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Sleep Apnea: Get Some Help Before You Kill Somebody

A UW-Health study shows that upwards of 25 percent of all sleep apnea patients cannot tolerate CPAP therapy because they can't stand wearing a mask all night. (Yelena Rodriquez/iStockPhoto.com)
A UW-Health study shows that upwards of 25 percent of all sleep apnea patients cannot tolerate CPAP therapy because they can't stand wearing a mask all night. (Yelena Rodriquez/iStockPhoto.com)
May 31, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders and affects about 7 percent of the U.S. adult population.

But it is a very treatable problem, commonly with CPAP therapy.

Claudia Korcarz, who manages the University of Wisconsin Atherosclerosis Imaging Research Program, says usually you find out if you have sleep apnea from your partner, who is bothered by your heavy snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep.

"Patients are typically hyper somnolent,” she says. “They are very sleepy during the daytime, so bad that you're talking to somebody and they fall asleep in front of you, and this increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents, and that's one of the public health problems of obstructive sleep apnea."

Korcarz, who recently completed a study of obstructive sleep apnea, says upwards of 25 percent of all sleep apnea patients are unable to comply with or tolerate CPAP therapy.

Many say they just can't deal with wearing a mask all night, while the CPAP machine forces air through their nose.

Korcarz says even using a CPAP machine four hours per night will dramatically improve the patient's cardiovascular health.

She also points out that there have been big improvements in treating sleep disorders. Tests to determine if a person has sleep apnea can even be conducted in a patient's home now, and the design and function of CPAP machines has taken huge strides forward.

"We need to let people know that the equipment has improved dramatically in the last 10 years or so,” she states. “They're quieter, they're more comfortable, the hoses are more flexible so you can move around."

Korcarz says ignoring sleep apnea comes with huge consequences.

"Your risk of cardiovascular events is two to threefold higher,” she points out. “Stroke or heart attacks or sudden cardiac death, for example, in the middle of the night. The risk of having a cardiac event, an arrhythmia that could be fatal, is two times higher than the regular population."

Korkarz advises partners of people who have untreated sleep apnea to insist that they discuss it with their doctor.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI