Traveling after the nest empties presents the opportunity for growth and adventure, but too many Baby Boomers choose not to hit the road once they retire. Instead, they accept slowing down as a part of getting older. People incorrectly assume that symptoms like memory loss, grumpiness, difficulty concentrating or fatigue are all inevitable and simply accept their fate.
As we age, our bodies change. Your body doesn’t recover as quickly as it once did. Hamburgers stick to your ribs a little longer, you can’t sleep as much, and you might be feeling a lack of energy during the day. However, the symptoms you assume are age-related might be a more serious (but treatable) culprit: sleep apnea. Everyone knows how sluggish you feel after a poor night’s sleep — imagine feeling this way throughout the work day.
Not only does a lack of sleep make you feel terrible, it also harms your health. Some sleep apnea side effects include daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating and a depressed immune system. Sleep apnea can affect your health beyond sleep deprivation. Studies show a correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes, heart disease, as well as depression.
Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most dangerous untreated sleep disorders. Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway partially or completely collapses during sleep, triggering an awakening or a drop in blood oxygen levels. It is hard for people to know they’re suffering from sleep apnea because most visible symptoms of the condition occur during sleep. Most people learn the severity of their sleep apnea after being filmed sleeping.
Treat Sleep Apnea
Do you suspect you’re suffering from sleep apnea? When your brain is sleep deprived, you may see a difference in:
♦ Attention span
♦ Cognitive speed
♦ Decision making
♦ Emotional intelligence
♦ Overall behavior
It’s almost impossible to to appreciate the benefits of traveling if you sleepwalk through your journey.
The first step of treating sleep apnea is a sleep test. Your healthcare provider will probably want to perform a pulse oximetry test. This overnight test will reveal how much oxygen is in your blood when you sleep. If your pulse oximetry test indicates further testing is necessary, you will need to complete a sleep study in a sleep clinic or at home.
A home sleep test is cheaper than a clinic test, and you tend to sleep better in your bed than in a sterile clinic. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the next step will be your doctor giving you a prescription for a CPAP machine.
A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine keeps your oxygen levels at appropriate levels while you sleep by supplying a constant and steady air pressure. There are three basic components: the motor, the hose, and the CPAP mask.
The CPAP motor is basically a small compressor that draws in room temperature air and gently pressurizes it. Some masks have humidifiers to moisture the pressurized air. The hose simply delivers the pressurized air from the motor to the CPAP mask. CPAP masks come in three variations: nasal pillow, nasal mask, and full face mask. When choosing a mask, the most important things to consider are size, fit and comfort.
Traveling with a CPAP Machine
A new CPAP machine can be seem taxing to travel with, and you might be tempted to leave your CPAP at home (or simply avoid traveling). However, it is crucial to be consistent with your sleep therapy, so be sure to bring your machine along no matter how short your trip. With some forethought, traveling with a CPAP machine will become second nature.
♦ Invest in a travel bag to keep your machine dry and safe.
♦ Bring an extension cord & batteries so you can stay flexible in a hotel room.
♦ Consider a travel machine, which can run off battery power and fits in your back pocket! A travel machine is especially helpful if you plan to sleep on a train, plane, or automobile.
♦ Bring extra supplies! All CPAP supplies require replacement and cleaning, so be sure to stay on top of your resupply schedule.
♦ Pack backup energy sources. If your travel plans include time away from a power source (like camping), there are several battery powered CPAP machines. Because the battery can usually be charged using a standard vehicle lighter, it is a good to have if you need to snooze on a long road trip.
Flying with a CPAP
Boarding a plane for your summer travels? Your machine is considered a medical device and is cleared for air travel. That said, you should always check with your airline to become familiar with their procedure for checking a CPAP machine at the gate. This will save you a good bit of time and hassle once you get to the airport. It’s always a good idea to have a prescription on hand in case security needs to further check your device.
Using a CPAP during the flight will depend on your airline. Some airlines will require 48 hours of advance notice, while some have less stringent guidelines. A phone call to your airline should provide all the information that you need. For more on CPAP machines and airlines, the FAA portable electronic regulation report is a great source for traveling with your machine.
If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to research your power options and bring along the correct plug adapter. Your adapter might vary based on where you are, so it’s important to be prepared before you embark on your trip!
The Fountain of Youth
Sleep apnea is insidious because you might not even notice you are affected when it happens to you. Sleep apnea symptoms are treatable. If you’ve assumed your sleep apnea symptoms are related to the natural aging process, treating undiagnosed sleep apnea could feel like the fountain of youth. If you need CPAP equipment, be sure to find out if you qualify through insurance for your CPAP supplies.
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