Don’t hit the snooze button when it comes to sleep issues

The rest of the world is finally recognizing what those of us who work in “sleep” (no, not while asleep!) have known for years. New research comes in nearly every week.

It was Time magazine’s cover story in April. Sleep is as important to health as diet and exercise. Really.

Not getting enough sleep and not treating sleep disorders (the most common is obstructive sleep apnea) is proven to lead to greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cancer, depression, weight problems, accidents, death from all causes, and the list goes on and on and on.

We have diagnosed many people with sleep disorders over the years and it is true that many have very likely avoided some serious health issues and/or improved their existing medical conditions. But what about having a better quality of life? Feeling better?

Our bodies are very good at compensating and fooling us that we are doing OK, at least for awhile. I’d like to share reports from two patients.

Let me begin by saying many men do not want to be tested, they don’t feel it’s manly to have something wrong. They’ve often heard stories from years ago when CPAP machines were noisy and the masks weren’t great.

No offense, boys, but listen up! Men are at higher risk, especially larger men, often former athletes, a bit overweight with large necks, and usually snorers. I have a friend whose doc ordered a sleep study and he just would not commit to coming in.

I admit that since I knew him, I harassed him until he came in. He did indeed have significant sleep apnea, with all the associated health risks, but he did not take it seriously. I again called and called and months later he FINALLY came in for his CPAP study.

CPAP is continuous positive airway pressure, a small machine, an air splint so you can breathe while sleeping.

The next day he called me and thanked me for badgering him! “My gosh,” he said, “I already feel amazing! I had to be out of town today and I felt like I could have run instead of driving.”

He does not go anywhere without his CPAP machine and he continues to enjoy lots of energy and good health.

Gentlemen, pay extra attention here. Did you know that sleep apnea can contribute to erectile dysfunction and low testosterone?

We have a patient who was significantly overweight in his mid-60s. During the course of the year after he began using CPAP, he lost 80 pounds, saying it was easy once he had some energy, and that he felt like a young man again in the intimacy department.

He told us every time he came in! He was surprised, and of course very happy.

Bottom line: if someone tells you snore loudly, talk with your doctor. Treatment today is quiet and comfortable. My husband wears CPAP. He was reluctant at first ─ he is a guy.

We are BOTH sleeping now that he’s not rocking the walls snoring, we are in better moods and healthier. I can’t hear a thing.

Sometimes I reach over to be sure he’s still there.

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