Now I Lay me down to Sleep

Sleep is a precious.  Especially precious if you never get any.

I don’t remember the last time that I slept more than 4 hours straight.  On average, I wake up 3x during the night but if I manage to get a solid 4 or 5 hours I am good to go.

Take last night for instance.  I was up til 3 am, way past my usual bedtime of 11-11:30 pm.  I was pooped!  Of course, it didn’t help any that my husband had set the alarm for 4:45 am.

Exactly one hour after my eyes had fluttered shut and I was in the midst of the most delicious dream, seriously, I was dreaming of cake,  he popped his head off the pillow to look at the clock.  I awoke with a start, punched my pillow and settled back down.  Pop, look… wait 5 min..Pop, look… wait 5 min..Pop, look…FOR PETE’S SAKE, THE ALARM IS SET.  GO BACK TO SLEEP OR GET UP!

Of course, I had only screamed this out loud in my head, I was too tired to actually verbalize anything that made sense.  I felt his head turn to me, he nudged me and said,

“Hey are you working today?”  “Arrggghh, No.”  “Oh that’s right, you don’t go back til Thursday.”

He burrowed back down into the covers and was asleep, noted by soft snoring, in seconds.  I sat up, looked over at my sleeping husband and glanced at the clock.  4:40 am.  I flopped back down, readjusted the covers, punched the pillow and closed my eyes to wait for the alarm to go off.  It did.  He quietly got up and headed out the door forgetting that he had only hit snooze.  The alarm blared again, I smacked it off and managed to get a few more hours of sleep.  I was up by 8.  I felt exhausted but couldn’t sleep.

I have sleep apnea and I sleep with a CPAP machine.  That’s short for Constant Positive Airway Pressure.  It’s a fact and NO it’s really not that sexy.  Without the CPAP, my snoring can bring down the house.  I have always snored.  Even when I was skinny (we were all skinny once) I could be heard from the next room.  Eventually my husband would have to sleep in the basement with the door closed and a pillow over his head or earplugs to block out my echoing snores.

Unfortunately, I started to develop all of the health problems that goes along with apnea and hypopnea (low blood oxygen). Weight gain, high blood pressure, morning headache, daytime sleepiness, dry mouth, arrythmias and a racing heart.  I would stop breathing, the heart would race to send oxygen to my brain and then I would awaken with a gasp, choking for breath and a tight chest (from lung spasm and hyperventalation).  At its worst it would happen hourly.  I literally had to sleep sitting up.  I had mentioned to doctors that I thought I had apnea but they told me I didn’t really fit the profile.  Not a Man.

Finally, one night an episode sent me to the emergency room. I was having trouble breathing and my heart was fast and irregular.   Once the tests came back, the ER Doc leaned over me and said, “we think you have a sleep disorder.”  No kidding.

On the night I was tested, I thought I had slept well but apparently had stop breathing ~45 times/hour so I was diagnosed with severe apnea.  (There are way worse cases than mine)

I bought an automated CPAP, which was covered through work by my supplementary health insurance.  This was fortunate since they are expensive (mine was $2100.00 Cdn).  The CPAP works by pushing room air into the nose at a low pressure, initially, so that one can fall asleep.  When breathing stops it ramps up the pressure to maintain an open airway.  It is attached to an adjustable humidifier as well, so the nostrils will not dry out, as can be the case with older models.

 

It is my new best friend and travels with me everywhere.  I adjusted to it rather quickly and find that I feel more awake and have tons more energy during the day.  I even gave up drinking my usual 4 to 5 cups of coffee a day which, I used to need to keep awake.   In fact, I have cut out caffeinated coffee and tea completely.    Granted, it isn’t the sexiest piece of equipment but it sure beats the hell out of gasping for air.  I think it could even scare off an intruder.

The best part is that I don’t snore as long as I wear it.  That makes my husband happy and he no longer has to sleep in the basement.  Now, if I could just get him to wear one.

Ahhh…the Vacation ends too soon…

It’s over, winter vacation that is.  Damn, why do those weeks fly by so fast.

We packed our bags, and took a last look at the sun-soaked sands and their swaying palm trees, knowing that we were heading home to a cold Canadian January.  We stood at the airport gate waiting to board while the new arrivals disembarked from our plane to begin their vacation.  A boisterous woman with a floppy yellow sunhat and brightly-painted toes was the first through the door and couldn’t wait to give us her latest weather report, “Well folks, hope you packed your woolies because it’s -45 Celsius with the wind chill back home,” she said smugly.  Boy oh boy, do Canadians love talking about the wind chill!  Its a moot point for me since the mad dash I make between home and car, then car and work negate any effects of wind chill.  I simply move too fast to experience it. hah.

However, record-breaking frigid weather did welcome us home.  Luckily we hadn’t bothered to park at the airport, which would have meant waiting for the car to warm up before heading off; instead we had a taxi pick us up and made two important pit stops on the way home, one for milk and the other for beer.

Nestled near the warmth of our fireplace, we reflected back on our two week all-inclusive Mexican vacation, in the Mayan Riviera.  We had stayed at the Riu Playacar in the Playacar complex (a gated community) next to the town of Playa Del Carmen.  This hotel was attended by a variety of nationalities:Argentinian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Russian, German, British, Canadian and a few Americans.  Obviously, English was not the major language spoken although most could speak some.

We spent the first few days sunning on our hotel beach…

The ocean was red flagged for part of the week due to strong undertows. The remainder of the time we had a yellow flag so we could swim with care and found the water warm and clear with a sandy bottom .

 

There were a few beach venders but they were no bother at all as they simply walked past with their wares displayed on their arms.  I even bought three silver bracelets.

We had access to three other Riu hotels in our vicinity and we spend a lot of time at the Riu Tequila (across the street, two hotels over) for their nightly shows and entertainment.

We also checked out the Riu Yucatan, a much larger hotel also located on the beach but with impressive jungle type grounds.

In addition to monkeys that we never did see, they had wild critters running around the resort which were fun to watch. They were friendly and not adverse to a handout.

One hot and muggy afternoon, had we not heeded the sky we would have been caught in a torrential downpour that lasted the rest of the afternoon, all night and for most of the next day.

When the rain finally let up, it was still breezy so we headed into Playa del Carmen to check out 5th avenue; a busy touristy shopping strip running several blocks through town.  Venders tried to entice, barter and plead us into their shops which all carried similar souvenirs such as: t-shirts, beaded necklaces, magnets, colorful blankets, bowls, etc.

My husband was asked several times if he wanted to buy cigars or something sweeter.  He declined both offers.  The huskers did not bother us as we’ve dealt with more aggressive venders in other countries.  We just said ‘No Gracias’ and moved on.

One night, we ate dinner, just off 5th Ave., at a Canadian-owned bar called Los Tabernacos; they had a big screen television so we watched the World Juniors hockey game between Russia and Canada (in French, since the owner was from Quebec).  We had hamburger steak with poutine, which was great and chilled Dos Equis beer. Great hospitality and it was all priced reasonably.  It felt strange eating poutine in Mexico but damn it was good.

We also took a taxi, 30 miles South to Akumal to snorkel, which is a fabulous location to see Sea turtles (say that 5 times fast).  They nest there and the water was so clear and calm that you could see fish without stepping a foot in the water. The photos below was taken with my cell phone above the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an underwater camera.

I was thrilled to see a turtle the size of a coffee table as well as a two little ones feeding on the bottom.   A stingray, the length of my body, surprised me with its gracefulness.

There were a few restaurants on the beach and we were able to rent a life vest for the day for $5.00 from a local dive shop.  You could also rent full gear if you chose to, in addition to diving lessons.  Showers and lockers were available.  We enjoyed our time there so much that we went twice.

A Taxi was 250 pesos from Playacar to Akumal and 300 pesos return.  (~$50.00round trip)  We could have also taken a collectivo (local bus) for 35 pesos but the heat made us happy with our choice.   The exchange rate as of early January 2012 was 13 pesos to the US dollar and about 12.6 to the Cdn.

Overall, it was a great vacation.

For dollar value one cannot beat the prices offered by these All-Inclusive vacations and they are great for a week away.  However, we always go for two-week stints, and usually by day 10 we are tired of having every meal with 500 other people. So…next time we will bypass the All-Inclusive vacation for something with a bit more flexibility.

But really we can’t complain as the alternative to going somewhere warm is viewed from our backyard.