Seven steps to obtain relief from sleep apnea syndrome
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The person with sleep apnea can take advantage of advances in sleep disorders medicine and achieve a remarkable recovery of energy and health.

Seven steps to obtain relief from sleep apnea syndrome

Jerry Halberstadt

Do victims of sleep apnea have to wait for years of research? Do they have to wait for a new generation of doctors to be trained in sleep disorders medicine---a subject only beginning to enter the curriculum of medical schools? Or is there a way for individuals to save themselves now by taking advantage of the available resources?

Fortunately, the person with sleep apnea can follow the path to remarkable relief. Thus, despite the problems in the medical delivery system today, the motivated and persistent patient can take advantage of the recent advances in sleep disorders medicine and achieve a remarkable recovery of energy and health.

The 'gold standard' treatment recommended to most patients, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), the use of a blower to deliver air under pressure to the nose in order to keep the airway open during sleep, provides dramatic, overnight relief. Since breathing is no longer obstructed, the patient can sleep normally again, often for the first time in many years.The symptoms of sleep apnea fall away, revealing a patient restored to life. In addition, there are a number of alternative and complementary strategies, including for instance, weight loss, surgery, or dental appliances which may offer relief in selected cases. I suffered from many classic symptoms of sleep apnea for many years until my illness was finally diagnosed. I learned that the person with sleep apnea can effectively take charge of his or her treatment, communicate more effectively with physicians and other health care providers, and make the best choices among the available treatment options.

The following suggestions to enable indviduals to get help are based on this experience and on Phantom of the Night, a handbook on sleep apnea syndrome which I co-authored with T.S. Johnson, M.D., a pulmonologist and sleep disorders expert:

  1. Take a simple one-page self-test questionnaire that can alert you to consider sleep apnea as the source of your fatigue. Your spouse, roommate or bed partner can offer witness to snoring and pauses in breathing. (A free questionaire for identifying possible sleep apnea is available.)
  2. Tell your primary care doctor you suspect a sleep disorder. (Phantom of the Night, explains what information to collect to help explain your concerns to your physician, and explains the meaning of each symptom.)
  3. Ask your primary care doctor to refer you to a qualified sleep disorders expert or sleep center after other medical causes have been ruled out.
  4. Take an overnight sleep test, either in a sleep lab or at home. (Phantom of the Night, explains the nature of normal sleep, how sleep apnea interferes with sleep, and how the sleep study reveals your problem for the physician).
  5. Carefully evaluate the alternative treatments and select the one best suited to your condition. (Phantom of the Night, describes the range of treatments and shows how to evaluate your options for treatment. It also offers guidance on dealing with various obstacles to treatment, such as an insurer resisting payment, or technical problems that can often be readily fixed.)
  6. Learn how to maintain the treatment over time, and to communicate any problems with your care-givers. (Phantom of the Night, provides important warnings for patients and care-givers because of the risks of respiratory problems during surgery or other treatment procedures.)
  7. Join a local patient education and support group---they can play an important role for patients and their families. And you can connect with others online. Sleeping on the Internet, a linked guide to sleep resources (Phantom of the Night, provides extensive leads and information to enable patients to contact support groups or obtain other important information.)

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