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Chris DeWald | Sleep apnea

Have you heard of sleep apnea, readers? I had heard of this pre stroke as I had been diagnosed as having it. I had the test performed, out of this area but in Virginia, before my stroke. I had been prescribed a “cheap” CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device from my insurance company as I was not an “informed minded” patient of cheap products. The reason I say cheap is that the authorized model I was prescribed had no misting of the air resulting in nosebleeds. I stopped using the device.

I used the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for information in this article:

Untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening. Excessive daytime sleepiness can cause people to fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving. Sleep apnea also appears to put individuals at risk for stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, also known as “mini-strokes”), and is associated with coronary heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and high blood pressure. Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, recent studies show that successful treatment can reduce the risk of heart and blood pressure problems.

All right now, you have my attention and maybe people with a medical degree could be right. Wait a minute; I had a major stroke on each side of my brain. Allows a little credence in what you guys say. While in the Augusta Health Center, having the time of my life with all the fascinating needles and blood letting, I had multiple alarms on me. The bed was alarmed if I got up because I was a bad patient, in denial, thinking I could walk and this stroke was like a cold.

Alarm two was a breathing alarm and a heart alarm. Seems a brain stem stroke has an adverse effect on breathing and heart rate. It was there in the hospital that they discovered that I stopped breathing when I fell asleep. So allow me to give you some basics about this disorder:

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These episodes usually last 10 seconds or more and occur repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea will partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by relaxation of soft tissue in the back of the throat that blocks the passage of air. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by irregularities in the brain’s normal signals to breathe. Most people with sleep apnea will have a combination of both types. The hallmark symptom of the disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness. Additional symptoms of sleep apnea include restless sleep, loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps), falling asleep during the day, morning headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability, forgetfulness, mood or behavior changes, anxiety, and depression. Not everyone who has these symptoms will have sleep apnea, but it is recommended that people who are experiencing even a few of these symptoms visit their doctor for evaluation. Sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men than women, and in people who are overweight or obese.

For me, the symptoms were there that included snoring, tiredness restless sleep and being awakened by horrible nightmares. I was told this was the body’s way to wake me up to restart breathing. There are a variety of treatments for sleep apnea, depending on an individual’s medical history and the severity of the disorder. Most treatment regimens begin with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and medications that relax the central nervous system (for example, sedatives and muscle relaxants), losing weight, and quitting smoking. Some people are helped by special pillows or devices that keep them from sleeping on their backs, or oral appliances to keep the airway open during sleep. If these conservative methods are inadequate, doctors often recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which a face mask is attached to a tube and a machine that blows pressurized air into the mask and through the airway to keep it open. There are also surgical procedures that can be used to remove tissue and widen the airway. Some individuals may need a combination of therapies to successfully treat their sleep apnea.

The tests can be performed at Augusta Health if your primary care physician deems it proper. Yes, I went to the doctors, but I never told them I had these issues. I felt it was part of life as almost every show or comedy program has someone snoring. The expression of “it is what it is” became fixed with me, besides I had to work and had no time for this. Wish I could kick myself, but my left leg would not feel it from the stroke.

This is serious business, folks. Here are some additional websites:

I did the test, nothing to it. They put you in a nice bedroom and put glue thing a ma bobs all over your head. Then they attach wires that do not hurt but monitor brainwaves. The funny thing about that is when you are done feeling like an alien autopsy, they say “Go to sleep”…..Yeah right ! So I dreamed of a City Council Meeting and off I went. The sleep was interrupted many times as they figure out if you have apnea and then fit you with a proper device to keep you ALIVE.

If you have sleep apnea, be glad it was discovered and you can get help. There are many different CPAP devices to accommodate your different sleeping patterns. I was told that my horror dreams would stop as it was my brain waking me up to breathe. That did not happen, but instead of waking up to rid the dream, it continues on and on. So if you dream of being sleeping beauty, you might end up kissing that frog.


– Column by Chris DeWald


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