Lucking Into Life-Saving Sleep Apnea Treatment
Snoring is often harmless, but in cases like Martin’s, it’s a sign of a bigger, more dangerous health problem.
Martin Tursky’s wife nudges him awake for the fifth time that night, a common occurrence. “You’re snoring again,” she mumbles. He shifts his position and drifts back to sleep, frustrated that he (and his wife) can’t ever get a good night’s sleep.
Yes, snoring is a nuisance. But did you know it can also be a sign of a much more serious – and even life-threatening – health problem?
Martin, who also happens to be Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Firelands Regional Health System, was not aware of this when he attended a health fair in the spring of 2016 and casually made conversation with Assistant Director of Cardiac, Respiratory and Sleep Lab Services, Tammy Biglin, RRT, who works alongside Lead Technologist, Sara Glenn RPSGT, RST. He picked up a pamphlet about snoring and laughed, saying “my wife says I do this all the time.”
Tammy grew serious. “Have you ever been tested for sleep apnea?” Martin’s answer was no, which was fluidly followed by an explanation of sleep apnea and the health risks. Within days, Martin visited the Firelands Center for Sleep Disorders where he was taught how to use home sleep test equipment. He went home, followed the proper steps, and took the sleep test.
The results were not what Martin had expected.
“You have severe sleep apnea,” Dr. David Morris, MD, told Martin. “You need to come see me right away.”
Leading up to his diagnosis, Martin had no intention of undergoing a sleep test for his chronic snoring. He had no idea his snoring was actually sleep apnea, or worst of all, that the sleep apnea had reached a dangerous level.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways. A person with sleep apnea literally stops breathing multiple times throughout the night. This puts extreme stress on the body, especially the cardiovascular system.
In Martin’s case, he was told his OSA was in the severe range, which means he experienced more than 30 apnea spells per hour of sleep.
“The normal range is less than five per hour,” said Dr. Morris. “Martin’s home test showed 267 total events across the entire night, which in his case worked out to 65 per hour. This is severe and would have more chance of medical complications.”
Dr. Morris and his team developed a treatment plan for Martin, which included the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which uses air pressure to create an air cushion at the back of the throat. This allows patients to keep breathing. The sleep lab seamlessly coordinated Martin’s care with Firelands Durable Medical Equipment (DME), who worked with Martin to fit him with a device and teach him how to properly use it. After trying on multiple masks and machines, Firelands DME helped Martin choose the mask that worked for him. The process was smooth and simple, and all of Martin’s questions and concerns were answered. He was to begin sleeping with the CPAP machine every night, and the medical team would have immediate, digital access to his results.
While adapting to using the CPAP machine wasn’t easy, it was more manageable after learning what could happen if he didn’t use the device. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, depression, and other debilitating conditions.
“Sleep apnea is significantly underdiagnosed,” said Dr. Morris. “Overall, it’s about as common as diabetes, and like diabetes, it’s connected to weight. We used to think about 5 percent of the population had OSA, but with our obesity epidemic, it’s now thought to be about 25 percent.”
Today, Martin has grown so used to using the CPAP machine at night, he can’t sleep without it. The machine is quiet, Martin’s health has improved, and his wife now sleeps better, too.
“In hind sight, I can see I wasn’t getting quality sleep and it was affecting my health,” Martin said. “I was always tired, but I just thought it was a normal part of life. Now I’m not as fatigued, not as forgetful, I have a better temperament, and I’m less stressed.”
If it wasn’t for his casual conversation with Tammy at the health fair, Martin may never have been diagnosed or treated for sleep apnea, and he would still be getting nudged awake throughout the night, limiting both his own and his wife’s sleep.
“The whole process was seamless,” said Martin. “I just lucked into it, but I’m really glad I lucked into it.”
Could you have sleep apnea? The most common signs & symptoms include:
- Loud and chronic (ongoing) snoring that may include pauses, choking or gasping
- Snoring that worsens over time – happens more often and grows louder
- Fighting sleepiness during the day, at work or while driving
- Morning headaches
- Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
- Feeling irritable, depressed or having mood swings or personality changes
- Waking up frequently to urinate
- Dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up
Let us help you sleep well and wake up ready to face the day. You can self-refer for an appointment with one of our sleep medicine board certified physicians and registered sleep technicians.
Explore more information or call 419-557-7740 to schedule an appointment.