The arch-villain Bane, in the movie The Dark Knight Rises, wears a menacing looking face mask with not much back-story about it.
It’s explained only with a brief line about how it keeps his pain at bay. But those who suffer from sleep apnea will have their own idea what it is: It’s a CPAP mask, the gold standard for treating this disorder.
Sleep apnea is a condition that interrupts your breathing during sleep. And it can trigger many other health problems if it goes untreated.
I’ve been struggling with this myself and trying to get used to a CPAP. It stands for Continuous Positive Air Pressure, although it feels more like Continuous Pain and Punishment. But they say when you finally can sleep with it, it’s a cure and a blessing.
Anyway, a CPAP consists of a machine that pushes out a constant flow of air through a tube and into a face or nasal mask that is worn whenever you sleep. The idea is to correct your breathing by keeping your airways open. But for those new to it, it can feel suffocating and claustrophobic.
I’ve been fighting with mine for months without much help from my sleep doctor. And he even rebuked me by saying, “It’s not a life support system; it’s not an oxygen tank!” Thanks, Doc. That’s so helpful.
In fact, a CPAP is a life support system if you want to keep extreme fatigue, severe headaches, and other symptoms at bay. Without it, your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen during sleep.
I’m reminded of the Dormouse in the Mad Tea-party who says, “You might just as well say…that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!” With sleep apnea, breathing and sleeping don’t go together no matter what you do before treatment. And that’s probably why the Dormouse is so sleepy.
Here’s the catch-22: You have to sleep with the mask on to feel better, but when you put it on it’s hard to fall or stay asleep. So the choice is either sleep deprivation or bad sleep until you adjust to it. And apparently many people don’t adjust — about 50% of CPAP patients just stop using it.
This explains Bane. His sleep apnea is so bad he has to wear a super-villain model CPAP all the time, and he still isn’t used to it. (Mine was expensive, so I can’t imagine what his cost.) That’s what makes him so ferociously evil. I totally get it.
I’ve made some progress with my CPAP recently, so I’m hoping it will soon become — if not a blessing — at least tolerable.
Now if I could just get Bane to pay my sleep doctor a visit…