Summers Time for fun, Even if it Kills you

When you’re having fun, it’s easy to overlook the importance of safety. In this article, I’ll go over some things to keep in mind while on vacation. I’ll address some safety issues, as well as help you make sure you’re taking care of the important stuff.

But what does this all have to do with sleep? Read on…

Have fun but be SafeFun

It’s finally here! The day you’ve been waiting for. All the planning paid off, and now it’s time to enjoy that time away. But did you forget something? Hopefully, you have everything ready; but you already feel a sense of urgency because you need to get on the road by a certain time. So your stress level is up a notch. But remember, keep it fun.

Then there are all those extra cars on the road. That’s another thing. And that thought raises your stress level another notch. But you’re not the only one whose stress level goes up thinking about theses things. So, we’ve got several things going on here:

1-There are more cars on the road, with people driving more miles.

2-People’s stress levels might a bit higher than usual.

3-Drivers face more distractions.

With all that planning, don’t forget the most important thing…

SAFETY FIRST

First, let’s take a look at some of the things that cause distracted driving. They are:

  • Talking-either with other in the car. Or other people talking. Like kids, for instance.
  • Talking on a cell phone or texting-Pull over if you need to make that call, or send that text.
  • Eating-Stop somewhere, and take time out to eat.
  • Changing radio station/changing temp controls.
  • Reaching to pick up something you dropped.
  • ‘Zoning out’.

And as you can see, they all have one thing in common…paying attention to something other than driving. However, ‘zoning out’ is the biggest cause of distracted driving.

Let’s take a look at some of these things.

Dying to Have fun

Did you know that the highest number of traffic fatalities occur on Memorial Day weekend, with Labor Day and July 4th close behind? In addition to this, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 deadliest days for teenage drivers.

With that, consider the following.

An average car weighs around 4,000 pounds; while an average SUV is somewhere around 6,000 pounds.

At 60 MPH, you travel 88 feet every second. That’s the length of a football field in 3.4 seconds! And drivers who text, take their eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 88 feet per second, that’s 440 feet or almost one and a half football fields!

And most vehicles are going faster than 88 feet per second on the highway.

Imagine a 4,000-pound chunk of steel barreling down the road at 88 feet per second all by itself. That’s essentially what happens when you take your eyes off the road.

Now, let’s add you into this mix.

You’re on the road, most likely on unfamiliar roads, so at least that helps you stay more alert. However, other factors come into play to add to your distraction/tiredness. Things like kids in the car, a different sleep schedule, sleeping in different places, and driving more than usual. And you can still ‘zone out’ if you drive for too long a time.

Let’s face it, vacations can be tiring.  And drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving and can be just as deadly. See  http://sleepguyblog.com/drowsy-drivers-kill-people/ Yup, here I go again, spoiling all the fun.

But really, you can still have fun if you just keep some things in mind.

Don’t Forget What’s Important

So then, here are some helpful tips on preparing for your awesome vacation:

Maintaining the same sleep schedule is important, but probably not practical or realistic while on vacation.

Get a good nights sleep, not only before the trip but all throughout your vacation as well. Keep in mind that getting a good night’s rest the night before can be more difficult if you’re excited about the trip.

When driving long distance, switch drivers every 2 hrs. Or switch sooner if you feel tired, or find it hard to ‘stay in the moment’. Like, maybe you’re getting anxious, and feel the need to rush things a bit. Stay patient!

Make sure your car is in good shape–Get a tune up before taking off.

Plan your route. Use GPS, and have it ‘dialed in’ before you start out.

Still not sure where to go? Follow this link to some affordable vacation ideas. https://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalsBlog/2015/06/19/summer-savings-29-affordable-vacation-rental-destinations

O.K, so you’ve got your trip all planned out, and your car is tuned up and ready to go; but what about you? Are you both physically and mentally ready for this? Because, really, there will already be enough drowsy/distracted drivers out there. You really don’t need to add another one.

Let’s check one more thing.

Have fun, but get it Done

With all that danger out there, it’s even more important that you’re extra alert. With that in mind, let’s talk sleep apnea for a moment.

Do any of the following describe you?

  • Loud chronic snoring.
  • Gasping or choking sounds.
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom.
  • Waking with dry mouth and/or a sore throat.
  • Waking with a morning headache.
  • Are you tired all the time?
  • Being moody and irritable.

If so, have you used any of these excuses for how you are?

  • This is how I always sleep.
  • It’s not that bad.
  • I could just lose some weight.
  • Snoring doesn’t hurt me.
  • I don’t want to wear a mask.

Do you need a sleep study, but are too busy right now? Maybe you’ll wait till fall when the kids are back in school. Perhaps now is a bad time. After all, you’re getting ready for that fun vacation you’ve been planning for some time. You can always go in later, right?

I mean really, who wants to spend a night in some hospital when it’s so nice out? Besides, this is vacation time! And these days are numbered.

Well, if you haven’t already, you might want to see my article on the dangers of untreated sleep apnea http://sleepguyblog.com/alarming-truth-sleep-apnea/

It’s worth not being another statistic.

And yes, you can travel with a CPAP machine. One of my patients is a Doctor who takes his CPAP with when he goes mountain climbing. It’s a special one that adjusts to different elevations.

Conclusion

While it’s nice to get away, it’s even more important to be fully awake and alert while on the road. With increased traffic, comes increased distracted drivers, and increased traffic fatalities. Plan ahead, stay alert, and don’t get in a hurry. And remember, even if you’re ok and alert, there are others who aren’t.

I hope you have lots of fun on your vacation. Be carefree, but not careless.

Till next time…Blessings

 

Is CPAP Treatment Really Just A Scam?

There are people who think that CPAP is just another way for ‘them’ to get your money. Is it? Join me as I examine this quite reasonable viewpoint.

“This is a Racket!”Is CPAP a scam?

The patient sitting before me was a rather tough looking gentleman who voiced his opinions quite bluntly. I kept trying to discuss the sleep study, but he just wanted to talk about guns and knives, and how he ‘takes care’ of situations.

He even took out one of his knives and showed it to me.

“Oh, it’s still got blood on it,” he said, wiping the blade on his pants leg. Putting the knife down, he scrutinized me suspiciously, and said: “I think this is a racket!” And he was serious. This guy doesn’t say anything unless he is serious.

Then he went on to ask me some pointed questions. One of which was “How many people that you test end up on CPAP?’ It was a good question, and I answered him as accurately as I could.  “About 50-75% + are started on CPAP”, I replied.

With that, he said, “Yeah, see. Now if you’d told me only a few people are put on CPAP, I’d be o.k. with that. But with that many, it sounds like a racket to me.”

I sure was glad he was no longer holding that bloody knife.

We continued this conversation as I proceeded to hook him up. As it turned out, He thought CPAP was a racket for several reasons. One of them was that he really didn’t understand the consequences of untreated sleep apnea.

However, he did listen as I talked. Maybe that was because I was up front with him. Or that I really tried to speak at his level. Actually, he didn’t have much choice; I kinda had him strapped in the chair. (LOL!!)

Standards of Care

We needed to find a way to treat people more effectively. Therefore, some kind of standard had to be developed. Something we could use as a reference to determine the severity of sleep apnea. Thus, the creation of the Apnea Hypopnea Index (or AHI).

This index categorizes the severity of sleep apnea and is based on the number of times you stop breathing in an hour. For instance, if you stop breathing 5 times in an hour, your AHI would be 5.

AHI categories are:

  • Not significant: AHI less than 5.
  • Mild sleep apnea: AHI 5-15.
  • Moderate sleep apnea: AHI 15-30.
  • Severe sleep apnea: AHI greater than 30.

Using this standard as a reference, it’s estimated that as many as 20% of Americans have some degree of sleep apnea; although that figure could actually be low. Also, many factors can impact the severity of OSA to a greater or lesser degree. These include age, disease, and sex.

Uncovering the Great CPAP Scam!!

But are these standards manipulated in a way that’s more focused on sales, as opposed to appropriate treatment? In other words, are these standards set intentionally low so that people who really don’t need treatment are started on CPAP anyway? Much research has gone into establishing accurate guidelines.

One such study is reported in an article in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It details an 18-year follow-up of 1,522 people. These people had anywhere from ‘no’ sleep apnea (AHI less than 5), up to severe sleep apnea (AHI greater than 30). The study shows that people with sleep apnea are 3 times more likely to die as those who don’t. You can read the complete article here: http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=1014 

Also, we use at least 2 different standards to determine whether someone actually qualifies for CPAP. As a result, those who are more at risk of sudden death, such as people who already have heart disease, for example, can qualify for treatment with a lower AHI than those who have no known heart disease.

So no, we can’t just decide, ‘hey, let’s put this guy on CPAP because we’re a little short on money’. (And actually putting someone on CPAP when they don’t need it can be harmful in itself). That whole thing could be a lawsuit in the making.

Although it does seem like money, more than compassion is the driving force behind much of health care. Maybe it is. But the unfortunate by-product of that is many of us well-meaning healthcare folks get a bad rap.

To die or not to die, That is the Question

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. So many people don’t realize how threatening poor quality sleep really is to your health. Click on the following link to learn more:  http://sleepguyblog.com/__poor-quality-sleep-cause-disease. There’s also a direct link between sleep apnea and heart disease; as well as Diabetes. See http://sleepguyblog.com/alarming-truth-sleep-apnea/

What Would you do?

So, if you had a friend with sleep apnea, and you knew about the diseases it caused, would you talk to them about it? Yeah, I know, we can’t force anyone to do anything. It’s ultimately up to the person. But the more you care about someone, the more strongly you’ll try to help, right?

And while I really don’t know my patients very well. I do have a concern for mankind in general. And that is what drives me to help. And there’s a bunch of us out there.

Final Thoughts

I guess there will always be those who think we’re just out to scam people. It’s funny, though. The only people I’ve heard accuse us of that are the ones who aren’t using CPAP, and/or don’t really know anyone who is. And really, I don’t hear the scam word all that often.

But I think about the lives I’ve really helped. And the people who have actually experienced CPAP, and what they say about it.

Sure, there are people who want to ‘help’ you just because they’ll make money doing so. And yeah, I also make money helping you. But, honestly,  even if I had all the money I needed so that I didn’t have to work, I’d still enjoy doing what I do.(But then again, maybe I’m a bit crazy!)

However, there are a lot of scams and insurance fraud out there. And I think it’s harder than ever to trust people. But Sleep Apnea really is a serious life-threatening disorder, and CPAP is still the gold standard of care.

I’d like to hear your thoughts. Have you ever experienced any medical or insurance fraud? Please leave out any names, but otherwise, be as specific as you can. Let’s talk.

Till next time…Blessings.

 

But

The Patients I see at the Sleep lab are Awesome!!

I really enjoy working with the patients I see at my sleep lab and often think about all the people I’ve helped. So with that in mind, please join me as I, once again, reminisce on my years as a Sleep Tech.

My Sleep Study Patients Aren’t Stupid

So many of the patients that I see in the sleep lab are quite consciousness challenged, but it’s not funny. These people come in fighting the very sleep that they never really fully attain. It must be very frustrating, to say the least.

I really feel for these people who have struggled, day after semi-conscious sleepless day. Dragging themselves around. Maybe even being ridiculed for being ‘lazy’. Or misdiagnosed with depression; although a lack of good quality sleep can also lead to this. See http://sleepguyblog.com/damaging-effects-sleep-deprivation1/

I mean, here are people who go through life in a fog, with never enough energy to do things. And yet, life is calling out from all directions, screaming for attention. Reality doesn’t care that you’re too tired to do anything at the time. It demands your attention, even if you have none to give.

No, these people aren’t lazy. And they’re not stupid either. It’s just that long-term sleep deprivation has taken its toll…not only on their minds but their bodies as well.

A little empathy goes a long ways.

Therefore, once my patients are all tucked in, and the studies are up and running, I can settle into the mostly quiet solitude and begin the work of saving lives. I say ‘mostly’ because some nights can be quite hectic!

Yet even this generally slower pace has never been boring. There’s usually something going on; like the time one of my patients vanished right before my very eyes!!

With that, I now present to you…

The Case of the Disappearing Patient

But first, a little background.

I travel to several different hospitals, so I get to do sleep studies in various facilities. Also, each hospital has the sleep lab set up differently. This particular night, I was at a hospital where the sleep rooms are down the hall from the control room.

Anyway, when a patient is ‘hooked up’ there are a ton of wires all over the place. These wires are plugged into what’s called a ‘Head Box’. This Head Box is attached by a cable to an amplifier in the patient’s room.

The amplifier then transfers the data from the patient to the control room where I sit. There’s also an infrared camera with a two-way speaker in the patients room so we can talk back and forth.

patients

(By the way, that’s me, cleverly disguised as a sleep study patient. Hey, check out those crazy wires! (It was one of my students first attempt at a hookup. Not bad, huh?)).

Anyway, one of the instructions I give my patients is the need to let me know if they need to get up; say to use the bathroom, or something. This is because I have to go into their room and disconnect the Head Box.

Now you see him, now you Don’t

So here I am, sitting at the computers, doing some paperwork. The studies have been running for a few hours by now. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, a red square appears on one of the monitors. I look up to see the red ‘Loss of Signal’ icon. My lightning fast brain also notices that the patient’s signals have flat lined!! :-0 !!

I take a quick look at the t.v monitor, but the bed is empty!!  Double  :-0 !!! ! So I go tearing down the hall wondering just what I’ll find, as this guy said nothing about sleep walking. Arriving at his room, I carefully open the door not knowing what to expect. I mean, I hope he’s still in there!!

It’s dark, except for some light coming through a partially open bathroom door. And there, Head Box in one hand, and opening the bathroom door with the other, stands my patient. Stopping dead in his tracks, he looks at me in surprise and says:

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you!”

Knowledge is Power

Allow me a moment of seriousness.

As a sleep technologist, I wear many hats. One of which is that of a teacher. I talk with my patients about the dangers of untreated sleep apnea as much as they’ll listen. Some listen in silence. Others ask a ton of questions. And then there are those who don’t really seem like they want to know anything, or maybe they’re just too tired to care at the moment.

However, many people just don’t realize that having a sleep study can lead to a huge improvement in their quality of life. Therefore, whether they’re too stubborn, or just in denial, education plays a key role in their treatment. That’s because a knowledgeable patient is a receptive patient.

Consequently, I’ll I talk to them and share as much as they really want to know; even though I don’t know everything myself. On the other hand, I do know enough to do what I do, and I do it quite well.

Closing Thoughts

So how’re you feeling right now? I mean, you’ve read this far (unless you skipped down to this part), therefore you must have some type of interest in sleep problems.

If that’s the case, I’d really like to hear from you, as there are so many people out there struggling, and looking for answers. What you share might be just what they need to hear.

Hey, saving lives is fun, please join me in this quest if you will, and share what you know, and/or have experienced. Your comment could actually lead to changing someone’s life for the better.

Thanks for letting me have some of your time. Till next week…

Blessings

 

 

The Things That I do put Most People to Sleep

I just want to let my hair down (LOL, I don’t have that much!), and share some things on a more personal level. But I’ll also not sugar coat anything about the reality of sleep apnea. So, yeah, this’s a friendly chat; but friends don’t let friends die before their time. (I know, I have to ruin everything don’t I?)

I Have Sleep Super Powers

As I sit down at the controls I take a look at my monitors. Both screens show nice crisp signals, so I ease Sleepback a bit and keep an eye on things; waiting for my patients to fall asleep, and some real activity to begin. How’s that for being different? It’s not until my patients are asleep that things really start to happen.

Yet, a sense of peace comes over me as I watch the monitors, and everything gets kinda surreal, like I’m in another world; or on another planet.

Sitting here, I began to think back on things; and take some amusement in the fact that, among my many talents, I’m a CPAP Ninja!  That’s right! I have the ability to go into my patient’s room and start them on CPAP without rousing them!

Some will wake in the morning wondering when I came in and put the mask on. But actually, it’s not that I’m really that good, these patients are just that sleep deprived.

Common comments I get are, “It must be pretty boring watching people sleep”; and, “How do you stay awake all night?”

Those remarks used to really bother me, because, here I am literally saving people’s lives, and all I get is ‘it must be so boring, how can you stay awake?’ And yet, it just shows me how little people understand about what happens, or doesn’t happen but should, while they sleep.

Then I find myself going back in time and recalling all the patients  I’ve helped; and the knowledge that, yes, I really am actually saving people’s lives.

That’s a Dumb Question!

One guy comes to mind. I have my patients fill out some paperwork before the study starts. I’m in the control room, which is right outside the patient’s rooms, when this guy calls out, “What kind of question is this?” I went to his door and asked: “What do you mean?”

“This question”, he says, ” ‘Has today been unusual in any respect?’ Really,” he said looking up at me a bit sarcastically,  “I’m having a !@#$ sleep study, and you’re wondering if today’s been different in any way?”

I’m not sure if he’s serious or just joking, so I simply respond with “I guess the question should be reworded to read, ‘Up until now, has the day been unusual in any respect?”

Just the Facts Ma’am

The patients that have sleep studies come from all walks of life, and all ages. From infants, all the way to those towards the end of their lives. However, the ‘average’ patient is an obese middle aged male.

And yes, sleep apnea can run in families. This is because you inherit the physical characteristics that make sleep apnea more likely; such as a short thick neck; and being overweight. Among other characteristics.

Also, it’s estimated that 1 out of 5 Americans have mild sleep apnea. Although, by the time people are seen in the sleep lab, those numbers are significantly higher. For example, the average number of people placed on treatment during a sleep study is 50%-75% or more. Additionally, as many as 80% of people with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.

However, this disorder is more common in men than women; or is it? Check out my article that addresses this:

http://sleepguyblog.com/bias-diagnosis-sleep-disorders-women/

Sleep Well and Prosper

So many people think that treating sleep disorders is only about sleeping better. I hear people say they don’t even know why they’re at the sleep lab because they don’t have any problem sleeping.

For example, I have patient’s, come to the lab and do their version of sleep. Many times, these same people tell me they sleep just fine and don’t know why they’re here.

And yet that same person might have high blood pressure, or other heart issues, or be diabetic. When I explain how their heart condition or diabetes might just be caused by sleep apnea they start thinking. Unless, of course, they’re in denial; and there’s a lot of that out there.

Maybe they really believe they’re sleeping well. Maybe they know something’s wrong, but just don’t want to see a Doctor. Seems that most people seen in the sleep lab are there because someone else noticed a problem.

Usually, it’s a spouse or significant other that has the complaint. That’s because they’re the ones kept awake by loud snoring, or ‘all that thrashing about’ during the night. Many couples no longer sleep in the same bed, or even the same room for this very reason!

Then, there are patients who hope that sleep apnea is the problem, and CPAP is the answer. However, they don’t ‘qualify’ for treatment. Then, when I get them up in the morning, and they realize they don’t have the mask on, they quietly go about finishing the morning paperwork; leaving the lab in silence.

I feel sorry for those people really; here’s one more thing that isn’t their problem. It’s unfortunate because not knowing can be worse than knowing. I guess I can’t be Superman to everyone.

 Closing Thoughts on Sleep

So what do you think? Because although more and more people are hearing about sleep apnea, there’s still much work to be done in the way of educating the general population about this outright deadly, but easily treatable, disorder.

Please don’t let denial kill you or someone you love.

Therefore, carefully consider your life or that of the one you love; and if you have any questions or concerns, leave a comment. Who knows, you might just share something that could help someone else.

I’ll also do my best to answer any questions, and/or respond to your comments. Thank you.

Till next time…Blessings.