They say that truth is stranger than fiction and this true tale from a doctor’s office reveals how important it is to treat sleep apnea before it’s too late.
A 54-year-old man walked into Dr. Jordan Josephson’s New York office and told the internationally known nasal and endoscopic sinus surgeon that he suffered from sleep apnea and his marriage was suffering as a result.
“I am a very wealthy man, I have no health problems and a lovely second wife,” he said. “The snoring and sleep apnea are ruining my life. I can’t sleep, I have a foggy brain and my wife is at her wit’s end.”
Josephson sent his patient for a CT scan and gave him a follow-up appointment. The man never showed up and only months later, did the doctor learn he died four days after their initial meeting.
“I still don’t know if he had a stroke or heart attack but it brought home the point that sleep apnea is deadly,” the author of “Sinus Relief Now,” tells Newsmax Health.
“Sleep apnea and snoring are processes that starve the brain and the heart of oxygen. As a result, they are the number one cause for heart attack and stroke. In addition, they can lead to heart arrthymias, fatigue, depression, sinus problems and problems functioning at school and at work.”
Josephson adds that sleep apnea can also wreak havoc with romantic relationships and is a leading medical cause of separation and divorce.
“Partners are forced to sleep in separate bedrooms because of the snoring and many become frightened when their spouse stops breathing,” he explains. “While sleep apnea is more common in older folks, it affects between 25 to 40 percent of the population including children.”
It’s important to be proactive if you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, says Josephson, a sleep apnea specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
“You need to see an otolaryngologist who specializes in this condition to get the proper diagnosis and treatment,” he notes.
Depending on the source of the problem — it could be stemming from allergies, asthma, nasal or sinus problems, or even GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) — there are effective treatments that can cure or help you cope with the symptoms.
“The main causes are obesity and then nasal or sinus obstruction,” Josephson says. “If a person loses weight when they are obese, this may not only solve their breathing dilemma but reduce their risk of other dreaded diseases, so that’s number one on my list.”
Josephson advises everyone to irrigate their nasal passages daily with a Neti Pot or saline spray to remove irritants.
“It’s the new brushing your teeth,” he says. “Many years ago, who would think that brushing your teeth prevented tooth decay and gum disease? Today, we have allergies and pollutants that are wrecking our health. Since we breathe through the nose, we need to clean our nasal passages to remove potential debris and irritants.”
After an extensive history and physical examination, Josephson tries a number of holistic approaches to treat his patients before resorting to surgery. Endoscopy or other surgical methods may be needed to remove obstructions or correct anatomical issues such as a deviated septum that may be causing the condition.
“I would say that 90 percent of my patients are cured without surgical intervention,” he says. “Very often we need to implement changes in lifestyle, and perhaps the use of a CPAP machine or dental appliance.”
CPAP machines include a mask or other device that fits over your nose and mouth, straps to position the mask, a tube that connects the mask to the actual machine and a motor that blows air into the tube.
They are designed to keep breathing airways open and are usually covered by insurance. Besides the benefits of better sleep quality, using a CPAP machine can also lower your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, loss of memory and cognitive function and other potentially deadly side effects of sleep apnea.
Another simple way to help you sleep better is simply sewing a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of your sleep shirt.
“When you roll onto your back, it will force you to return to side sleeping,” notes Josephson. “Most people snore when they sleep on their backs.”
Alcohol, too, can exacerbate sleep apnea.
“It makes all the muscles flaccid so you are more likely to snore,” the expert explains.
But the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep, improve your marital relationship, and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke is to see a specialist, get tested, and get treated.
“There is no reason to suffer in this day and age, or let your spouse suffer either,” Josephson says. “Very often my patients aren’t even aware they are snoring so I encourage couples to visit together so I can get both sides of the story.
“This reduces the need for me to perform unnecessary surgeries like a ‘husbandectomy’ to allow the wife to get a good night’s sleep.”
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