SLEEP APNEA

We have four members of our family with SLEEP APNEA which can lead to death, fatigue, early dementia, diminished lung capacity, and heart failure. It is a very serious disease and affects millions of people. I just learned that professional truck drivers must have a sleep machine and must be monitored in order to continue driving. Athletes of all ages need to be tested for sleep apnea particularly if they gain weight during the off season when not exercising. Only your partner can help you detect if you have sleep apnea. For example, my wife could not get a good night’s sleep because I snored so loudly that I kept her awake so we visited a doctor who specialized in this disease. The results were dramatic because I started out awakening very early in the morning with severe headaches which started out at one time per week and progressed to 4 times per week. One time I was driving our 36 foot RV and towing a Jeep when I feel asleep enough to start to go off the road. I recovered in time to prevent an accident.

Besides snoring, some people snort in their sleep and awake themselves as well as their partner. Others flail their legs and arms as they sleep. I felt tired all the time because I did not get enough sleep. One of the linebackers for the Green Bay Packers retired at about 39 years of age and died at age 42 of sleep apnea. Linemen are particularly vulnerable because of their size, and they tend to gain weight once they retire. I gained weight once I retired, but I had sleep apnea for many years without knowing it. I recently convinced my wife to have the doctor prescribe a sleep test for her and now she has had two good nights sleep for the first time in years. It took me awhile to convince her, but she could not go to sleep and stay asleep. She might fall asleep for an hour and the stay awake for two or more hours, and would often finally go to sleep at five a.m. and then sleep during the day. Since I have had a sleep machine for several years, I go to sleep immediately once I turn on the machine and put on my sleeping mask. I noticed her sleeping problems when she slept during the day.

A sleep study consists of sleeping over night in a hospital equipped for sleep studies. You are hooked up with electrodes in your hair, on your chest and on your legs. The monitor allows the attendants to measure the number and severity of sleep episodes during the night. My step daughter had 80 or more episodes per night which included not breathing, snoring, fatigue and the usual sleep apnea episodes. I had to convince my doctor that I had sleep apnea before he would order a new study. His wife told me that I had a slight sleep apnea which is like telling a women that she is slightly pregnant.

The machines used in treating sleep apnea have progressed in their design over the past several years. My wife’s new machine has a built in wireless antennae which sends the results to the provider of the machine who then forwards the report to your doctor. It also has a vaporizer to prevent dry mouth which is a leading cause of tooth decay. Luckily I do not have this problem but my wife does have it. Some people cannot wear a full mask like I use because of claustrophobia, so there are all kinds of masks which are available for persons to use. My wife is using a sleeping pill for the first two weeks so that she can go to sleep as soon as she puts on her mask. The technician told us that most people do not need it after the first two weeks, because as soon as you put on your mask the brain tells you it is time to go to sleep. I have always wondered why I go to sleep immediately as soon as I put on my mask. Also, as soon as you fall asleep, you rarely have to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, because again the brain monitors the kidney function while you are asleep. Your medical provider will pay for the sleep study and the sleep machine provider will call you and ask what supplies you need. It is great that we now have universal health care provisions in this nation, if the politicians and citizens do not try to vote it of existence. It took over a hundred years to get our current health coverage after President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, tried to provide it 1900. It is not perfect, but a healthy nation is a more productive nation because we have less catastrophic illness which drive up health costs.