What Does a Good Night's Sleep Feel Like?

What Does a Good Night's Sleep Feel Like?

Bill Marshal, owner of a general contracting business in Half Moon Bay, had snored for years. He knew that he woke up often in the night, but it took an observant friend and a trip to the Sleep Medicine Center at Stanford Hospital & Clinics for Marshal to understand that in his case, the snoring wasn't normal.

STANFORD, Calif. (PRWEB) April 30, 2008

 "My friend was visiting; we were in the family room watching a football game I guess, and I dozed off and stopped breathing for a while," Marshal said. The friend, who suffers from sleep apnea, recognized Marshal's break in breathing as the same condition. "He told my wife Linda that she'd better have me checked out. We made an appointment with Stanford."

Sleep apnea affects approximately 7% to 10% of the US population, and is more commonly found in men than women. Many people suffering from sleep apnea don't even know they have it. However, the effects of untreated sleep apnea can be very serious, including hypertension, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, and diastolic heart failure. How do you know if you suffer from sleep apnea? There are a few signs that may indicate snoring might be a bigger problem than you or your loved ones think, most notably regular loud snoring, choking sounds or gasps while sleeping.

Sleeping pills are not the best treatment choice for people suffering from sleep apnea. Because a bad night's sleep in their case is actually the result of a restricted airway, these patients are often treated with a device called a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine. This treatment involves sleeping with a nasal mask through which air is gently blown. The air acts as a splint to keep the airway from collapsing and prevents the airway blockages that seriously disrupt sleep (unbeknownst to the sleeper) and severely stress the heart and lungs. Additionally, there are different surgical treatments for the treatment of snoring and apnea, ranging from new, high-tech outpatient treatments using radiowaves to shrink excess tissue in the airway to surgeries that dramatically open the airway. Oral appliances, or mouthguard-like devices that displace the tongue or lower jaw forward, can also treat snoring or mild-to-moderate cases of apnea.

"Getting a CPAP has made all of the difference in the world in two obvious ways," said Marshal. "One being my ability to stay awake all day driving and functioning, and the other being able to get a good night's sleep and not endangering my health by not breathing for a minute or two at a time."

It takes a little time for patients to fully adjust to sleeping with a CPAP device, and treatment compliance can become an issue because the device can seem cumbersome at first. New patients often need support and continuing information, so the Sleep Clinic now offers monthly group meetings for sleep apnea patients at 6:15 P. M. on the first Wednesday of each month. These Alert, Well, And Keeping Energetic (AWAKE) group meetings provide a place for new patients to ask questions and to learn from other more experienced CPAP device users. The useful tips shared by other patients bolster the resolve of new users to persist with their treatment until it becomes more comfortable and effective. Newcomer meetings are followed by a general meeting, where a doctor gives a sleep-related presentation and addresses any unanswered questions about the CPAP device.

"Some fit better than others, and you constantly have to adjust them somewhat. I don't know that you ever get to the point where it totally becomes second nature to you," Marshal said. "But when I started using it, the result after a few days or a week was obvious. It's the difference between being able to stay asleep or not, and breathing is, of course, important."

The Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic

The Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic was founded in 1970 by Dr. William Dement and Dr. Christian Guilleminault. The Clinic was founded to diagnose and treat patients who have difficulties falling asleep at night, problems with excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea, or other medical problems that may occur or exacerbate during sleep.

An overnight visit to the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center allows clinicians to fully monitor and assess a patient's sleep pattern. Connected to machines that measure brain waves, heart beat, eye movement and more, the information gathered in an overnight assessment provides a more complete picture for clinicians than a subjective self-report of a night's sleep might.

The Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic is located on the Stanford campus at 401 Quarry Road, and appointments for clinical evaluations and sleep studies are open to the public and through physician referrals.

Did You Know...

About Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Stanford Hospital & Clinics is known worldwide for advanced treatment of complex disorders in areas such as cardiac care, cancer treatment, neurosciences, surgery, and organ transplants. Ranked #15 on the U. S. News and World Report annual list of "America's Best Hospitals," Stanford Hospital & Clinics is internationally recognized for translating medical breakthroughs into the care of patients. The Hospital is part of the Stanford University Medical Center, along with the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, visit www. stanfordhospital. com.

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