Let’s Talk Masks! (Part 1) Sherry Johnston, NBC’s The Biggest Loser
Everywhere I go, be it the grocery store, airports, events or Christmas parties, I talk about different elements of good health and for me, that always includes sleep! Sleep includes quality not just quantity which normally leads to a discussion of the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) because it’s so prevalent, important and largely untreated!
The overwhelming majority jump in with a discussion about themselves or a loved one who are somewhere between having symptoms or are on CPAP therapy. And for fellow CPAP users, we always get to what mask we are each wearing. Some tell me they have a favorite and what it is. Others seem to still be in search for the right one. The most alarming are those who say they have an issue with something concerning their CPAP therapy and have quit using it completely!
To those who have quit, I always tell them – “quitting is NOT an option!” It’s an alarm of how they are putting their body in jeopardy of lots of health issues because of the connection with poor sleep. I was that one! Knowing I had Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) before The Biggest Loser, I did not use my CPAP! The reason I didn’t use it is really goes hand in hand with all the other ways I was not taking care of myself! I was tired all the time, had headaches, I was borderline diabetic and my weight spiraled out of control. Oh, I guess you saw that!
So on The Ranch, Dr. H. and Philips Respironics provided us with education about the importance of quality sleep and for me that meant using my CPAP every night and even during a quick “nap” that were too few and far between!
Like others just starting CPAP therapy, I had some things I had to work through to get comfortable with my therapy. I liked to sleep on my stomach which is difficult with a CPAP mask on your face! I think the stomach sleeping became an automatic “comfort zone” for me because I couldn’t breathe while sleeping on my back! Also, I have lots of hair so keeping my headgear and mask in place was difficult. I have some tips or tricks I’ve learned that I’ll share with you in the next blog. I’ll not just tell you but will show you in a video blog! You don’t want to miss that!!!!
One key to being able to use your CPAP treatment daily is finding a great mask – one that fits you and your lifestyle. My mask of choice on The Ranch was the FullLife, which is a full face mask because I am a “mouth sleeper”, that means my mouth slips open while sleeping (imagine that!). In the last two years of CPAP therapy, I’ve tried different full face masks as well as nasal masks and pillows by adding a chin strap. I try different ones always looking for a new “favorite” and it gives me a better perspective when encouraging others in their therapy. My sister is also a CPAP user and I love her approach – she shops for masks like she shops for shoes!
My “favorite” mask lately has been TrueBlue which is a nasal mask and I wear a chinstrap with it. I have a tendency to wiggle a little in my sleep like from side to side and TrueBlue has a flexible “accordion-like” piece that enables me to move around and not lose my seal causing a leak. I love that it is made to fit loose on your face! It has a gel cushion and a silicone flap that kind of “inflates” to create a good seal around your nose. It also has that same gel in the forehead piece and is soft when wearing it but I tend to “squish” it when showing it to others! Or so I’m told!
But… tis’ the season for colds, flu and stopped up noses! I have already experienced a stuffy nose and not being able to breathe well for several days. I had the privilege of working in Orlando, FL where it was 80 then to Detroit Lakes, MN where it was -7 and hurt your lungs to breathe through your mouth!
A stuffy nose can wreak havoc on sleep for me and my fellow nasal CPAP mask users! So when mine was stuffy, I switched to my full face mask, which I “just happened” to have on hand for nights like those!
I have a new “favorite” full face mask (like new shoes, right!), the Amara. What I liked immediately is that it is clear – you know the less is more feeling, it’s light weight – light on my face like my TrueBlue and smaller than most full face masks. Recently in New Hampshire, a lady told me she was having a hard time with her CPAP therapy because she was claustrophobic and found it hard to put on or keep on a mask. I suggested she try the Amara because it’s clear and small! You know me, if I find something helpful and like it, I don’t hesitate to share it in hopes it will help others as well! There are other features I like about the Amara but like they said on The Biggest Loser, show us don’t just tell us so I’ll “show” you this too on the next blog! Yes, a video!
Since I have had a touch of the cold season already this year and it had me making the “mask switch”, I wanted to talk to you about including your “sleep health preparation” for the cold and flu season as well. After all, doctors say get plenty of “rest” to help your body recover when you are sick, right?
What do you need to do? One thing is have a backup mask on hand like I do! I’ve shared this with other CPAP users across the country – you know, spring allergies, winter colds…
Some have shared they didn’t think they could get a “backup mask” or don’t know how to go about it. Others tell me they purchase their CPAP supplies out of pocket. I personally did not know where to go for that but I found a website to help – www.cpap.com. Just as the name says, you can find all things CPAP there. Another thing I saw is you can leave your own comments about your masks and read those of other CPAP users which I think is helpful!
And what I hope this blog post will be for you!
Helpful to your sleep health!!!
YOU CAN sleep well!