Sleep apnea sufferers can find much-needed relief in CPAP machines

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Everyone treasures, and needs, a good night's sleep.

Sleep apnea can leave a person exhausted, unable to focus - and often at odds with others in the house, due to snoring.

Sleep experts at Temple Health say prompt treatment and education about sleep apnea can help most sleep more soundly in a short time.

"This is your heart rate..these are your sleep stages," says Dr. Maria Elena Vega Sanchez as she and a patient look at a sleep study.

For this patient, and 22 million other Americans, obstructive sleep apnea is stealing her peaceful sleep.

Normally, air flows freely down the throat during sleep.

But in sleep apnea, muscles in the throat relax, blocking airflow.

When breathing stops -

"They're waking up multiple times to free the obstruction," says Dr. Vega Sanchez, a pulmonologist with Temple's Sleep Disorders Center.

She adds, "Basically, the patient is thrown from a deep state of sleep into a lighter state of sleep."

Dr. Maria Elena Vega Sanchez of Temple Health says that fragmented, shallower sleep can cause daytime sleepiness, and inability to concentrate.

Other symptoms include loud snoring, choking or gasping for air, and irritability.

If it's not treated, sleep apnea raises the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and irregular heartbeats.

Sometimes, dental appliances, or adjusting a person's sleeping position can help.

However, CPAP - continuous positive airway pressure - is the most effective treatment.

"It basically provides positive pressure to the upper airway to keep the airway open," explains Dr Vega Sanchez.

Bulky, noisy CPAP machines, with big face masks are a thing of the past.

Temple's Sleep Disorders Center says the options have never been better.

"We have almost 35 different masks," notes Tahseen Shariff, CRT, RPSGT, manager of the center.

Shariff says proper fittings and education are a priority, so that patients will regularly use their CPAP devices.

"You can move any way, mask is not going to come off, right, and nothing on your eyes, nor on your bridge," he says as he demonstrates a new mask to a patient.

When CPAPs are fitted and used properly, people can feel more refreshed and alert.

And they stop the snoring, so everyone in the house may sleep better.

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