When we talk about downsizing it’s usually about getting rid of things, however an equally important aspect of downsizing is finding smaller lighter alternatives for the things that we must take with us. So, what does getting good sleep have to do with downsizing to live in an RV? Well, for those of us with sleep apnea, good sleep involves help a CPAP machine. I’ve had sleep apnea for most of my adult life. I stop breathing in my sleep which causes me to wake up just enough to start breathing again. Apnea is a Greek word that means without breath. I was never aware that I was awake, but when I was first diagnosed, I learned that it was happening hundreds of times a night causing me to lose hours of sleep! Left untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or accidents caused by not being alert.
I consider myself lucky that I was diagnosed in my early thirties and was able to get help then. I will never forget the first night I spent using a CPAP because it changed my life. It happened during my very first sleep study. I was covered in electrodes and went to sleep, then at some point during the night I heard the technician say, “you’re scaring me, I’m going to put this on you” then she strapped the CPAP mask to my face. I woke up the next morning and I felt incredible! Colors were brighter, I had more energy than I had ever had and I may have even seen a unicorn! Carolyn noticed the change as soon as she saw me. The feeling stayed with me but slowly faded over the next few days. I couldn’t wait to get my own CPAP! Back then, a CPAP was roughly the size of a cinder block and took up most of my bedside table. If we went on a trip I packed it along even though it took a third of my suitcase. It was totally worth the effort. But, the charm of lugging around a cinder block, even one that makes you insanely happy, begins to wear thin and even though they got smaller over the years, my last CPAP was about half the size and weighs 3 pounds. With size and weight being a concern as we downsize, not to mention if we travel internationally, I asked my doctor about options during my last visit and he told me about something new, and, it’s a game-changer (A term I normally don’t like because it has become so over used but it’s true here).
ResMed has made a travel size CPAP called the AirMini. The device is 5.4 inches long, 3.3 inches wide and 2.1 inches high (just slightly larger than my fist) and it weighs about a half a pound. It fits, along with the power cord, hose and mask, into a bag that is about the size of a football. For comparison, my other CPAP when packed in its travel case is 13”x10”x5” and it weighs 5 pounds. The AirMini is controlled by a smartphone app currently available for iPhone and Android. The app keeps track of all your sleep data, allowing you and your doctor to see how long it’s used per night, whether your mask is maintaining a good seal and how many apnea events happen per hour then combines all of it into a score that lets you know if you are using it effectively. And, best of all, the power consumption of the AirMini is rated at less than one amp which will be important when we are relying on batteries and an inverter.
Now, the best CPAP in the world can be ruined by an uncomfortable mask and I have had a few of those through the years. I have a dent on the bridge of my nose to prove it. But, the mask I got with the AirMini is the most comfortable mask I have ever used. Period. It’s lighter with more flexible connections to the head gear and magnetic connections to make taking the mask on and off much easier. The best part is that it has no plastic bar covering the bridge of my nose so my face stays clear, allowing me to put my glasses on if I need to.
The only negative, and it’s a big one, is that it isn’t covered by insurance. However, when I bought my unit, my sleep specialist offered a discount to help offset the lack of insurance coverage and I was able to use my Flexible Spending Account to purchase the unit.
Let me interrupt here to say something important. Getting diagnosed and getting treatment absolutely changed my life for the better. If you have trouble sleeping at night, feel sleepy during the day or your spouse or partner tells you that you snore loudly, stop breathing or choke and gasp during the night, check with your doctor about getting a sleep study done right away. Believe it or not, one of the risk factors is neck size. Men with a neck size over 17 inches and women with a neck size over 16 inches are at greater risk of snoring and sleep apnea and loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. My snoring was so loud that, while tent camping at a music festival, I had someone confront me the first morning with, “did you sleep well? Because none of us did!” It wasn’t long after that I got into my first sleep study. Please, don’t wait to get your symptoms checked.
After nearly twenty years of using a CPAP, the AirMini will be invaluable as we downsize toward life in an RV. Not only is it smaller, but it can run on 110 or 12 volt power using an adapter that costs about $70 and a battery is being developed for it, but it isn’t available yet. There is also a kit that allows you to mount it on a wall, over a drawer front, or even on the side of the bed. All of which makes it great for a mobile lifestyle in 175 square feet of living space. If you’re a CPAP user downsizing to a smaller living space, the ResMed AirMini is well worth discussing with your sleep specialist.