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A Bad Night's Sleep?

COULD YOU HAVE SLEEP APNEA?

Of the 12 million Americans affected by the disorder, nearly 10 million are undiagnosed. Here are some questions to help determine if you are suffering from this disorder:

  • Are you a loud, habitual snorer?
  • Do you feel tired and groggy on awakening?
  • Are you often sleepy during waking hours and/or can you fall asleep quickly?
  • Are you overweight and/or do you have a large neck?
  • Have you been observed to choke, gasp or hold your breath during sleep?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should discuss them with your physician or a sleep specialist. For insurance purposes, you may need a referral from your physician before seeing a specialist.

    Every trucker knows the dangers of drowsiness on the road. But sometimes even getting your full eight hours isn’t enough to solve the problem.

    If you have sleep apnea, your sleep could be getting interrupted hundreds of times in those eight hours – without you even realizing it. The disorder, which affects more than 12 million Americans, interrupts your breathing and triggers your brain to slightly arouse you so you resume breathing. Like being nudged awake over and over, this prevents you from getting a solid night’s sleep and leaves you tired the next day.

    Raven Transport driver Jimmie Purdue found out he had sleep apnea when his wife found him not breathing while he was resting after an unrelated surgery four years ago. “My feet and face had turned blue,” Purdue says. “People die from this.”

    “Apnea” literally means “without breath” and is clinically defined as a cessation of breath that lasts at least 10 seconds. According to the National Institutes of Health, this disorder can take on one of three forms: obstructive, central or mixed apnea.

    The most common, obstructive apnea, is caused by a blockage of the airway, which is usually caused by soft tissue in the rear of the throat that collapses and closes during sleep. This can happen hundreds of times during one rest period.

    In central apnea, the brain fails to signal the lungs to breathe. Mixed apnea is a combination of these two.

    Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, but you’re at higher risk if you’re male, overweight, over 40 or are black, Hispanic or from the Pacific Islands. Other contributing factors are heredity – if someone in your family has sleep apnea, you are two to four times more likely to suffer from it – abnormalities in your upper airway, a recessed chin, a large neck or use of alcohol and tobacco.

    If left untreated, not only will this disorder impair driving capabilities, it can also cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, depression and headaches.

    If you have sleep apnea (see “Could You Have Sleep Apnea?” for signs and symptoms), there are many options for treatment. A physician or sleep specialist will be able to determine the appropriate treatment based on your medical history and the severity of your case. The first step the sleep specialist will take is to monitor your sleeping patterns to help determine the variables of your disorder.

    The most common treatment chosen by sleep specialists is nasal continuous positive airway pressure. As you sleep, a CPAP machine pushes air through your airway at a high enough pressure to prohibit the airway from being blocked during sleep.
    “It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” Purdue says.

    He is able to drift into deep, restful sleep just five minutes after he hooks himself up to the CPAP machine, while it takes normal sleepers seven to eight minutes, he says.
    The machine is easy to use in his truck and only needs supplies every three months.

    “My insurance pays 100 percent. Most insurance does,” Purdue says, “Except the co-pay for the first doctor’s visit.”

    Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco use, are another big step in helping cure this disorder. Other methods may include oral appliances or surgery.
    For more information about sleep apnea, visit the American Sleep Apnea Association’s website, www.sleepapnea.org.

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