well-rested all day. I also don’t feel as tired during the day after using the CPAP machine. A common symptom of severe sleep apnea is being able to take a nap anytime, anywhere during the day because you’re not sleeping well enough at night. That used to be me, but I don’t need daytime naps anymore.
Partners- put in earplugs and go to bed first
Molly: My biggest piece of advice for partners of CPAP users? Invest in a good pair of earplugs. It helps when I can go to bed before Alex so I can put my earplugs in, fall asleep, and be in a sound sleep state when he comes in.
Get to know your sleep patterns
Molly: I’ve been using the Sleep Cycle app for five years. It’s helped me understand what affects my sleep and what I can do to sleep better. When the buzzing of the CPAP machine was keeping me up, I would show Alex the Sleep Cycle reports filled with spikes representing the sound and tell him, “See? This is why I can’t sleep.”
I’m excited for Alex to get his CPAP fixed soon so we both can sleep better. We have a baby on the way, so we want to get as much quality sleep as possible, while we still can!