Take the first step to a better night’s sleep.
Like many spouses, Frank Johnson’s wife isn’t a big fan of Frank’s snoring. That alone might not have been enough to alert him to a potential sleeping disorder, but, he says, “I always felt like I was a light sleeper. On top of that, my brother passed away a few years ago, and his sleep apnea may have played a part in his heart condition.”
So, Johnson, a 62-year-old resident of Larchmont, N.Y., wanted to investigate further. “I felt like a sleep study was a good idea,” he says.
After obtaining a referral from his primary care physician, Johnson made an appointment with the Sleep Center at White Plains Hospital, a state-of-the-art facility where patients can go for testing to help diagnose sleep disorders. Led by board certified sleep medicine specialist Dr. Fulvia Milite, the Sleep Center offers diagnosis and treatment for such common sleep issues as:
- Insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
- Parasomnia (movement during sleep such as sleep walking or acting out dreams)
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during the day)
- Narcolepsy (the tendency to fall asleep at unwanted times).
Dr. Milite also sees many patients like Johnson with potential sleep apnea.
Undergoing a sleep study at White Plains Hospital entails a pre-study interview to assess general health and candidacy for the testing, followed by a physical examination to see what physical factors, if any, may be contributing to the patient’s sleep problems.
The doctor also checks the area at the back of the throat, because, “A tighter oropharyngeal area means a higher risk for sleep apnea,” Dr. Milite says. She will also note the patient’s neck size, height, weight, and BMI. “For Frank,” she says, “being male, aged 62, having a larger neck size, and snoring puts him at a higher probability of sleep apnea; that’s why he was a good candidate for a sleep study.”
Before turning out the lights, Johnson was hooked up to a number of monitors to check for changes in brain waves, EKG, air flow, oxygen levels, and muscle movement, among other systems. Johnson was in bed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., but only slept about 2.5 hours total. Yet, that was enough for the doctors and technicians to see what they needed to see and eventually confirm a diagnosis of severe sleep apnea.
Treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea depend on the severity of the disease and the weight of the patient, according to Dr. Milite. “Severe sleep apnea is most often treated with a CPAP machine that provides positive airway pressure to keep the upper airway open. In obese patients, weight loss is an important part of treatment. In non-obese patients, a minor surgical procedure to insert a nerve stimulator to open the upper airway during sleep is also an option,” Dr. Milite says. Johnson was interested in the latter, so Dr. Milite referred him to an ENT doctor.
From Johnson’s point of view, the study “was very easy to do.” He says he arrived at 10 p.m. and was back home by 6 a.m. and able to catch a few more hours of sleep before work. He was relieved to know that sleep apnea is treatable.
“If not treated,” Johnson notes, “it could have led to atrial fibrillation, stroke, or heart failure for me. The experience at the WPH Sleep Center was first-class, and I’m glad I did the sleep study.”