Sunday, May 27, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Sci-fi gear masks a good night's sleep

Who was that masked man?

There's no need to ask that question any longer. I have the answer.

I am.

No, I haven't taken up robbery or appearing in naughty films (worst luck). I am wearing this mask in order to get a good night's sleep.

And do you know what? Oddly enough it seems to work.

You can't really call it a mask. It's more of a facial device that covers the nose and is hooked up by a hose to a small machine about the size of a laptop computer. During the night, the machine pumps air to the mask.

It all has to do with that sleep-apnea problem I mentioned a few weeks ago. Well, after spending a couple of nights at the sleep-disorder place, I was outfitted with this Continuous Positive Airway Pressure appliance, C-PAP for short. Simply put, it is a ventilator that keeps up a constant flow of air through the nose and keeps the airway passage open.

Many of us experience problems breathing at night. This can cause snoring and even short periods of not breathing. This is particularly true for those of us who are old and fat. (The doctors are generally too polite to actually say that, but it is what they mean, nevertheless.)

In any case, it turned out that I not only have apnea but severe apnea. One of the ways to alleviating this problem is C-PAP, and so last week, after trying it out at the hospital, I was given my machine and sent on my merry way.

Now, I have to say a couple of things about this. First, I had a sort of mental aversion to using this thing. After all, the only time I had ever seen anyone on a ventilator was in the hospital, and the user was in very bad shape. Also, I found it extremely uncomfortable to have something clamped onto my face like that.

But, I figured it was worth an effort. You get tired of being tired all the time.

So, I read all the instructions, assembled everything, then attached all the straps. I took a look at myself in the mirror and took an involuntary step back.

Oh, my God, I thought. I'm a poor man's Darth Vader!

It looked like I was wrapped in some perverse bondage headgear. Whoever said that this appliance would do nothing to enhance my love life was certainly right on target. At least not anywhere but a dungeon.

But my reaction is mild compared to that of my cat, Spook.

I was in the bed, all hooked up to the hose, when he leaped on the mattress, as was his habit, and glanced at me.

You know, I've never seen an animal do a double take before, but that's exactly what he did. Then he recoiled in horror, arched his back, hair standing on end, and hissed at me. Then he bolted from the bed and hid in his closet. He didn't come out for the entire night and hasn't returned to the bed since (one of the unadvertised advantages of the C-PAP).

Oh, sure, it feels weird at first and takes some getting used to. But once it doesn't feel like an octopus is clamped down on your face, it isn't hard to adapt.

There are some drawbacks. For instance, the phone rang in the middle of the night, and I answered it. As I tried to talk with this air continually flowing through my mouth, I sounded like Donald Duck in a hurricane.

But the good news is that I am sleeping sounder than any time in memory and wake up only once or twice a night instead of constantly. This makes it all worthwhile; Spook will eventually get used to it.

And, if all else fails, I suppose I can always find a future in robberies ... or bondage movies.

Tom Ensign is a Blade columnist. E-mail him at

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