Sleep Apnea - The Silent Killer

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Sleep Apnea - The Silent Killer


After being constantly told I snore when I sleep, and beginning to feel a little tired during the day, I went to see my doctor to get checked out. After her routine blood pressure check, hight and weight measurement, looking in my mouth & ears, and listening to my lungs and heart, she recommended me seeing a sleep study specialist. Her fear was that I could possibly be suffering from something called Sleep Apnea. Now for those of you who don't know what that is, according to the Mayo Clinic "Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep, you might have sleep apnea. The main types of sleep apnea are: Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax."

Some people call Sleep Apnea the Silent Killer because of the long term effects it can have on your body such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, depression, and other ailments. So after learning of the long term potential effects that could come my way, I took my doctors advice and saw a specialist.

When I arrived at Hunterdon Medical Center, the office staff put me through some of the same routine checks as my primary care doctor had done the week before. The the specialist, a pulmonologist, entered the room and asked me a series of questions about my sleep habits, patterns, daily activities, diet, medications I was currently taking, alcohol usage and if I was a smoker. After going through his many questions, he recommended an At Home sleep study so get a better understanding of what was going on. He said he would have to check with my health insurance plan to see if a study of this nature would be covered under my plan and I would have to return for the study equipment if I was approved by my insurance.

Well about a week later, I receive a call from the pulmonologist's office letting me know I was in fact approved for the sleep study and I could come in later that week to pick up the study equipment I would need and learn how to hook myself up the the technology which would be use to measure the quality of my sleep and determine if a diagnosis of Sleep Apnea was coming my way. On Thursday of that week, I showed up to the office and a Sleep Study Technician walked me through the process I would go through that evening when I went to bed. First there was the small device that I have to put around my chest which was secured by a strap with sensors in it. This was the part that recorded all the data measured in the study. Around my ears and to the front of my face was a small tube with endings that went in my nose, this was to measure the amount of air coming out of my nose when I slept. Around my belly was another smaller device with the same kind of sensor strap holding int in place - it was also connected to the device around my chest with a small wire. Lastly, I wore what look like a large watch around my wrist, with a sleeve that went over my finger to measure my heart rate when I was sleeping - the watch communicated with the device around my chest via bluetooth.

That night I went to be around 11pm fully wired up and ready for the test!

A week later I had my follow up appointment and was told that I was suffering from "Severe Sleep Apnia" My first question to my pulmonologist was "Will this go a way by itself over time?" After a long chuckle, here is what i was told - "Dave, as I told you on your first visit, sleep apnea is a very serious condition in which you repeatedly stops breathing while asleep due to obstruction of the airway opening. Your sleep study very clearly puts you in this camp. I also want you to understand that this condition rarely if ever will resolve itself on its own, and most of my patients need some intervention to control their symptoms and protect their health. For you Dave that is going to be a CPAP machine."

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP, is a device you wear while sleeping which pumps air in your nose while you sleep. There are different types of machines and different types of masks you can use but the machine that was prescribed for me is called ResMed model AirSense 10. One of the things I like about this model is that it links up to an app I have on my phone which sends my nightly sleep data to the app via bluetooth. I have attached a photo of me wearing my new CPAP headgear.

My first night with this was a breeze! I followed the instructions from the CPCP Tech on how to hook it up, and went to bed early so I could get use to wearing this as I rolled from side to side in bed. As indicated on my App this morning my first night Sleep Score was 84 out of 100 (the higher the number the better), total usage was 70 out of 70 (how long I kept the mask on each night), Mask Seal adjustment was 9 out of 20 (how many times I had to adjust the mask due to air leakage) and the number of times I took the mask off during the night was 0.

Net Results for my first night was a success! The headgear was very easy to hook up and put on, comfortable to sleep in, easy to clean in the morning and so far I feel great.

I will keep you all posted on my process and more importantly how I am beginning to feel as I address this Silent Killer Head On!


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