Health Column: Counting sheep not only way to sleep

By Susie Hawkins, BS, CRT
Blount Memorial Hospital

It’s time to get your zzz’s -- especially during May’s observance of Better Sleep Month. There’s no better way to do that than to get a better understanding of sleep apnea.

Although many of us take a good night’s sleep for granted and tend to awaken rested, many people fail to recognize sleeping disorders can affect the quality of your life. Sleep apnea affects more than 20 million people, but most people don’t recognize or associate any sleeping difficulties with sleep apnea.

Key signs and symptoms of the condition may include morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, changes in moods or behaviors, loud or disruptive snoring, gasping or choking during naps or sleep, restless sleep, constant exhaustion, drowsiness while driving, finding it difficult to stay alert, showing signs of a lack of memory, being obese, awakening with a dry mouth, experiencing decreased muscle tone, and having an oversized tongue or extra tissue in the airway. Mental confusion, poor work performance and difficulty in functioning at work or adjusting to shift work also can be signs of sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, the condition can affect a person of any age. If it’s left untreated, it can lead to other associated health risks that include high blood pressure, obesity, confusion and depression. That’s why you should talk to your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms.

Receiving treatment for sleep apnea can have many benefits. Obtaining the best quality sleep can lead to you have a more active, fulfilling life. But it also can bring an increase in your energy level or effectiveness at home or work, and a reduction to the amount of morning headaches and the severity of irritability.

Your doctor can diagnose sleep apnea and may ask you to go to a sleep center for a sleep study. Sleep centers can reveal which kind of sleep apnea you may have and determine if equipment devices may help you sleep better.

If your doctor decides that using equipment would be beneficial to you, Blount Memorial Home Equipment Services is an option for up-to-date sleep apnea equipment including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), bi-level positive airway pressure (BI-PAP), and auto pap devices and supplies. Registered respiratory therapists will assist you and your family with instructions on the use, care, operation and maintenance of your equipment.

The staff provides mask fittings, and they can offer the latest technology in nasal pillows and full-face masks. Our staff also communicates directly with your physician your performance with the recommended therapy, and we’re able to estimate future needs. A supply replacement program can be beneficial if you’re using face masks, nasal pillows, head gear, chin straps, humidifier chambers and heaters, tubing, and disposable and non-disposable filters.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. An early diagnosis can be given, and treatment can be initiated. Getting an early start with treatment not only improves the condition, but also your sleep.

Susie Hawkins is a certified respiratory therapist with Blount Memorial Home Equipment Services.

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