Sleep apnea cured with customized mask

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Signs of a sleep problem

Sleep disorders are difficult to detect during a routine physical. Talk to your doctor today about having a professional sleep study if you regularly experience two or more of the following symptoms:

Consistent fatigue during the day

Forgetfulness, mood changes or difficulty concentrating

Loud snoring

Snoring interrupted by pauses in breathing

High blood pressure

Frequent nighttime awakening or insomnia

Gasping or choking at night

Waking up with heart palpitations

Morning headaches

Erectile dysfunction

Frequent urination at night

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes

If you are medically obese.

Provided by Ingalls Health System

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When Nancy Lueder’s family broke the news that her chronic snoring was keeping them up at night, the 48-year-old Tinley Park woman refused to believe them at first.

“I don’t snore,” she’d adamantly reply, brushing off their complaints.

But then again, she seldom felt refreshed when she awoke in the morning. In fact, most Saturdays, Lueder would wake up and head straight for the couch, where she’d snooze for two or three more hours before starting her weekend. And when the family drove to Florida for vacations, Lueder spent 16 of the 19 hours in the car dozing, waking up only for meal and bathroom breaks.

Then there were the frequent choking spells that woke her up at night.

“I’d stop breathing and get sick to my stomach,” she recalled.

Daytime sleepiness, frequent naps and low energy were starting to take their toll. Lueder finally admitted she might have a sleep disorder.

Breathless nights

After a visit with her primary care doctor, Angelo Tsakopoulos, M.D., Lueder scheduled a consultation with the Ingalls Sleep Center in Tinley Park, where Bsher Touleimat, M.D., board-certified sleep specialist and pulmonologist, ordered a professional sleep study.

“When I went in for the study, I thought I slept the whole night through,” Lueder said. “But when I got the results, they told me I had slept for only two hours and stopped breathing almost 100 times. It really scared me.”

Lueder was diagnosed with sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. The most common symptoms are loud snoring and feeling tired after a full night’s sleep.

“Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep,” Dr. Touleimat explained. “A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.”

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses.

When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone,” he added. “For example, small children who have enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats may have obstructive sleep apnea.”

Masking the problem

For milder cases of sleep apnea, doctors often recommend weight loss and sleeping on your side. Because Lueder had more severe sleep apnea, Dr. Touleimat recommended a C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which delivers pressurized air into the nose via a mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.

The only problem: Lueder wasn’t comfortable wearing a mask. So technicians at the Ingalls Sleep Center fitted her with a special nasal pillow mask that fits in the nostrils instead of over her nose.

“I have a fear of masks,” she said. “I don’t like anything covering my face. This works great. It’s two little pieces of plastic that fit inside my nose.”

Within weeks, Lueder said she felt like a new woman. Four years later, she can’t imagine her life without it.

“I don’t snore anymore, and I’ve got so much more energy,” she said. “I can stay up until midnight on weekends without any trouble. And when I wake up in the morning, I’m ready to go.”

A frequent traveler, Lueder never leaves home without her C-PAP machine.

“It goes everywhere with me. It’s been to Napa Valley, San Diego and Florida. I use it every single night. Before, I’d get maybe two or three hours of uninterrupted sleep; now, I get seven or eight. I’m a completely different person.”

Sleep studies at Ingalls

If your doctor recommends a sleep study, Ingalls offers them at three convenient locations: Calumet City, Tinley Park and Flossmoor. Sleep studies are offered at your regular bedtime and are available on the weekends. All rooms are private. Children as young as 6 years old can undergo a sleep study, with accommodations for the parent to stay overnight.

Ingalls Sleep Centers are an extension of the Ingalls Neurophysiology Lab, one of only two in Illinois accredited by the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society.

Performed according to the guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, all sleep studies at Ingalls are directed by a board-certified sleep disorders specialist and monitored by experienced sleep technologists.

During a sleep study, a professional sleep technologist observes your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements and more, using monitoring devices attached to your body. The sleep specialist then analyzes the results and designs a treatment program if necessary. Treatments vary based on the cause of your sleep problem. For more information about sleep disorders and treatments, call Ingalls Care Connection at 1-(800) 221-2199 or visit us on the web at and click on Sleep Centers.

Provided by Ingalls Health System