Preliminary reports of the tragic death of Chicago Bears defensive end Gaines Adams, 26, indicate that he suffered a heart attack, possibly in his sleep (according to NBC).  Reports have also stated that he had an enlarged heart, which is a common side effect of obstructive sleep apnea.  Therefore, unfortunately, it is possible that sleep apnea played a role in his untimely death.

Professional athletes, especially those who play such positions as defensive or offense line in football, are at significant risk for sleep apnea.  They usually have larger than normal necks, which is a definite risk factor, and their body mass index will often be significantly higher than the norm.  For instance, someone who is 6’3″ tall and weighs 319 pounds has a body mass index of 40, which places them at SEVERE risk of sleep apnea.  If their neck measurement is 17″ or more, they are at increased risk.  Does that sound like anybody on your favorite team?

It is important that athletes, their families, their doctors, team trainers all be aware that the body type now so typical in football is, in itself, dangerous to health.  If it leads to sleep apnea, it places them at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma, depression … and for 38,000 Americans each year it leads to their death.

We’ve seen it before.  On Christmas Night of 2004, NFL legend Reggie White passed away of a heart attack due to complications of sleep apnea.  Sadly, we will see it again.  We may have just seen it in the case of Gaines Adams.

To his family, we send our deepest condolences.  To his peers, we send our deepest concerns that they take the time to find out if they are at risk for sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is dangerous … but very treatable.  Death from sleep apnea is unnecessary.  Knowledge is the key to preventing further tragedies.

Keep this in mind … if you snore at night and feel exhausted during the day, you might have sleep apnea.  If you neck circumference is 17″ or more (15″ for women), you may be at risk.  If your Body Mass Index is 30 or more, you are likely at increased risk.  Don’t wait … contact your personal healthcare provider and find out if you are at risk.

We have a free online sleep apnea risk assessment test available in two locations … on the home page of the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Foundation website, www.reggiewhitefoundation.org, and at www.sleepwellandlive.com Free, easy, comprehensive … it will only take a few moments for you to find out if you are at risk for sleep apnea.  Take the test.  The alternative is something not to be taken lightly.

Steve Gardner, Executive Director

Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research & Education Foundation

Have you been told that you might have sleep apnea and are wondering whether or not it’s worth the time and expense to find out?  Here are some important reasons why you should:

  1. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause death.  38,000 Americans die every year of complications due to sleep apnea.
  2. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease.
  3. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate diabetes.
  4. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate high blood pressure.
  5. Sleep apnea can cause stroke.
  6. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate asthma.
  7. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate depression.
  8. Sleep apnea’s loud snoring and choking/gasping for air at night can damage and even ruin relationships.
  9. Sleep apnea can make you so exhausted that you can’t perform at work.
  10. Sleep apnea can cause extremely dangerous drowsy driving.
  11. And if that’s not enough, sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate erectile dysfunction.

Add to all of that the fact that sleep apnea sufferers experience frequent morning headaches and frequently nocturnal urination, and you’ve got a whole host of reasons to consider sleep apnea as something you don’t want to let go untreated.

And here’s another reason:  most cases of sleep apnea can be treated rather easily and effectively!

You’re rushing about wildly, trying to get the shopping done, get to the relatives’ house, trying to jam extra hours into the day, maybe even partying late on week nights.

‘Tis the season … for dangerous drowsy driving.

The roads filling up with college students returning home (often after all-nighters studying for finals), families on the road to visit relatives and friends.  Early morning shopping deals and days that begin and end in the dark all contribute to reduced sleep time and impaired wakefulness.  Add sleep apnea to that mix, and there is strong likelihood that you will encounter or become one of the  drowsy drivers on the road.

Driving simulation studies show that when drivers have been awake for 19 hours, they drive as poorly as when they have a blood alcohol level of 0.10, which is above the legal limit in most states.  If you pull an “all nighter” and then drive, it’s equivalent to driving drunk.   When sleep apnea is also present:  people with untreated mild to moderate sleep apnea, alone, perform worse behind the wheel than people with blood alcohol level of 0.06.

The National Traffic Safety Administration says there are 100,000 crashes per year due to fatigue and sleepiness each year.  And 1,550 deaths.

On average, it takes as little as two seconds of dozing at the wheel to cause you to inadvertently change lanes, swerve into oncoming traffic, or run off the road.

Most drivers do not realize that they are too sleepy and over-estimate their vigilance.  The most common warning signs are:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Frequent yawning and rubbing of eyes
  • Daydreaming and wandering thoughts instead of concentrating fully on the road
  • Drifting in your lane
  • Not remembering the last couple of miles

What to do if you notice ANY of these warning signs:

  • Pull over … call the people you are driving to visit and take a nap in a motel
  • If there is another person in the car with you, switch drivers
  • Don’t be macho … recognize that your warning signs can be the precursor to an accident … often not only involving you and the people in your car, but pedestrians and people in other cards.

What to do if you suspect sleep apnea:   take our free online sleep apnea risk assessment test at www.sleepwellandlive.com .

Don’t hesitate to contact your local sleep center and get evaluated.   Lives may well hang in the balance.

From the “Is this a Good Use of Research Money?” file:

Golfers who undergo treatment for sleep apnea may improve their golf game as well as their overall health, shows new research. A new study presented at CHEST 2009, the 75th annual international scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), found that golfers with OSA who received nasal positive airway pressure (NPAP) therapy for their disorder improved their daytime sleepiness scores and lowered their golf handicap by as much as three strokes. Researchers suggest that the possibility of improving your golf game may be a significant motivator to improve NPAP compliance rates among golfers.

“More so than many sports, golf has a strong intellectual component, with on-course strategizing, focus, and endurance being integral components to achieving good play,” said Marc L. Benton, MD, FCCP, Atlantic Sleep and Pulmonary Associates, Madison, NJ. “OSAS can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, all side effects that can negatively impact a person’s ability to golf to the best of their ability.”

Okay … these findings may encourage some golfers to be compliant with their therapy, and that’s good.  But this story has attracted major news media attention all over the country.  FAR more important for people to know is that treating sleep apnea saves lives, saves marriages, helps diabetics to better manage their disease, and prevents co-morbidities like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, asthma, depression and erectile dysfunction.  That is what people really need to know about getting treated for sleep apnea.

The Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research and Education Foundation has developed a free iPhone application that enables users to determine if they are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

The “app,” called Sleep Well, combines three screening tools used by sleep specialists to determine an individual’s risk of having or developing the sleep disorder that affects 18 million Americans. It provides immediate feedback once users provide answers to questions regarding their sleep habits, snoring, fatigue, and health factors. iPhone users may find and obtain the app at http://appshopper.com/healthcare-fitness/sleep-well.

The app also includes a feature that will list nearby sleep disorders centers for users.  According to Foundation Executive Director Steve Gardner, sleep disorders centers can be added to the app’s directory upon making a one-time $100 donation to the non-profit organization.  Co-founded shortly after the former Packers Hall of Famer died prematurely at age 43 by his wife, Sara, and the Sleep Wellness Institute, Wisconsin’s oldest and largest independent  sleep disorders center, the foundation’s goal is to spread the word about the dangers of sleep apnea to people of all socio-economic groups and help provide treatment to those who otherwise would be unable to access the healthcare services needed to treat obstructive sleep apnea, the disease that contributed to White’s death.

A recent visitor to our blog came here after doing an internet search for “you can’t die from sleep apnea.”

WRONG!

38,000 Americans die from complications of sleep apnea every year.  For those who think you can’t, I have two words:  Reggie White.

I also recently saw someone on Twitter who said “Sleep is for the weak.”

WRONG!

If you don’t get sufficient sleep, your body builds a “sleep debt” and can actually enter a pre-diabetic state.  So if you’re one of those who think sleep is for the weak, please enjoy your shortened, sleep-deprived life.

Steve Gardner


The Sleep Wellness Institute, Inc., will open its third CPAP2GO store  on Thursday, Oct. 1, in West Allis.  CPAP2GO specializes in continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, masks and supplies used to help many people with obstructive sleep apnea.  The CPAP2GO stores are the only retail CPAP stores in Wisconsin operated by a sleep disorders center.  The first store opened in Franklin last year, and a Waukesha location opened in April.

The newest store, at 2931 S. 108th Street, will be open Monday through Saturday, with evening hours Monday through Friday.  It will be staffed by specially trained employees and will feature the “30/30 Advantage” – an in-stock supply of more than 30 masks and a free 30-night comfort and fit guarantee.  Much of the equipment will be covered by most health insurance plans.

The store will be managed by Cody Glorioso, who is the director of the Sleep Wellness Institute’s durable medical equipment department.  The store’s telephone number will be 414-761-CPAP (2727). A website, www.cpap2go.net, provides more information for customers.

The Sleep Wellness Institute is Wisconsin’s largest independent sleep disorders laboratory.  It is fully accredited to diagnose and treat sleep disorders among adults and children by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The Sleep Wellness Institute, Wisconsin’s largest independent sleep disorders laboratory, now offers a free, online service that allows web users to determine if they are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

The screening service is a combination of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Berlin sleep apnea questionnaire, and a body mass (BMI) calculator.  The Epworth helps determine a person’s daytime sleepiness level, while the Berlin is focused on behaviors that are typical of sleep apnea.  The BMI calculator is based on height and weight … a BMI of 30 or greater is considered one of the risk factors for sleep apnea.

The interactive screening tool can be found on the Sleep Wellness Institute’s website on the home page.

Sleep apnea is a common, yet serious sleep disorder that can lead to or exacerbate other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and more.  It affects approximately 18 million Americans and is typified by snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, and daytime exhaustion.

Steve Gardner

Over the last two years, the Sleep Wellness Institute has partnered with Kleen Test Products (KTP) to study the effect of screening, testing and treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) on a volunteer segment of their employee population. Through numerous benefits programs, Kleen Test rewards employees for healthy lifestyles and offers many programs to improve the well-being of all who work for them. This study offered a unique opportunity to learn about OSA, provide treatment to those employees affected and determine if OSA increased employee/employer healthcare costs.

KTP has a workforce of 585 employees. Our original recruitment target was to get sixty volunteer employees to come forward – with 20 in each group. After recruitment we were able to start with 65 employees (representing 11% of the company’s workforce.)
To cost-effectively determine which employees had OSA, we initially used an at-home portable ApneaLink screening device for one night. Those employees who showed potential OSA from the results of the ApneaLink screening were given an overnight sleep study. The results of each sleep study were interpreted by a board certified sleep physician to confirm if the employee had OSA. The results of the sleep studies demonstrated that 33 of the KTP employees showed no evidence of OSA, 27 showed evidence of OSA, and 5 subjects withdrew from the project.

We are still in the process of collecting data regarding healthcare usage during the 12 months each employee was in the study. Our targeted completion date is October 8, 2009. Once all data have been collected we will be able to make assertions and findings that are statistically significant. However, of the 65 employee volunteers there are 11 employees diagnosed with OSA using their CPAP devices for 4 or more hours per night, preliminary data shows a trend of reduction in healthcare spending. (To date, the reduction in spending in this group of employees is down from an average of approximately $3,900 per employee to $205 per employee.) The premise of the trial does appear to be valid – patients suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea use more healthcare than non-OSA sufferers. During the next year, we will continue to collect compliance and healthcare spending data to determine what effects CPAP set-up and screening have on healthcare costs of OSA patients.

People often ask us what we  recommend to help them fall asleep.  Here are some tips that will help you develop habits that can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day.
  • Exercise in the morning or late afternoon can promote good sleep.
  • Stay away from large meals close to bedtime.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid using electronic devices (computers, cell phone texting, video games) 1 hour before bed.
  • Keep a notepad and pencil by your bed to write down any thoughts that may wake you up at night.
  • Turn your alarm clock around so it’s not facing you; do not look at the clock during the night as this can cause more stress and anxiety about your sleep.
  • If you wake up during the night and can’t fall back asleep, get out of bed (do NOT use the computer).  Go back to bed only when you feel sleepy again.
  • Associate your bed with sleep.  It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio or read.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing.  The bed should be comfortable and the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.
  • Establish set times for waking and sleeping.