Book Review: Hacking Sleep Apnea
Last updated: October 2021
If you’re like most people, you seek out information upon receiving a new diagnosis. A typical effort might start with a Google search. If and when that becomes lacking, people look for books that promise to demystify the medical condition they’re trying to live with and treat.
Books on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) exist for good reason: not only do people not understand this chronic condition of sleep-disordered breathing, but treatment options are foreign and mysterious, hardly as simple as taking a pill.
What resources exist for the newly diagnosed?
As an RPSGT (registered polysomnographic technologist), I’ve often thought that a small handbook on mastering positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for OSA would make a great gift from a sleep specialist to their newly diagnosed patients. But it has to be the right book. I’m also a publishing professional, and looking at what’s available out there often makes me cringe.
While the content in Hacking Sleep Apnea didn’t make me cringe, I have caveats.
About Hacking Sleep Apnea
This small book approaches the topic of OSA and its treatments in a pretty straightforward fashion. Chapters describe OSA basics, lifestyle changes for better sleep health, and therapies.
The appendices also cover things like device maintenance and something titled “Hacking CPAP Comfort,” which promises more than 100 hacks for people trying to master PAP therapy for the first time.
About the author, Brady Nelson
Its author, Brady Nelson, is an RRT (registered respiratory therapist). As medical professionals go, they join sleep medicine doctors and RPSGTs as your best sources of medical knowledge on OSA.
Hacking Sleep Apnea: strengths and weaknesses
I “wore two hats” while reviewing this book: the sleep technologist’s hat and the publishing professional’s hat. My thoughts about this book are a mixed bag.
I found the information in this book accurate and honest. Most of the time, it was complete (though there were missed opportunities to expand some topics).
This book is in its 6th printing. However, a lot has happened since 2018. I found 2 areas where updates are essential. Unfortunately, most citations in the book are rather dated. The field of sleep medicine research rapidly changes year to year. I hope the next version can draw from research that’s less than 3 years old. Also, the concerns about using ozone cleaning equipment for PAP machines (a chief reason behind the recent machine recall) need careful addressing. Instead, this book wants to sell readers a SoClean!
On the whole, the original book (not counting the added “hacks” section at the end) gave quality information and mirrored my professional understanding of OSA and its treatments. However, the “hacks” promised more than 100 ways to achieve comfort while using CPAP. I didn’t find this new section altogether useful as it often reiterated things already stated in the original book. Or, they took a single hack (like practicing good sleep hygiene, itself a good suggestion) and broke it into subsections to give the appearance of multiple hacks.
I’m not saying the authors are dishonest, just disorganized.
Production values matter
The publishing professional in me found the content of the book valid. But the production of the book itself — the design, the editing, the writing – really needs improvement. I know the book’s contributors are professionals, but the careless appearance and readability of a book designed to serve as a guide to better health makes its legitimacy questionable. I found lots of spelling errors, book design mistakes, and a serious lack of line editing. Page numbers and an index would also make this book far more user-friendly.
Consider the source
Finally, I found that the book often told readers to visit a link, often to the publishers’ page, which included their shop. To me, that suggests the goal of this book is to sell products. That makes me trust the information less. I feel strongly that books offering healthcare guidance should favor empowering patients and strive not to market to them. Also, I think it’s lazy in general to just tell someone to go to a link – it’s like saying, “Google it.”
Should you buy Hacking Sleep Apnea?
Honestly — and maybe this is my bias — you can find all the advice from Hacking Sleep Apnea in the Sleep-Disorders.net sleep apnea community. Not that Nelson’s book isn’t valid. But why would you pay for something you can get for free? Especially since they advise you to go online anyway?
Even if the Sleep-Disorders.net sleep apnea community didn’t exist, I’m unsure I’d recommend this book based on the aforementioned shortcomings.
What themes would you like to see your fellow community members write about?