Letter to the Editor – May 2004

Dear Editor, It was interesting to read the article in the April issue of Access Press about the man struggling […]

Dear Editor,

It was interesting to read the article in the April issue of Access Press about the man struggling with sleep apnea. I work at a sleep disorders clinic in Minneapolis, where we diagnose and treat hundreds of people with apnea every year. 

Apnea is caused by the throat muscles collapsing during sleep, which prevents people from getting adequate oxygen during sleep. The disruptions in sleep come when the body is striving for oxygen, and briefly awakens the brain in order to open the throat to let in more air. Most of the awakenings are so brief they aren’t remembered, but the effect is a lack of adequate sleep, which leads to the kind of tiredness and inability to focus described in the article.

I wanted to share some brief information from the National Sleep Foundation www.sleepfoundation.org that may help others. “Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common effective treatment for sleep apnea.  In this procedure, the patient wears a mask over the nose during sleep, and pressure from an air blower forces air through the nasal passages. The pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the throat from collapsing during sleep. Although several surgical procedures are used to increase the size of the airway, none of them is completely successful or without risks.”

This last sentence seems to reflect the experience of Mr. Brewer, who still experiences tiredness, though not to the degree he did before the surgeries. I would really recommend anyone who experiences tiredness during the day to call a local sleep center (there are several associated with metro area hospitals) and ask to have their sleep evaluated. People we have worked with over the years consistently report a marked increase in their quality of life, many making comments such as this one by a patient treated with CPAP, “So that is what it’s like to sleep, because all my life, I never remember getting sleep like that.”

Paul R. Monroe

Sleep Technologist

Hennepin County Medical Center

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