No rest for the wary

Sleep apnea a disorder causes wakefulness for family, sleeping partners



Sleep apnea creates a wealth of problems for partners who have to deal with some of the side effects that includes loud snoring.

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To schedule a sleep study consultation at The Memorial Hospital, call Anessa Kopsa at 826-3135.

— Loud snoring.

Daytime sleepiness and depression.

And, occasionally, death.

All are symptoms accompanying sleep apnea, a disorder that some of its sufferers may not be aware that they have.

But family members or sleeping partners often do.

Its effects can "wreak havoc" on family life, said Michelle Hampton, The Memorial Hospital Sleep Lab technician.

For her, the disorder has hit close to home.

Her brother died of a massive heart attack at 39 years old.

Her sister-in-law later described her brother's symptoms. Hampton believes those symptoms were indicative of sleep apnea - a condition that may have contributed to his death.

Her brother's death was a "deciding factor" in her choice to become a polysomnography technician - a position that allows her to identify sleep apnea in others.

At TMH, Hampton operates a polysomnography machine, an apparatus can help her determine if a patient has sleep apnea. The disease is common but potentially dangerous, affecting more than 12 million Americans and their families, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Web site.

The polysomnography machine monitors patients' sleeping patterns through a wilderness of wires attached to various parts of the body.

As the patient sleeps, Hampton observes their breathing patterns and sleep cycles from a computer in an adjoining room, looking for sleep apnea's tell-tale signs.

The condition occurs when muscles in the throat relax during sleep, blocking the airways and reducing the flow of oxygen to the lungs, Hampton said.

The condition causes its sufferers to stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. The cessations occur at least 20 times in an hour.

Loud snoring and daytime sleepiness usually accompany the condition, Hampton said, adding, "The snoring is hard" to live with.

It's another of sleep apnea's manifestations that Hampton has encountered first-hand - this time through her husband, who she suspects has the condition.

Although her husband has never been tested, "He has every symptom he can have," she said.

Her husband failed to register low enough oxygen saturation in overnight oximetry test - a prerequisite to for further study.

Hamilton intends to get him tested again.

Patients with the disorder can use a Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine. The machine applies constant air pressure through the air passages through a facemask, keeping the airway open and allowing the patient to breathe.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause heart attacks and strokes, according to the pulmonary institution.

It also can result in death by asphyxiation.

Sleep apnea still is a troubling topic for the technician.

Before Hampton began working at the sleep lab at nights, she used to wake occasionally after dark, monitoring her husband's breathing.

"Since I started working nights, he said he doesn't sleep well," Hampton said.

She said she thinks he is waking himself to make sure he is breathing - a job Hampton is no longer able to do.

The condition is troubling for her, "Even more so now because I'm not there to wake him," she said.


MinerSteve 9 years, 3 months ago

This is good information for Craig. Thank you for posting it. I have sleep apnea and struggled with it for many years. After several sleep studies and many lost hours keeping me awake, a local test overnight at TMH solved the problem. The CPAP has restored my wife's sanity and allowed me to function with better productivity during the day. The sleep apnea also causes limb twitches as well as outright gasping while trying to regain needed oxygen.


bigrred1576 9 years, 3 months ago

Been There, Done That, I also have Sleep Apnea and have used a CPAP for a few years. It is well worth it to be tested if you need it. I am more rested, and so is my wife. She used to listen to me breathe, and kick me after about 15 seconds of none breathing, but neither of us got good rest. I even mentioned to a co worker about being tested, and The Press did an article on him a few years back.


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