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If You DON’T Snooze, You Lose

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If You DON’T Snooze, You Lose

The polysomnogram sensors are connected through this device that monitor different aspects and patterns of sleep.

Photo contributed/

POSTED July 24, 2012 6:33 p.m.

Loud snoring may appear hilarious in the movies, or be comically mimicked by a family member who hears “logs sawing” down the hall, but obstructive sleep apnea is no joke. It can raise your risk of a stroke, increase your blood pressure, and put you more in danger of having diabetes.

According to Dr. Robert Monie, a board certified pulmonary and sleep specialist at Oak Valley Hospital’s Sleep Center in Oakdale, sleep problems, including snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation, and restless legs syndrome, are common among millions of Americans.

“The most common is sleep apnea,” Dr. Monie said. “It’s a sleep deprivation process that can partially wake you up as much as 400 times a night. You don’t feel rested and you never catch up on the missed sleep.”

Dr. Monie explained the process of sleep apnea as when falling asleep, the back of the throat partially collapses causing a blocked airway – thus the cause of loud snoring, pauses in breathing, and waking up gasping or choking.

For many, it’s the bed partner that will be the first to recognize the signs of obstructive sleep apnea by themselves not being able to sleep, or being woken up throughout the night.

It’s important to treat sleep apnea and not just because of not feeling rested throughout the day. When oxygen levels in the blood drop, the body responds by releasing stress hormones and partially waking up over and over.

“It’s like when getting scared from seeing a snake and getting that adrenaline rush,” said Dr. Monie. “The body releases a whole bunch of chemicals that makes it difficult to get back to sleep and stay asleep.”

Over time, exposure to those hormones increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. The chronic exhaustion caused by sleep apnea increases the risk of depression and moodiness of those affected. Daytime sleepiness is also a leading cause of car accidents.

Dr. Monie stated that 80 percent of sleep apnea is related to obesity.

As fat builds up in the throat, it narrows the airways, making obstruction more likely. Sleep apnea itself –– and the fragmented sleep it causes –– can trigger additional hormonal changes that make the body hungrier and increase the risk of weight gain.

Basic treatment for sleep apnea includes weight management and use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask.

The CPAP uses a constant stream of air through the nose to stop the airways from collapsing while you breathe. A small device with a fan pushes the air through a tube and facemask.

Although CPAP can take some getting used to, it’s worth the effort according to Dr. Monie. CPAP can’t cure sleep apnea but it dramatically reduces the symptoms.

“It works like a sort of an ‘air splint’ and holds the back of the throat open,” said Dr. Monie. “The wives (of patients) tell me they love this. They say the bedroom walls have all of a sudden become quiet.”

Unfortunately there is only a 50 percent long-term use compliance with the CPAP despite comments that those that use it have slept the best they have in years. Dr. Monie cites patient complaints of claustrophobic feelings, lack of comfortableness with the device, and a lack of interest to continue to use it.

Diagnosing sleep apnea requires a stay at a sleep clinic such as Oak Valley Sleep Center for diagnostic tests such as a polysomnogram, sleep latency test, and clinical evaluations.

The polysonogram measures various sleep stages of ideally six hours of sleep. More than 25 wired connections are hooked to the body to measure sleep rhythms, eye movement, muscle activity, pulse, and a host of other factors.

An evaluation can be given normally within a week.

The Oak Valley Sleep Center is at 1390 West H St., Suite C, in Oakdale, across the street from Oak Valley Hospital. The phone number is (209) 848-4112. There are two rooms available, each with a different theme. Rooms are equipped with a bed, dresser and also flat screen television to provide essential comfort to patients.

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