When Chris Parks got the call about his Army buddy dying of a sleep apnea-related heart attack, his wife pressed him to have a sleep study.
“She said I snored a lot and would occasionally stop breathing and gasp for air,” said the 35-year-old Powder Springs resident. “My buddy was 30 years old and left behind a wife and two young children – that really hit home. We served together overseas and then both lived in Maryland for a time. He had put on a lot of weight after he got out of the service, just like I had.”
Though Parks did not realize he snored and stopped breathing when he slept, he did constantly feel lethargic. “I could sleep for 10 hours and still wake up tired and groggy,” he said.
Parks is not alone: According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long term sleep disorders. An additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems.
Comfort, Care – and Answers
Parks went to the Sleep Center at WellStar Windy Hill Hospital for a polysomnogram (sleep study). The test, which requires an overnight visit, measures parameters like breathing pattern, electrical brain and heart activity, eye movement and chin and limb muscle movement. Neelima Kothari, M.D., the WellStar pulmonologist who interpreted Parks’ sleep study, explained that, during a study, patients are watched for respiratory effort, nasal flow, heart rate, snoring, oxygen saturation and different sleep stages.
Parks said staying at the Sleep Center was “very comfortable. The sleep study technician explained everything very thoroughly and let me know exactly what she would be monitoring.”
Parks was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea; sleep apnea is a common, but potentially dangerous disorder, in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Symptoms include:
- Loud snoring
- Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
- Moodiness and irritability
- Morning headaches
- Poor concentration and decreased
- short-term memory
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
Parks’ prescribed treatment was continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. A CPAP machine delivers pressurized air through a mask placed over the nose or whole face while sleeping. The pressurized air ensures that the upper airway passages remain open, preventing apnea and snoring.
No More Dozing at the Wheel
Parks says he’s much more alert since he began sleeping with a CPAP. “I don’t find myself falling asleep while I’m driving home,” laughed the Department of Defense Information Assurance Officer. He’s also better able to focus at work. “My job is extremely detail oriented, requiring a lot of coordination with entities inside and outside of our department.” Parks’ family life also requires a lot of coordination and energy, with three young children and a fourth on the way.
Though Parks had a second sleep study to determine which CPAP pressure was best for him, he says the adjustment period and time spent for the sleep studies was well worth it.
“It took a while to get accustomed to sleeping with the CPAP, but now I look forward to putting my mask on,” he smiled. “It’s second nature.” “I would urge anyone who wakes up feeling lethargic and has been told they snore or stop breathing while sleeping to get a sleep study,” he added. “The end result far outweighs the small inconvenience of spending a night or two away from home.”
“WellStar sleep physicians and technicians are experienced, passionate and well versed in a broad range of sleep disorders,” said Dr. Kothari. “WellStar is the best choice for sleep problems.”