SLEEP: Snoring to Solutions

Posted Thursday --- February 7, 2008 --- 10:00pm

You may be one of the millions of Americans who snores or sleeps next to someone who does.

And while you may think it's simply annoying, what you don't know could be fatal.

If you find it hard to get a good nights sleep, you could be suffering from a sleeping disorder.

Nowadays it's hard to get a good night's sleep.

"My wife would say you're snoring and then she'd shove me and she'd poke me."

Michael Kraus found himself tired throughout the day even after getting 8 hours of shut eye the night before.

Kraus says, "I'd walk the dogs in the morning and I'd come back at 10:00 in the morning -- what's a 45 minute nap? Get up and I'd go do a few more things. Gotta have an afternoon nap. And then starts the evening and I'm like really dragging and I'm trying to get through the night."

And for Lynn Riley she noticed similar symptoms but her sleeping concerns were more serious.

Riley says, "My husband would start complaining that I would stop breathing during the night and so he would have to elbow me or something to wake me up cause I would stop breathing."

Both Michael and Lynn decided to see a sleep specialist.

Michael at the St. Mary's Overnight Sleep Center and Lynn at the TMJ Sleep Center where they found out they were living with a condition that could kill them.

The disorder is ruled a factor in the death of Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer Reggie White.

Kraus says, "I first interviewed with a doctor, we talked about it and he said it sounds like you have sleep apnea. My wife thought I just had a snoring issue or whatever it was."

Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder where a person breathing gets very shallow or can stop all together while sleeping typically around 10 to 20 seconds.

It's usually caused by a person's throat blocking air flow to the lungs.

"Sleep apnea as they say in the brochures now can kill particularly between the ages of 20 and 50. It's very, it can be lethal in the fact that it can create respiratory and cardiac arrest."

And you could be at risk and not even know it.

Doctors say that more than 12 million Americans are living with sleep apnea.

The disease is more common in men.

1 out of every 25 middle aged men compared to 1 out of every 50 women have it and it's even more prevalent in minorities.

And if you think sleeping next to someone who snores is simply a nuisance, it's one of the main warning signs.

Others include being overweight, high blood pressure, neck size and daily fatigue.

But thankfully sleeping disorders can be treated.

"The first thing that's done is a clinic evaluation to try to determine if a sleeping problem is responsible wholly or in part for someones daytime symptoms."

"After a clinic visit, should it be deemed necessary a full 16 channel sleep study called a polysomnogram is completed."

At the St. Mary's Sleep Center, Michael spent the night where he was hooked up to machines that monitored everything from his breathing to his sleep stages.

And once he woke the next morning doctors were able to diagnose him with sleep apnea.

He now sleeps with a CPAP machine to regulate his breathing.

Kraus says, "I fell asleep the first night right away, just the pressure and it's not invasive. It's something that is so comfortable and you try to fight it and you can't. It really helps you sleep, it helps you feel comfortable."

At the TMJ Sleep center, Lynn was tested during the day and along with having sleep apnea she was diagnosed with TMJ, a dental condition in which both her jaws were not properly aligned.

Now she wears an orthodic mouthpiece when she's awake to reposition her jaw and a different one at night for her sleep apnea.

Her husband no longer has to worry that she'll stop breathing while she sleeps.

"The problem is people don't want to go and get diagnosed because they don't want to wear that CPAP machine and that's unfortunate."

Although apprehensive at first both Michael and Lynn are thankful that they took their family member's concerns about their sleep seriously.

It's a decision that quite possibly saved their life.

"My son wakes up and says is dad home? And I have to just laugh and say I'm home! I'm sleeping!"

Some insurance policies do cover sleep studies.

It's important to check with your provider.

If you're concerned with your sleeping habits, it's better to have them checked out before it's too late.

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