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Sleep Thief

Linda Wigdahl dutifully prepared for work each morning. She’d arrive at the bank and sit at her desk. Then the daily mystery began…

“I couldn’t understand it. I was sure I’d gotten a good night’s sleep, yet I’d get so doggone tired I could hardly navigate,” she says. “I wanted to crawl under the furniture and take a nap.”

A top-performing personal banker at State Bank and Trust for 17 years, she wasn’t about to sleep on the job. But what would wake her up to the answer? And what was robbing her of sleep?

A serious health issue

In August 2010, Dr. Bhanu Odedra-Mistry, Linda’s primary care doctor at Sanford Southpointe Clinic, took a closer look. Several tests followed, including an overnight sleep study at Sanford Sleep Center.

A key concern? Sleep apnea -- a potentially serious disorder in which breathing is partially or completely blocked during sleep. It can happen when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and sag. The problem can be mild or severe, depending on how often the lungs don’t get enough air.

Linda had two symptoms pointing to sleep apnea: daytime sleepiness and nighttime snoring. She also had medical issues that increased her risk including high blood pressure, diabetes and excess weight.

As Linda learned from Sanford sleep specialist Dr. Kevin Faber, untreated sleep apnea can have very serious consequences.

Says Dr. Faber: “We now have strong scientific data regarding the health effects of sleep-disordered breathing. Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. All can be fatal.”

Growing evidence also links sleep deprivation with the development of diabetes, weight gain and mood disorders, particularly depression. The deprivation can result from reduced hours of sleep or a problem that fragments sleep, such as sleep apnea.

Linda estimates she’s suffered from poor sleep for a long time; it was several years ago that her two sons informed her she snored.

“I had no idea that so many things could go wrong because of lousy sleep,” says Linda. “I’ve since learned that your body heals when you get good sleep. Was my body ever healing?”

A better night

An evaluation and overnight sleep study at Sanford showed Linda had severe sleep apnea requiring treatment. She was fitted for a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) -- a motorized device that quietly, steadily keeps the airway open during sleep.

“I loved it right off the bat. I even travel with it,” she says. She’s also conscientious in maintaining the equipment, including adding water daily and changing the CPAP mask every six months.

Linda’s motivation to resolve her problem contributed greatly to her CPAP success. Other factors helped, too, including Sanford’s thorough evaluation, Dr. Faber’s explanations, a proper CPAP fitting and conscientious follow-up. The team at Sanford Sleep Center works closely with patients to ensure they get the help they need.

The results? “I call it my sleep machine,” says Linda laughing. “I tell people there’s fairy dust in there because I put that little mask on and I’m out cold.”

Consistent CPAP use has given Linda more than a good night’s rest:

    * Better health. Even after the first night of CPAP use, Linda’s diabetes and blood pressure numbers improved. Combined with lifestyle changes, they’ll continue to improve. “I’d like to get off some medications,” says Linda.
    * Gradual improvement in daytime drowsiness. “I still get a little tired at lunchtime, but as far as feeling alert, it’s a night and day difference,” she says.
    * Gratefulness! “I had symptoms that could easily have led to death,” says Linda. “Getting sleep apnea diagnosed and treated may have saved my life.”

Rise and shine to a bright future

Today Linda looks forward to her upcoming retirement. “I already have my tickets to go to Arizona to visit friends,” she says.

She has retirement goals, too, including a return to swimming, reading more books and taking better care of her health.

“Getting this sleep issue resolved was a really good start for me,” she says. “Another cool thing is I started dreaming again. I hadn’t dreamed in years…”

WANTED: Your healthy sleep

If you’re concerned about the quality of your sleep or you experience daytime sleepiness, talk to your doctor. A sleep evaluation may be needed. Your doctor may also recommend a sleep evaluation for problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

And if your family mentions that you snore loudly? Take note -- it could be a symptom of sleep apnea. Accurately diagnosed and successful treated, sleep apnea doesn’t have to rob you of health -- and possibly life.

Catch this thief!

Posted Date: February 2012