|PATIENT STORY: FINUS RASCOE'S SLEEP
STUDY SHOWED HE STOPPED BREATHING
AN AVERAGE OF 22 TIMES PER HOUR.
Two things most of us take for granted are breathing easily and sleeping well most nights. People with the common, but potentially serious sleep disorder, sleep apnea, are challenged nightly on both counts. Surprisingly, they may not even be aware of it.
In sleep apnea, the throat becomes at least partially blocked during sleep. This causes the person to stop breathing for short periods. With each stoppage, the brain signals them to wake up enough so that they can start breathing again. These interruptions significantly damage the quality of sleep. Symptoms can include heavy snoring, irritability and daytime sleepiness.
Snoring was the red flag for Aurora resident Finus Rascoe, 44, who was diagnosed with sleep apnea a year ago.
"I wasn't aware of being tired during the day," says Rascoe. "Fortunately, I'm a morning person and fairly wired. My job as a software consultant requires that I stay alert and energetic. If I did feel fatigue I'd probably ignore it."
But Rascoe's wife, Madeline, couldn't ignore the snoring; it was disturbing her sleep. Finus agreed to an overnight sleep study at the Edward Sleep Center in Warrenville, which has the latest diagnostic equipment and hotel-style accommodations.
During the studies sleep technicians record the patient's breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels and other functions to help the physician identify the problem and determine the best treatment.
Rascoe's study showed that he stopped breathing an average of 22 times per hour.
"When I learned how severe my sleep apnea was I was afraid I might just die in my sleep if I didn't do something about it," he says.
"Depending on the severity of a person's sleep apnea, it can bring serious risk for cardiovascular issues and other medical problems. It's important to be diagnosed and treated," according to sleep medicine specialist Keith Warren, MD, of Suburban Lung Associates.
The most common prescription for sleep apnea is use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP), which uses gentle air pressure to keep the airway open. Pressurized air flows through a tube attached to a small machine, into either a mask work over the nose or into tiny pillow-like tubes inside the nose.
"I had trouble adjusting at first, but now I'm up to using CPAP about 90 percent of the time," says Rascoe.
Snoring is now relatively rare at the Rascoe home, so both spouses are reaping benefits.
CPAP's effectiveness is the good news. Unfortunately, many people get frustrated in adjusting to the equipment and give up.
"Patients have much greater success if they follow up regularly with their physician and home health equipment providers after getting the equipment," says April Johnson, manager of the Edward Sleep Center. "They may just need a different type of mask. Or we can suggest solutions if they're having skin irritation or a dry mouth."
The Edward Sleep Center is offering a new program for people with continued difficulty adjusting to CPAP. Two- to four-hour PAP-NAP sessions teach patients breathing exercises, relaxation and other techniques. A physician's order is required.
Finally, sleep apnea sufferers can exchange ideas at the free support group, AWAKE, which meets on the third Monday of each month. The next meeting, on February 18, 7:30-9 p.m., at the Edward Sleep Center, 27555 Diehl Rd. in Warrenville, will focus on the "Proper Cleaning & Maintenance of CPAP Supplies."
For more information, visit www.edward.org/sleepcenter or call (630) 646-3940.