Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sleep study columns lead to spot on wall of infamy

Some people have their picture hanging in the local post office.

My mug is hanging on the bulletin board in the control room of the Reading Hospital sleep lab.

For those of you wondering how I'm making out with my colossal snoring problem, here's the third and final installment in my snoring/sleep apnea series.

I first wrote about scaring little children as a young man.

Then I wrote about how later in life I was waking my neighbors whenever I slept with the windows open.

Then I wrote about how much I disliked undergoing sleep studies.

I went so far as to accuse medical science of dropping the ball and sacrificing patient comfort in the pursuit of better data.

I had sleep studies about 10 years apart and the only improvement in the process was that they put you in a nicer room, I wrote.

The electrodes, hoses, belts and clamps they use to gather data make it nearly impossible to sleep, I alleged.

Instead of a sleep study they should call it a discomfort study, in the course of which some people get so exhausted they fall asleep.

After the study, during which the hospital staff was totally professional, courteous and informative, the doctors concluded I had sleep apnea. Well, duh!

I was placed on a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine that has significantly improved my health.

I'm told that over time the CPAP will help lower my blood pressure, improve my cognitive functioning and might even help me lose weight as I become more active.

I'm not expecting miracles. It's just nice to be able to sleep through the night for a change.

Loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, as you fall asleep the muscles in your throat relax and cause your airway to close, which in turn causes you to wake up as much as a hundred times per night gasping for air.

Usually you're so exhausted you don't even realize you're doing it, but when the alarm goes off in the morning, you still feel tired.

I'm trying to get the word out about sleep apnea. And I must be making some headway.

For one thing, my columns appear to be required reading at the Reading Hospital sleep lab.