Sometimes you can do everything right and things still don’t go your way. Just ask Sergeant Hayden.
Sergeant Jeffrey Hayden was a cavalry scout in the US Army. He was fit, ate as well as a soldier could, and took good care of himself. After 10 years of hard training, he was strong and had quite a bit of muscle. But despite all his efforts, his health was on a rapid decline, and he was inexplicably gaining weight.
He had uncontrollable high blood pressure and treatment wasn’t working; his doctor was at a loss. His constant heartburn became so frequent that it often caused vomiting. Jeffrey also had immense difficulty sleeping, even when using a prescribed sleeping aid. And when he did sleep, his snoring could be measured on the Richter Scale.
When on duty, his platoon dreaded sleeping anywhere near him. No one was sleeping if Hayden was nearby. At home, he slept on the couch so as not to disturb his wife and their newborn child.
He’d spent his entire adult life dedicated to perfect health, but his life was still being ruined by seemingly untreatable health problems.
Service men and women are required to have regular checkups. When given the choice, Hayden opted to see his own provider. His doctor noticed something others had missed: he had a small airway and a large neck.
When the doctor asked him if he snored, Hayden brought up the sleep issues he was having. This information, combined with data from his chart, put up giant red flags. Jeffrey needed a sleep study ASAP.
Hayden checked into a lab that specializes in sleep studies. After they set up the monitoring equipment, he went to sleep. While the study was supposed to consist of a two-night stay in the lab, they had all the data they needed after 88 minutes and stopped the study. It was clear: Hayden had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and it could have killed him.
In those 88 minutes, he stopped breathing 44 times. His oxygen levels dropped to dangerously low levels, and while he appeared to be happily snoring (which could be heard down the hall), he never actually got past stage one of REM sleep.
Jeffrey had a naturally smaller-than-average airway and a wrestler’s neck that had been enlarged from years of strength training. As he slept, his airway collapsed, which caused the snoring, and his breathing completely stopped every couple of minutes. His attempts at sleep became a recurring nightmare in which he never reached deep enough sleep to have an actual dream.
The techs briefly woke Hayden up to outfit him with a CPAP appliance designed to keep his airway open. After that, Hayden immediately went into normal phases of sleep, with optimal oxygen levels (and no snoring). He finished the night with the best sleep he’d had in a long time.
Sleep apnea is a tricky beast. It’s called the “silent killer” because it can cause dangerous complications (such as hypertension) that may be treated while the underlying cause remains undetected. In fact, 80–90 percent of those with sleep apnea aren’t even aware they have it, and most people don’t know much about it.
Your case may not be as dangerous as Hayden’s was, but that is no reason to shave years off your life by leaving it untreated. We see this often; you can’t really gauge yourself when sleeping, so the best tip you may get is when those around you complain about your snoring.
If you answered yes to more than a couple of the questions on the above quiz and you snore, you are at high risk for OSA. Contact your doctor for an appointment. He or she will evaluate your signs and symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist or for a sleep study.
If you’re prescribed CPAP therapy, Medicap is here to help you get started smoothly. Our very knowledgeable respiratory therapists will meet with you to discuss your sleep study, instruct you on CPAP machine usage, and fit you for a mask. They will follow up with you to fine-tune your settings and equipment so that you sleep comfortably.
Have questions? Talk to one of our specialists who can guide you through the process.