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Sleep Apnea Can Literally Take Your Breathe Away

Armen Hareyan's picture

Sleep Apnea

When former NFL star Reggie White died on December 26, 2004, I was shocked. He was a young man of 43, younger than me. He died of a heart attack. And though there were other conditions that brought on the attack, one condition that was specified as a major contributor to his death was sleep apnea. This condition afflicts some 18 million people in the United States, and it is believed that there are just as many undiagnosed cases of sleep apnea.

Thirteen years ago, I thought I had some sort of fatigue. I would drop off to sleep in the afternoon minutes after sitting down. My wife complained of my snoring. I never felt rested, though I thought I had slept the night through. I started a vitamin regimen, but my drowsiness got worse to the point of having difficulty staying awake while driving. After a couple of very close calls, I knew I had better have my doctor help me get to the bottom of this.

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After describing my symptoms, my doctor prescribed a series of sleep studies at a local hospital in Pittsburgh. After just one night of testing, it was obvious that I had Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). My breathing actually stopped for up to 45 seconds; then would erupt back with a convulsive shake. I was unaware of it. During the eight-hour sleep study, I stopped breathing 447 times, some 55 times an hour.

Sleep Apnea is caused by a blockage of the nasal passage, mouth, or throat from a structural problem, such as enlarged tonsils or tongue. Other factors, especially obesity and smoking can contribute to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. During the day the problem is minimal, but when lying down at night and the tissues in the throat and nasal passages relax, the air passage can become narrowed or blocked.

The basic treatment for