Monthly Archives: February 2015

RespShop Scholarship Award Winners Announced

scholarship-respshopAfter months of submissions – during which time we received more than 500 total applications – we have selected our winners for the first annual RespShop scholarship award. This year, we’re awarding six scholarships: one $1,500 grand prize, two $1,000 scholarships, and three $500 awards.

The application process this year was extremely competitive. Out of 500 submissions, we felt comfortable awarding over thirty scholarships, and we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the writing and the breadth of research and personal experiences presented. Seeing so many people’s firsthand experiences with sleep apnea and continuous positive airway pressure equipment was educational for us, and further reinforced our belief in the power and efficacy of CPAP therapy.

We enjoyed reading through all of the scholarship applications, and as planned, we’re going to share the winning submissions on our blog over the next few weeks. We think you’ll like them as much as we did, and we hope that their personal experiences with sleep apnea and CPAP inspires others to get the treatment they need.

Our winners:

$1,500 prize: Gary R. of UC Davis

$1,000 prizes: Alexis R. of Nicholls State, Mark W. of Western Washington University

$500 prizes: Dashon K, prepared to start at CSU Pueblo, Kelley C. of Cal State Northridge, and Derek E, who will be attending Weber State.

Congratulations to the winners!

We plan to continue the scholarship award for years to come. We are planning on tweaking the criteria for the award slightly for 2016, but we do plan to offer several scholarship prizes again for the foreseeable future. Year one of the scholarship was a resounding success, and we look forward to continuing the forward again next year!

Consequences of Sleep Apnea

reasons-to-go-outside-8-6-2013-facebook-twitterPeople with untreated sleep apnea generally don’t feel well when they wake up in the morning. They’ll have headaches that may last throughout the day, and they’ll generally display signs of irritability. Often, these people will fail to remember critical details, and they might struggle to focus while at work or when they’re driving. It’s not uncommon for untreated sleep apnea victims to experience sore throats throughout the year, even when it’s not peak cold and flu season. At night, they may experience frequent urination and possibly sexual dysfunction. Some people even experience depression.

These symptoms are just some of the effects that people may feel each and every day. While none of these difficulties are pleasant they’re actually only the start to the problems that sleep apnea sufferers may experience. Long term, the consequences of sleep apnea are even more unpleasant, and range from mental difficulties to serious health problems.

Mentally, an untreated patient’s quality of life will be lower than a normal individual’s. Sleep apnea sufferers often find themselves too fatigued to do basic activities, like exercising or attending events. They’ll constantly try to take little naps, but won’t ever really feel any relief. Constantly tired, they’re rarely in a great mood, which is unpleasant and can often lead to difficulties in their personal relationships. They feel more argumentative than typical and will be tougher to negotiate with than they might be otherwise. Over time, their cognitive function will decline, which will only further frustrate that person.

Physically, the long term effects are even more damaging than basic cognitive difficulty. Over time, the lack of oxygen in the body – and the daily build-up of carbon dioxide – will contribute to a number of significant health problems. Commonly, patients with undiagnosed sleep apnea will develop hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. Hypertension often develops alongside other heart-related maladies, including general heart disease. A person’s capillaries may restrict over time, which makes it more difficult for the heart to push blood through the lungs. Patients with sleep apnea suffer an inordinately high number of heart attacks and strokes, and may also be saddled with atrial tackicartia or heart arrhythmias.

Sleep apnea is also correlated with diabetes. In fact, eighty-seven percent of people diagnosed with sleep apnea have Type-II diabetes. This occurs because the body is unable to regulate it’s sugar intake, as the lack of sleep interferes with the brain’s ability to regulate the body’s metabolism. While the inverse isn’t true – having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have sleep apnea or are likely to develop the condition if you don’t have it already – the link between the two diseases is frightening.

The bottom line is that sleep apnea is a serious condition. Not only will it impact the quality of your life as you’re living, but it could lead to a number of debilitating health problems down the road.  If you do have sleep apnea, don’t panic: it’s a treatable disease, and with proper therapy, you’ll be able to manage sleep apnea without disrupting your daily routine.

Helping Your Loved One with Sleep Apnea

Is your partner snoring? Are they struggling to stay awake during the day, whether at work or even while driving? We’ve gone into great detail in this blog about the struggles of sleep apnea, and some of the biggest indicators, but we haven’t talked about how a partner can play a crucial role in helping a potential patient get properly diagnosed, and then hopefully start undergoing therapy from a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. One of the key things we know about sleep apnea is that if you snore, it doesn’t mean you’re suffering, but if you do have sleep apnea, you definitely snore. The underlying problem here is that how do you know if you snore? You tend to be asleep while snoring, so you may be unaware. That’s where bed partners, friends, family, and loved ones can come into play, as they tend to be the ones who have to deal with the snoring. Again, I want to point out that just because you snore does not mean you have sleep apnea, but if you do have sleep apnea you’re definitely going to snore. reggie_white-respshop

There are bigger indicators of sleep apnea that we have mentioned in blog posts before, being constantly tired, falling asleep while at work or behind the wheel, or waking up with headaches and sore throats, and if your loved one or bed partner has these signs and is snoring while asleep, it’s probably time that they get tested. CPAP machines are not attractive, and most patients would prefer to avoid them rather than wear them, so getting tested for sleep apnea won’t be easy, but being a bed partner of a potential patient can really help your loved one get tested. Remember, you’re the one who has to deal with the snoring at night, not only are they suffering from a lack of sleep, but they might be keeping you up as well, affecting both of you in your daily activities, whether it’s at work or school.

cropped-cropped-b01.jpgNever forget that sleep apnea is very serious too, and lack of treatment can lead to things like heart attacks, strokes, and other very serious health effects. We’ve even seen deaths like football hall of famer Reggie White. It’s hard for patients to really see how any of this has anything to do with them if they’re only feeling slightly tired, as the health effects tend to come later in life from lack of proper treatment, but sitting down and telling them about the long term effect on their health and how it has to do with you and your family can be a real eye opener for patients. Being there for a loved one can help as they come to terms with having to wear a CPAP machine at night, something that may be uncomfortable, especially at first, but knowing the benefits both long and short term, like improved performance at work, or being safer on the road, can be a huge help.

While most people would think that sleep apnea patients are predominantly male, we know that this isn’t the truth, as both males and females can be suffering. Listening to your partner at night, and noticing if they are struggling to breathe at certain parts of the night is a good way to see if they might benefit from taking a sleep study.

Getting a sleep study is just the first step, but know that if your partner is diagnosed they’re going to have to wear a machine and mask every night, and helping them through this is going to be crucial to properly treating sleep apnea. Yes the mask might be ugly, and at first probably uncomfortable as they adjust to trying to wear a mask while asleep, but being there for them, with constant reminders that taking off the mask is only going to have huge impacts on their overall health (and hey let’s not forget, stopping their snoring so you can sleep more peacefully as well) will be important.

As sleep apnea is still woefully undiagnosed, its important that patients, doctors, and loved ones are all there for each other while working to find those millions who are struggling but don’t know it. Listen for the warning signs, and help your partner understand how undergoing a sleep study can help both of you.

Mask Compliance Tips

ResMed Quattro FX Full Face MaskIf you’re in the beginning stages of CPAP therapy, you may be wondering how people go through this every single night. We know how hard it can be: adjusting to wearing a facemask can be tough, the dangling tubes are unsettling, and the inflow of air can make it tough to fall asleep at first. Once a person adjusts to CPAP therapy, most of these problems will dissipate. The trick is getting to a point where the equipment is no longer a distraction.

At RespShop, we’re experienced in helping patients adjust to CPAP, and we have a few ideas on how you too can become compliant with your therapy. Read on for a couple of tips on how to make your therapy more comfortable, relaxing, and easier to stick with over the long haul.

Find a lightweight and comfortable mask

If you get your initial sleep study done in a typical laboratory, odds are that the diagnostics team evaluating your study set you up with a CPAP mask at some point in the night. If so, you probably were given an old CPAP mask bereft of the comfort features top of the line masks offer. Many of the older masks have uncomfortable cushions and require you to fasten them to your face to keep a seal: these masks can cause painful abrasions and can leave red spots all over your face. If you need a CPAP mask, be sure to avoid masks like these.

Instead, try to find a lightweight mask with an inflatable seal. This type of seal won’t make imprints on your face and you won’t need to overly tighten it. There are a number of great masks in the CPAP universe, and we often recommend that new patients try a mask from the AirFit Series or the Mirage line of masks.

Use a nasal mask

There are three different types of CPAP mask: nasal masks, nasal pillow masks, and full face masks. Most patients will do best with the nasal model. The bottom part of the nasal mask cushion rests gently against the skin between your mouth and nose, and the rest covers your nasal bridge. This design offers patients a quality seal without covering too much of the face.

Full face masks, on the other hand, cover more of your face and are secured to the jaw, which is less stable. The reduced stability can cause leaks, disrupting therapy. Patients who are unwilling to shave facial hair or users who struggle to breathe through their nose – all people with sleep apnea are mouth-breathers prior to treatment, but most close their mouth once on CPAP – may do well with a full face. Still, we’d recommend patients try a nasal mask first.

Similarly, nasal pillow masks aren’t for everybody either. Many new users find the simplistic design and lack of facial contact appealing, but we’ve found that they have lower rates of compliance than nasal masks. Relative to the nasal mask, the nasal pillows are easy to dislodge as you toss and turn, and many new patients dislike the intensity of the air pressure inherent in the design. The bottom line is that nasal masks have a higher rate of compliance: if you want to give a CPAP a real shot and really get rid of your sleep apnea symptoms, we recommend using a nasal mask first, and then adjusting later if it doesn’t work to your liking.