The Spy in the WiFi

About a year ago, I began to suspect that I might have sleep apnea, a condition where a person stops breathing while sleeping. When they start breathing again, it usually wakes them up, which does not make for a restful night. After two sleep studies, one at the hospital (see and one at home, the verdict was that I stop breathing for more than ten seconds an average of twenty-five times a night. Yup, that’s sleep apnea alright. And it could explain why I was taking a lot of naps during the day.

The recommended treatment for sleep apnea is something called a CPAP machine. Until about a month and a half ago, I was still “waiting for paperwork” to come through. Then I went in to a local medical supply outlet to collect my CPAP, try on various types of mask to find the most comfortable one, and receive a short tutorial. That’s when I found out there are strings attached.

Insurance paid to buy various attachments, including the mask, a six foot air hose (heated, yet), and, of all things, a humidifier. I now own these. But the CPAP itself is only rented. Insurance will pay the rent for the first year. Only if I’m still using it at the end of that period they will buy the thing and give it to me for my very own.

Now, I do understand that some people just can’t adjust to wearing a mask overnight, especially the full-face kind. In my case, though, I only need a nose piece and the straps to hold it in place. It reminds me a lot of the “nightcap” I wore for a couple of years back when I had braces as a teenager . . . only much more comfortable. But here’s the kicker: I am not to be trusted to use the CPAP without supervision.

You’d think that a sixty-nine-year-old woman who has never missed a deadline or a doctor’s appointment, takes all her medications on schedule, and shows no signs of memory loss could be trusted to actually use the device she’d asked for, wouldn’t you? But no. I am being monitored for the first three months—spied on every night by way of a WiFi connection. Sheesh!

Do I have to comply? Yes, because they want proof that I have used the CPAP at least four hours a night for thirty consecutive days at some point during those first three months. If I don’t, they will take it away from me. Until the end of the three months, whether I’ve already met this requirement or not, they (and Santa Claus) will continue to “know when I am sleeping.” It isn’t just that they know when the machine is operational. They know whether or not I have the mask on because they can tell whether or not I am breathing. In theory this is good. They are checking whether or not the treatment is working. On the other hand, there’s something big-brotherish about it that really creeps me out.

Since this is insurance company policy (I typed “company police” first—Freudian slip?) the requirements don’t end there. I am also required to meet with my primary physician at some point between the end of the first month and the end of the third to discuss . . . well, that’s the question. There isn’t all that much to discuss. Either I’m going to use the CPAP regularly or I’m not. And my doctor tells me that, on her part, this appointment is a huge waste of time. It can’t be used to talk about anything else, so if I happen to have another health issue at the same time, I’ll have to make a separate appointment for that. Now how does that make sense? In that case, it would cost the insurance company more money, the very thing they seem to be trying to avoid.

On the bright side, I am sleeping better. I don’t expect to have any difficulty qualifying to keep my CPAP. My only complaints are minor. That six foot hose is so long that it keeps getting caught on things and there isn’t a shorter version. And as far as I’m concerned, the humidifier attachment is a total waste. The only time I end up taking off the mask in the middle of the night is when the humidity in the part that covers my nose gets so high that it makes my whole face sweat. I am probably going to disconnect that attachment, even if it does mean waking up with a dry throat.

Since Big Brother will still be watching at the end of this month, it will be interesting to see what reaction I get when WiFi suddenly shows that I haven’t used the CPAP for four consecutive nights. You see, although the device came with a carrying case, it’s so big that if I were to take it with me to Malice Domestic I’d have to do without my usual carryon, the one that holds my meds, a change of clothing, and my iPad. On the flight to Malice, that would mean putting all my clothes in my checked bag and taking the risk that it might get lost in transit. Coming home, I’d be even less inclined to trust checked luggage. After all, on return trips from conferences my carry on bag traditionally contains all the lovely new novels I bought in the book room.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. New in May 2017 is a collection of Kathy’s short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are and

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19 Responses to The Spy in the WiFi

  1. James Ridgway says:

    I have had sleep apnea from 2003. I know what it like to us one of those machines every night.

    • Thanks for commenting, James. From the reaction I had to my earlier blog about the sleep study I discovered that there are a lot of us out there. Sadly, there also seem to be a lot of folks who can’t tolerate having anything on their faces at night. The benefits definitely make up for the inconveniences.

  2. Kait Carson says:

    The wi-fi spy is…spooky to put it mildly. Yikes!

  3. Reine says:

    I had similar problems until I lowered the heat to #1. No more problems with overheating. In the summer, if it’s hot, I sometimes set the heat to zero, but I always use water. Dry mouth can cause dental cavities. There is a special hose cover you can buy to stop hose sweating as well as special ties that yo can use to keep the air hose out of the way. I just run mine thru a slat on my headboard. If you have sleep apnea the CPAP can save your life. I now sleep very well with no middle of the night thrashing trying to breathe, heart racing, and unable to wake up.

    • Great suggestions, Reine. Thank you. I definitely sleep better now, although I never realized at the time that I woke myself up so often. It was my husband who noticed that I stopped breathing frequently and insisted I talk to my doctor about it.

  4. Sennebec says:

    The insurance industry makes insanity seem screamingly normal much of the time. While reading this, two thoughts hit me. There’s either a Level Best short story or a full-on book hidden in this tomfoolery. The second one is a wish…Too bad the wi-fi couldn’t also pick up whatever you ‘write’ in your dreams. It might shorten actual writing time or lead to yet another whole genre. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. Laurie says:

    I have had a CPAP for over ten years—my data is kept on a sd-card that I bring back to the doctor and is downloaded (wi-fi must be new?)
    The airlines have to allow CPAP (and other medical devices) in addition to regular carry-ons. One thing I always request is the TSA bag inspectors put on clean gloves before opening and inspectiong the machine–that happens often and my doctor told me I can insist on the new gloves and I do. No problems yet.
    I turn down the humidity when needed– helps a lot.
    Good luck getting adjusted and the new time you will have not needing every nap!

  6. I’ve done the sleep study thing too! However, I’m one of those people who can’t stand wearing the mask. I agree with the humidity control, too! I woke up having dreamed I was drowning!

    Still don’t use the CPAP.

    • Bummer on the mask. I can see why it would bother people. I does me some of the time, but after the first week or so I seem to fall asleep so much faster that I’m not really aware of it . . . except for the humidity thing, of course. Some of the comments above suggest a solution to that. Yay!

  7. Maria Lima says:

    Absolutely crucial for hose:

    It holds the hose up and away and works great.

    Creeepy about the wi-fi – I got my CPAP a little over 5 years ago, and that was not a thing.

  8. Cheryl says:

    Mine looks exactly like yours. It definitely helps but I still hate the tethered feeling…I do need the moisture the humidifier provides. I took mine with me on a trip and managed to get my meds and Kindle tablet in the bag. No room for a clothing change though. Good luck and have fun at Malice Domestic!

  9. David Plimpton says:

    CMP’s smart meters have similar internet connection concerns. Despite privacy and microwave type concerns raised by several public interest groups and many scientyists and health professionals, the PUC and Maine Supreme Judicial Court approved them. We opted out for a $12 or so monthly fee in order to get an analog meter. If you are concerned about the privacy, spying and health concerns of smart meters, I recommend looking into the controversy and explore getting an analog meter from CMP.

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