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Narcolepsy vs. Sleep Apnea

When I first started working at Monitor Medical and learning all about sleep apnea, one of my initial thoughts was ‘what the difference between this and narcolepsy, they sound pretty similar.’ The simple answer, which I now know, is that a person who suffers from sleep apnea can stop breathing throughout the night which will more than likely lead to daytime sleepiness and other symptoms compared to that of someone who says that they are sleeping well and just falls asleep anywhere at any time (I guess it’s not really all that simple after all!). Now while that sounds like two different things, you’d be surprise to learn just how similar these two sleep disorders are.

Beginning with signs and symptoms – both disorders include symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness. Although, I think those who suffer from narcolepsy worry about this symptom much more than those who have sleep apnea due to the fact that they can literally fall asleep anywhere, at any time. Narcolepsy does not discriminate when it comes to when it hits, it doesn’t care if you are in the car on the way to work, or in a very important meeting; when it hits, it hits and there is pretty much nothing you can do about it.
Another thing that both disorders have in common is sleep paralysis. You know that feeling when you’re tucked away in bed comfortably, and then all of sudden it feels as though someone has pulled the rug out from under you and you’re falling? You wake up right after and sort of move around, right, and then you’re no longer falling? Can you imagine not being able to move? Imagine being frozen in that moment. You’re not able to bring yourself out of that moment. Can you imagine how scary that is? Sleep paralysis doesn’t last for more than a few minutes, but those few minutes can seem like a lifetime when you’re not able to do anything about.

I think the scariest part of narcolepsy is the sudden loss of muscle tone. Scientifically known as cataplexy, this can take the form of slurred speech to weakened muscles. Like sleep paralysis, the lose of muscle tone only lasts a few minutes. Not all individuals who suffer from narcolepsy experience the loss of muscle tone; these ‘episodes’ can also be as rare to occur one to two times a year or be a daily occurrence.
There are a few more symptoms that are more directly related to narcolepsy, however I feel as though we have discussed the most serious ones. Now, it is important to note that patients can suffer from one or both of these sleep disorders at the same time, but having one does not necessarily mean you will have the other. It’s not something that goes hand-in-hand. Being that we are in the business of sleep, it’s good to be aware of the different disorders that are similar to sleep apnea and how they are different.

Getting Started

Many times we get patient’s calling in asking how they should proceed with getting a setup on a new machine. This will be their first machine, they’ve endured a sleep test, and now they have no idea how to proceed. Here at Monitor Medical it’s a fairly simple process. Here is a break down of how the process should go an ideal world:

Step One: Feeling sleepy? Your significant other complaining about your snoring? Falling asleep at your desk or behind the wheel? Consult your doctor!

Step Two: Your doctor will then send you to have a sleep study where you will discover that you stop breathing during the night, hence diagnosing you with sleep apnea.

Step Three: Your doctor sends your results and prescription to us so that we can get your setup with the machine.

Step Four: We verify your insurance and discuss your benefits with you. You come in, get educated on the machine, and then take it home.

Step Five: No more sleep apnea!

Unfortunately, we live in the real world and things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows; meaning, we experience a few (or a lot of) hiccups along the way. Now, the first few steps are the same; it’s step three and onward that can start to get tricky.

Depending on what insurance you have, there are certain things that are required. Most commercial insurances (basically, everything except Medicare) require a valid RX and sleep study in order to get setup. An office visit note discussing your sleep apnea is also required, typically something recent – around the same time your prescription was written. If we do not receive that information we have to go back and forth with the doctor’s office requesting the necessary paperwork.

If you’re a Medicare patient, the required paperwork is much more extensive. Putting it nicely, Medicare is ridiculously particular when it comes to verbiage on the required paperwork. If it does not specifically say ‘patient is benefiting from and should continue using machine’ they will deny the insurance claim and you will be stuck with an 800 (sometimes more!) dollar bill. I know I would hate for that to happen to me, so I would also hate for that to happen to you!

When someone from the company tells you that we are working on obtaining the paperwork required by your insurance, we really are doing our best to obtaining that as quickly as possible! I am not putting the blame on anyone, but it is all about communication – between us and your doctor’s office and between us and you, our patients.

As you can tell, getting setup up is not always a walk in the park, but we do our best to work as quickly as possible to get you setup with your new machine. Of course we know that you are needing this therapy to get a good nights sleep and live your best life, and we want nothing more than to help you do that.

My CPAP Journey

Now this is a story all about how /
My life got flipped turned upside down/
And I’d like to take a minute /
Just sit right there/
I’ll tell you how I became an active user of my APAP machine/
In Southwest Houston, born and raised/
In my bed is where I spent most of my days/
Chillin’ out sleepin’ relaxing all cool/
And trying to catch some rest when I’m not at school/
When my family was up to no good/
Started making trouble in my neighborhood/
I started sleeping everywhere and my mom get scared /
She said “You’re taking a sleep test cause you got sleep apnea”

So clearly, my life isn’t nearly as cool as the Fresh Prince, but I worked with what I was given, so, meh. Getting to the point of this post – I have sleep apnea, and I have started using a auto CPAP machine to help me breathe better at night so that I cam actually get some rest.

Prior to my starting on the auto machine, I would go to bed around 10 P.M. or so and would sleep until about 6:30 A.M.; this put me in the group of ‘adults getting the right amount of sleep.’ If I felt tired throughout the day (which was pretty often), I would try to get to bed a little earlier than the previous night, but even that did not help. No matter how much sleep I got, it was not enough.

At first, I thought it was because I woke up numerous times throughout the night. I would wake up and it would take some time for me to fall back asleep and when I did go back to sleep it felt like it was for short period of time. I started taking Melatonin to help me fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. This worked for a few weeks, but I soon found myself plagued with the same afflictions as before – numerous interruptions to my sleep. I was back to square one.

At that point, I had no idea what could possibly be wrong… I was suffering from migraine like headaches, but ten times worse; any exposure to light or sound felt like it was a combination between a jackhammer and woodpecker were pounding on the inside of my head. It was so bad that moving hurt, I mean if I wanted to roll onto my other side while laying in bed I had to mentally prepare for the pain that I was about to endure.

If I was having a good day, meaning no headache, I was always tired no matter how much sleep I got. I found myself dozing off at my desk at work from time to time. In the car, when going practically anywhere I would fall asleep. I would barely make it to work without feeling sleepy. A ride to the grocery store, not even a good five minutes from my house, would involve me falling asleep in the passenger seat in my mother’s car. When I tell you it was bad, I mean Michael Jackson BAD…

Thankfully, I was able to get a machine, and I cannot begin to tell you the drastic change that it has been made in my life. I’ve been using my machine now for a little over three months and I have much more energy. In fact, I noticed a difference after using the machine after one night. I went to bed around the normal time with the machine. When I woke up, I felt as though I could conquer the world – I even woke up before my alarm went off. I, then, checked my phone to see how much time I had before I had to wake up… Turns out I’d been asleep a little more than an hour. O N E H O U R. This machine made me feel like I slept a whole eight hours and I could do anything!

Three months down the line, I am no longer falling asleep on short car rides (long car rides are a different story!), I don’t doze off at my desk or feel the need to nap on my lunch break, or need to drink endless amounts of coffee throughout the day. So, is this machine worth investing in? Absolutely. It is life-changing? Heck yea, it is! Do I take advantage of looking and sounding like Darth Vader every night before bed? Oh, yeaaa!

MedCline and your Comfort

You know that feeling when you’re lying in bed? You’re exhausted, but no matter what you do you cannot find that one comfortable position that will allow you to easily fall asleep. You toss and turn, and toss and turn some more, and still nothing. It’s quite possibly the worst feeling in the world. Luckily, there are a few simple solutions to this issue.

Acid Re-flux Option

MedCline has created the Advanced Positioning Wedge. The pillow has a cut out in which you can slide your arm through, which will remove pressure from on your shoulder and arm while sleeping on your side. Not only is this pillow comfortable and easy to use, but it also helps those who suffer from acid reflux. According to the manufacture, an individual who use the wedge and sleep in the position created by MedCline reduce the amount of exposure to harmful stomach acid. It also assists with a reduction in nocturnal reflux, laryngopharyngeal, silent reflux, post – esophagostomy, and gestational reflux. With your arm secured in the pocket on the pillow, you will not slide down or shift positions throughout the night – which is a good thing, there is less of chance of your actually snoring. The wedge also enhances your entire torso, not just the head and neck area; this is great for support. However, if you suffer from lower back or hip injuries this wedge is not recommended for you. Lastly, you are able to use the wedge with your favorite pillow so added support.

Shoulder Relief Option

Adding the optional body pillow provides another level of comfort as it wraps around your body providing a cradle like environment. Although it is a little pricier, that body pillow really makes a difference, and should seriously be considered when making this purchase.

Or if you prefer, just get the body pillow. You will not have any pressure relive without the wedge, but you’ll have another pillow for your bed – which if we’re being honest, you can never have enough of those – plus this pillow will cradle you throughout the night – like I mentioned – so I’m pretty sure you’re going to sleep like a baby. Another plus – you don’t need to worry about having a cuddle buddy ever again… That’s the best selling point if you ask me.

So if you are looking for the best in comfort, look no further than Monitor Medical. We have just what you need!

Dream…Wisp

If you’re a CPAP user I’m sure you have heard of the Dreamwear mask at this point – either the original mask, the nasal pillow mask, or the full face mask. The product has been pretty successful in the CPAP industry and has quickly become a favorite among many patients. It seemed as though Respironics has the ideal mask created, and there was an option for everyone. However, it looks like they are always striving to do outdo their best work, and looks as if they have accomplished their goal with this new mask – the DreamWisp.

Yep, you guessed it the dreamwisp mask incorporates the best qualities of the DreamWear and the wisp mask. According to the website, the “DreamWisp was designed to help you sleep comfortably with every turn. Combining DreamWear’s top-of-the-head tube design with the Wisp’s minimal contact nasal cushion, DreamWisp gives you the freedom to sleep in any position through the night.”

The mask is easy to attach and simple to adjust, making it easily convenient. It has magnetic clips that allow for quick attachment and detachment. In studies done prior to launch, it seems that patients were happy with the seal the cushion provides. This mask also come in handy for those who like to read or watch television prior to going to sleep as it does not obstruct the view in any type of way; it is also good for patients who wear glasses.

The mask comes in petite, small, medium, large, and extra large sizing. It also has two additional connector options in case the patient needs a larger frame. It is made up of silicone, polycarbonate, polyurethane foam, nylon, spandex, polyester, magnet, and acetal. It has multiple exhalation ports which allows for a quieter environment and is compatible with any pressure – 4 through 30.

The mask seems to be easy to use and will be a hit among the patients.

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