I see many patients in my practice who show signs of sleep apnea and appear to have given up on improving their sleep quality. One of my patients, Mr.Price, has graciously volunteered to share his experience with this condition. I hope that those struggling with sleep will be more likely to seek help after reading his story!
Dr.Maria: Mr.Price, thank you so much for agreeing to speak about your experience with sleep apnea. Many people go for years tolerating poor sleep quality and feeling generally run down, without wondering whether anything can be done to improve the way they feel! It turns out that sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure and even heart attacks and strokes! Our goal is to demystify this condition and encourage people to seek help if they show signs of apnea.
What led you to wondering whether you might have sleep apnea?
Mr.Price: As discussed when I was in your office, I was dealing with chronic sinusitis. During a follow up visit with my ENT (after the sinoplasty) I was asked about snoring, general energy levels, and sleep patterns. "Snoring - yes, energy level - good, sleep patterns - erratic (light sleeper).” My ENT recommended a "split study" to determine (rule out) sleep apnea.
Dr.Maria: A split study begins by monitoring the patient’s sleep and then incorporating a sleep apnea appliance for the second half.
Mr.Price: I was diagnosed with moderate/severe obstructive sleep apnea. In all honesty, I really didn't have any idea there was anything going on other than my spouse telling me that I snored. I didn't understand what a "good night’s" sleep should have felt like.
Dr.Maria: What was your experience like with the sleep study? Could you comment on the type of room you were in? Was it difficult to sleep with monitors attached to your body? Did your insurance cover the cost of the sleep study?
Mr.Price: The sleep study was conducted at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and was fairly clinical, a lager than average room with a private bathroom. There are cameras in the room for monitoring/recording the sleep study. I didn't find it too difficult to sleep with the monitors on, but there are quite a few, and if a person moves when they sleep (which I do) it will disturb you. I was EXTREMELY fortunate to be active duty military, so the entire cost of the study was covered.
Dr.Maria: Medical insurance generally covers the cost of a sleep study. Once a person is diagnosed with sleep apnea, they are treated with either a CPAP or dental appliance. The CPAP gently blows air through the airway to keep the throat from collapsing. The dental appliance is similar to a night guard. Could you comment on your experience with using a CPAP? How has your sleep changed since you started using it? Has the way you feel during the day changed?
Mr.Price: I was a Naval Aviator, and flew with an oxygen mask for a period of time, I believe this helped with the mask that I use (a nasal pillow), but if someone were claustrophobic, I could see how having a mask on would be a challenge. As well, it is positive pressure, so you have to "learn" how to breath against air being pushed into your mouth and nose. Once I started using the CPAP, my sleep quality improved immediately. I woke rested and according to my spouse, my movements (typically caused by OSA) stopped almost altogether. My sleep with the CPAP is VERY deep and when I don't use it, I can tell. Day to day I can say that I don't get tired in the afternoons as much as I used to.
Dr.Maria: Would you mind sharing how your wife feels about you having a CPAP? Is it difficult for her to sleep while you are using this device?
Mr.Price: My wife doesn't mind the CPAP at all...mine is quiet, and aside from being in the mask, her sleep isn't disturbed at all. One thing to point out is that you are in a mask. It is NOT romantic, so talk to your spouse if it starts to interfere with intimacy. My routine is simple, when I feel myself about to fall asleep, I put on my CPAP.
Dr.Maria: Many patients like you have great experiences with their CPAPs. Some patients, however, don’t tolerate this device. For those who have tried a CPAP and were not able to sleep, the oral appliance may be another solution. It works by moving the bottom jaw forward and in doing so, opening the airway. However, we encourage people to try the CPAP first. Mr.Price, do you have any parting words for people who think their sleep quality isn’t great but are anxious about going through with the screening process?
Mr. Price: I cannot overstate the difference you will see in your sleep quality if you are in the moderate/severe OSA range. I honestly didn't know what a good night's sleep was, and getting to the sleep study decision was based on very thorough discussions with my health care providers. When I say I can tell that I didn't use my CPAP, I mean it...it isn't like I can't function, but something just feels a bit "off". One other indicator that really isn't talked about a lot is dry mouth, sore throat from snoring...if this is a consistent issue with your sleep, please talk to you doctor about it. Dr.Salnik, if your patients have specific questions, I am more than happy to answer them.
Dr.Maria: Mr.Price, thank you so much for sharing your experience and suggestions! If anyone in our audience has questions for Mr.Price, please either post them below or PM me and I will put you in touch with Mr.Price.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, please speak with your medical doctor or dentist about getting a sleep study.