A few years ago, there was a Sleep Apnea thread here. I thought I would add some information.
I was diagnosed with moderate Apnea last year, following my complaints of lack of endurance. The Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine or CPAP was prescribed and I am doing extremely well on it. The endurance is certainly up.
In 2008, I hiked part of the Superior Hiking Trail, and after 10 days was completely out of energy. So, I had to quit and come home early. This was one of the sources of my complaint of lack of endurance.
My, then, physician dismissed the complaint claiming that I was the healthiest senior citizen in her practice. My subsequent (older, wiser) physician is the one who prescribed the sleep test for apnea.
For sleep apnea, I actually consult a Pulmonary specialist.
I discussed my plans to hike a couple of hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2009 and he was enthusiastic. We discussed side sleeping and the ball in the back pocket trick. And of course, to be sure to quit if it became too much of a chore. With the low elevation of the trail segment (Harper's Ferry to South of Shenandoah)he didn't anticipate any great altitude problem.
By the time I was nearing the southern end of the Shenandoah Park, I was getting pretty tired. The second to last day, I had 13 miles to go to the next shelter and 11 miles to the next water. About half way through that stretch I hit the highway and hitched. The last uphill stretch to the shelter and spring were done slowly and with rest stops.
By the time I caught the airplane home, I had backpacked about 200 miles, and felt good.
I began thinking about sending the CPAP machine ahead to selected resupply points along the trail and then laying over a day or two or more to sleep with the CPAP and recharge my energy.
The other day, one of the CPAP companies had a "Mask Fitting ... etc" evening get together at the local sleep lab. Of course I went.
I talked some time with one of the CPAP reps about the idea. He agreed that it works. I pressed for more details and it took a while, but was painless.
The rep wasn't aware of any published work on this subject. He knows of cases where people who hike the AT have done this.
Evidently, there are no guidelines for how long it takes on the CPAP to "recover" the poor sleep and poor breathing for the period off the machine. You have to experiment and find it out for yourself.
The rep has a reclusive friend on CPAP who hikes the AT. He is going to try to get him to call me to talk about his experiences. He wasn't optimistic about the reclusive friend following up with any kind of open discussion, however.
Evidently, I missed the opportunity to evaluate my "recovery" period after my hike last year. Within a day or two, I was riding my bike several miles every day, but mostly I remember that it didn't take long to feel normal once I was back on CPAP. I don't have any recollection of whether or not I slept more to make up for any deficit.
The main health guideline the rep had to offer was to sleep as much as possible under those conditions. Simply, with a poorer sleeping environment (no CPAP), do what you can to compensate.
If anyone else here backpacks with sleep apnea, I would be interested in hearing your experiences.
Later this year, I'm going back to the AT for a 100 mile segment from the Smoky Mt. Park to Erwin, TN. No current plans for a CPAP layover in Hot Springs NC.