Continuous News

Nov 26, 2013 8:57 PM by Jessica James

Sleep Apnea: The Silent Killer

CORPUS CHRISTI - David Mills suffers from sleep apnea like most people. He went years before he was actually diagnosed.

"I [had] gotten to the point where we travel a lot and get up in the morning and go out of town, and we wouldn't get as far as Mathis before my wife would be screaming at me, ‘Pull over. You're going to kill us. You're falling asleep,'" Mills says.

Two and a half years ago, Mills went through a process at the Torr Sleep Center where technicians attached monitoring devices all over his body. The wires are hooked up to a machine and, while he slept, technicians monitored his breathing and sleeping patterns.

Dr. Salim Surani is board certified in sleep medicine. He says patients with sleep apnea will stop breathing anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes at a time. The pauses can occur hundreds of times in one night.

"When we reach the dream sleep, we reach tone of muscle. So if you have a short neck, the airway collapses, the air cannot go in and out, and our body doesn't like it. So you keep waking up again, again and again," Dr. Surani explains.

Dr. Surani says chronic snoring and sleep apnea are usually connected. If untreated, it can cause your blood pressure to rise, and even lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

"We always call it the silent killer," Dr. Surani describes about sleep apnea. "It doesn't kill right away but when you're sleeping, it creates a problem over a period of time and that can be a problem."

That's why it's so important for people with sleep apnea o use a device called a CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure.

"The very smallest, slightest worked for me," Mills says. "It's not like a scuba mask. The thing goes under the nose ... not near as bad as I expected."

Now that his sleep apnea is under control, Mills is back to living a normal life.

"Now I can drive early morning to late. I can watch a movie. [It's] no small thing. It's a huge difference."

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