Sleep Apnea Stories
Last weekend we had Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce business expo where we set up a booth to showcase Dental Sleep Medicine of Southwest Florida, LLC and we were surprised by the CPAP, snoring, and sleep apnea stories we were told. There were approximately 40 or 50 businesses set up and the great weather brought a good stream of people, mostly couples that were out shopping at BJ’s. When someone would come by we would ask “Do you know anyone that snores or has sleep apnea?” And usually the husband would slowly continue his walk while the wife would stop and say “YES!!!” while pointing at him. We had a lot of great conversations about loud snoring and the sleep deprivation it caused. We also heard a lot stories from people that really have stuck with me and I wanted to share a couple:
28-year-old: Dead from Sleep Apnea
Probably the saddest story we heard all day came from a man who was there at another booth. He came over and thanked us for helping spread the word about sleep apnea because he had never heard about it until his girlfriend’s son was found dead in his sleep at the age of 28. He had just been diagnosed with sleep apnea because he all the signs and symptoms (overweight, heavy snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness) and someone recommended that he see a sleep doctor. He died slumped over in the computer chair that he was sitting in. The medical examiner said that there was no other problems with his organs, and that he had died from oxygen starvation. Such a terrible and tragic way to die. I knew that sleep apnea was life threatening, but I had never personally heard of anyone dying from sleep apnea. But that was not the only story I would hear of that day….
Dying in Sleep After Removing CPAPAnother story came from someone who stopped by and spoke to us for about 20 minutes about everyone he knew that had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and had a CPAP machine. He told us of his neighbor who had died in his sleep from sleep apnea. Apparently it was common for him to start the night off using his CPAP machine, but he would occasionally take it off at night because it would begin to squeak and squeal. He was found dead of a heart attack in the middle of the night next to his CPAP machine. What likely happened is that his oxygen levels dipped below a critical point and his heart became hypoxic, leading to his heart throwing some irregular contractions. The heart then probably went into cardiac arrest. This man was obviously greatly affected by the death of his neighbor, and after we heard the story, so were we!
Loud Snoring Causes Spouse RelocationOne of the most common things that we heard was that someone’s loud snoring had caused a rift in the sleeping arrangements in the house. This is why we have seriously considered to run an ad campaign that would sound something like this: “Save Your Marriage, Get a Sleep Test”. I know that sleeping in the same room isn’t the only key to a happy marriage, but it certainly does help kindle the romance. Not only does snoring cause spousal issues at night, but it also causes daytime sleepiness and subsequent grumpiness and disconnect.
I wear a CPAP, but I hate it!In our booth we had a sign that simply read “CPAP Intolerant?”. Many people were attracted to this sign and we had a few people come by and tell us just how much they loved the results of the CPAP (decrease in snoring and more restful sleep), but they absolutely hated wearing it. This puts us as dentists in a very awkward position because we all know that CPAP therapy is the gold standard in treating sleep apnea. But we also know that the patients that can benefit the most from oral appliance therapy are the ones that have been previously diagnosed with sleep apnea but refuse to wear their prescribed CPAP. But what classifies someone as intolerant? We strive to make sure that we never try to persuade anyone from discontinuing use of their CPAP if they can wear it most nights. We consider this tolerant and we do not feel that oral appliance therapy should take the place of their CPAP. However, we do try to persuade someone whose CPAP is now packed away in their closet or under their bed that they seriously need to consider a CPAP alternative.
Why Have I Never Heard of an Oral Sleep Appliance?!?We felt our time spent at the booth talking with people about sleep apnea treatment was very rewarding because people saw the value and simplicity of oral appliance therapy. Many people asked us in a concerned and disappointed tone, ‘Why was I not made aware of this simple treatment option?’ The answer is quite easy.Sleep physicians are the quarterbacks for the management of sleep apnea. A lot of them only have a 3 plays they know how to run: 1.)CPAP 2.)Surgery 3.)Weight Loss Program. Now that the American Academy of Sleep Physicians has recommended oral appliance therapy for a possible first line treatment for sleep apnea, it is only a matter of time until sleep physicians start referring more cases to the dentist. The problem is that there are not a lot of dentists treating sleep apnea in their practices because it takes additional training and a strong willingness to work with the medical community. I do feel terrible that the vast majority of patients are never given the option of oral appliance therapy. We hope to change that!
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