Sleep apnea disorder hard to detect; treatment available

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When senior Jeff Wineke was a freshman, his roommate complained about how he constantly snored.

The problem was more than snoring though. After hearing a description of sleep apnea in a psychology class, he went to the doctor and was diagnosed as having the disorder.

“My body went crazy. My blood pressure was high and even after sleeping all night, I would still fall asleep in class,” Wineke said.

Apnea is described by its Greek meaning, “want of breath.” Sleepers with this disorder endure several moments during sleep without breathing. This may be from obstructions in the air passage.

Wineke sought treatment at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, where he was required to sleep while hooked up to a device known as the continuous positive airway pressure machine. The CPAP is used to help the body keep a constant flow of oxygen while sleeping.

The CPAP is not the only treatment for those suffering from sleep apnea. There are other machines or even the option of surgery.

Wineke underwent surgery to enlarge the air passages in his nose. It was a successful procedure, and his health has improved.

“After surgery, your whole life changes,” Wineke said.

Sacred Heart Hospital, 900 W. Clairemont Ave., is equipped to aid those with sleeping disorders like sleep apnea. The hospital houses a new sleep lab, headed up by Dr. Anton Kidess.

Since the lab’s opening in May about 50 patients have been treated.

“We see patients with a variety of sleeping disorders, but the most common is sleep apnea,” Kidess said.

Before checking into the hospital, sleepers should watch for a few key signs.

“The most common complaint is sleepiness,” Kidess said. Other signs include loud snoring or choking noises, which can be discovered by a roommate.

The disorder affects an estimated 18 million Americans, but the numbers could be significantly higher since many do not even know they have it.