In the summer of 1994, I had been driving 47 miles each way for work. Due to the stresses of the drive and job, the long hours of work, and poor eating/exercise habits, I had significant weight gain. One evening I was nearing home after a hard day’s work and found myself awaking from behind the steering wheel to my car veering off the road toward a bicyclist on the side of the road. The incident shook me up so much that I immediately went to see my doctor. My doctor instructed me to go for a sleep study to see what quality of sleep I was getting. The test results indicated I was suffering from sleep apnea and I was immediately prescribed a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine.
It was a tough therapy to get used to. The masks were uncomfortable, it was often hard to get to sleep due to periodic nasal congestion, and the overall experience was just plain unpleasant. Eventually, I got use to it. I dragged my CPAP machine all over the world with me on business travel, always diligent and dedicated to it’s use, it had changed my life.
Fast forward 25 years to this summer. I was seeing my doctor to address another medical matter when I asked for a prescription for new CPAP equipment. It had been a number of years since I had a new machine and I requested a new sleep study. My doctor explained that the sleep study is now done at home and was very convenient and much more comfortable than the dozens of wires I was hooked to in previous sleep studies completed in sleep labs.
The sleep study results came back, indicating I was no longer a candidate for CPAP therapy. My doctor said I no longer needed to use the CPAP machine. I was shocked! No more mask, no more lugging the equipment with me around the world, no more blowing air at Mrs. FiredUp in the night. I did not believe it. I challenged my doctor with the results. He asked me how much my weight had changed since my last sleep study, and I explained that I was about 50 lbs. lighter now, and he responded “that will do it”. I continued to use the machine for a few weeks while I contemplated trying to live without this therapy that had made such an impact on my life. I don’t always trust the advice I get from doctors, something I’ll explain in a future blog entry. Mrs. FiredUp convinced me that I needed to at least try sleeping without the CPAP. So, I gave it a try. One night led to many nights. I felt fine, but I was still not convinced. 25 years of using this CPAP therapy every night was not going to die so easily without proof that I was getting adequate sleep. I still have that vivid memory of awaking a split second before running over the bicyclist, 25 years ago, and I never want revisit anything like this again.
How could I prove I was getting the proper quality sleep? I found a “Fit Bit” like watch that tracks several health markers which included my quality of sleep. I ordered two of the devices, one for me and one for Mrs. FiredUp. At $41 dollars each, there was little risk to give it a try. There was a learning curve and it took a few days to figure out how to read the recording results of our nightly sleep. To my surprise, after about a month of tracking my sleep quality, my readings range from “good” to “excellent”. I have the proof that I can pack away my CPAP equipment. I’ll likely donate the equipment to Goodwill so that someone may benefit from the therapy that changed my life.
Living a FIRE life has allowed me and Mrs. FiredUp to recommit to healthy living. We’ve dramatically reduced the stress in our lives, have lost weight, improved our mental and physical health through regular exercise, and see direct and measurable results that this lifestyle provides us.
Please share your experiences that the FIRE lifestyle has had on your health and lifestyle.