Health Team

Treating Sleep Apnea: Better Nights, Safer Days

Posted March 9, 2007

— If you have trouble sleeping at night, it may be more than just having a lot on your mind. It could be sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects up to 20 million Americans, but only about one in five know it. There is a simple solution, however, and it could save your life.

Driving is one activity where poor sleep can show up as a danger. Sleepy drivers are a danger to themselves and others. John Cusak was one of them.

“Sometimes my head would fall down at a stop light or even driving down the highway in moderate traffic,” Cusak said.

When someone has sleep apnea, tissue in the neck actually blocks the flow of oxygen during sleep. When oxygen levels drop, carbon dioxide levels go up, and the person wakes up multiple times a night.

“Snoring is one of the main symptoms that one does see—loud snoring, disruptive snoring,” said Lisa Feierstein,a registered nurse with Active Healthcare, a Triangle-area provider.

“Before, I would even get up at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning and walk around the house,” Cusak said.

Men are more prone to sleep apnea than women. Being overweight cause sleep apnea, and the apnea can lead to even greater weight gain, stress, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

For Cusak, CPAP was the answer: continuous positive airway pressure. Feierstein fit him with a mask hooked to a C-PAP machine.

“A steady stream of air goes into the patient's throat to keep the airway open,” Feierstein explained.

It looks bulky, but Cusak said he was used to it within a few nights.

“I can't sleep now without it,” he said.

Now he gets deep, restful sleep with no snoring. He's more alert, more energetic, and the long commute to work is safer for him and others.

If you are obese, have a thick neck and snore loudly, you may want to ask your doctor about a referral to a sleep specialist.


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  • Irock Mar 14, 2007

    Jimbo; its no scam at all. Im a reapiratory therapist and i put pts on cpap/bipap machines all day long. Everyone take this to heart, if you do have sleep apnea YOU BETTER NOT IGNORE IT, because left untreated it could cause right heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, hypoxia and sudden death. When you go for a sleep study, they analyze and record your apnic periods and if you have a certain number of these in an hour you qualify for insurance to pay for these machines that will SAVE YOUR LIFE. Also, theres no turning up the machine. This is fixed and is predertimined by the polysopmnographer to eleviate obstruction at a particular level. This is only available by prescription. Also a side note: ANYBODY, can have or develope sleep apnea its not only obese people. Take care

  • Pirate2005 Mar 13, 2007

    I have had a sleep CPAP machine for about a year now, and I can tell it has helped some. My snoring is no longer a problem, but I still toss and turn all night and wake up multiple times. I just went to my family doctor and he thinks that the setting on my machine may be too low. If you are possibly getting one, be sure to ask them how to up the flow of air if at some point you feel it is not working sufficiently. I know I was instructed on how to do that, but I can't recall it now. Might help if I read the instructions!! Good Luck.

  • jparrish Mar 13, 2007

    I am very excited that I have found the potential relief for my sleep problem. I now have an appointment with a sleep specialist to see if indeed snoring could be keeping me awake.
    Thanks WRAL Health Team!!!!

  • hdsoftail Mar 12, 2007

    Try a few Budweisers

  • suchhappiness Mar 12, 2007

    I don't mind my snoring at all. I would have a good night's sleep if it wasn't for my wife whacking me on the head 4 or 5 times an hour. Maybe SHE needs that CPAP gizmo.

  • dogluver Mar 12, 2007

    I am going for a sleep test later this month. I'm working on losing some weight in the meantime, but now I have a better idea of what this is about. Sounds like I might have sleep apnea.

  • Bull City Girl Mar 12, 2007

    I have had my CPAP for 1 year. I rest much better at night and feel great when I wake up. My husband appreciates it to, since I don't snore any more.

  • dnelms Mar 11, 2007

    I've been on CPAP for 14 years. Other than a couple of nights and the time during Fran with no electricity, I have used the machine every night. The sleep studies are not a scam, they can save lives. Mine has been better for it.

  • jimbob9538 Mar 11, 2007

    Five years ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a C-PAP machine. However, I chose to get another opinion. An ENT discovered I had horrible allergies and put me on a regimen of allergy shots and also prescribed two allergy medications. On my own I bought a new mattress, started exercising and lost 14 pounds. I sleep great now, at age 63. I think the sleep studies that inevitably lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea are a scam, and I suspect there is a connection between the doctors who run the sleep center and those who sell C-Paps. Don't take my word for it, because sleep apnea can kill you, but just use your head and don't take the convenient way out.

  • wireman Mar 11, 2007

    I suffer from apnea and have for years and like most people that are affected by this condition I had no idea what it was like for my wife.In the year that I have had my CPAP both of our lives have been greatly improved. I cannot image going to sleep without my machine.