The Hidden Signs of Sleep Apnea
How St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center helped one man with strange symptoms
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where a person’s breathing stops and starts throughout the night. “This disorder is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, car accidents and cancer,” said St. Luke’s Sleep Center Medical Director Dr. Vance Bachelder. It also makes restorative sleep nearly impossible.
That’s why sleep apnea is considered a serious health condition and should be addressed as soon as a person notices symptoms. These include:
- Excessive snoring
- Waking up gasping
- Feeling tired during the day
However, the symptoms are not always easy to identify.
This was the case for St. Luke’s patient Ron Kutsi. After his third heart surgery in 2021, he started to notice some odd symptoms. Besides feeling extreme fatigue, he had unexplained pain in his chest and would often wake up shaking. “It felt like electricity was going through me,” he said.
“This disorder is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, car accidents and cancer.”
When numerous tests showed no cardiac cause, Ron’s primary physician referred him to St. Luke’s Pulmonologist Dr. Joseph Martinelli, who is also board certified in sleep medicine. Dr. Martinelli scheduled an overnight sleep study at St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center in March 2022.
Ron was shocked by the results. He found out that he had severe sleep apnea.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Ron’s father had suffered from untreated sleep apnea. “I could hear him stop breathing for almost a minute at a time,” he remembered. “But he refused to get treatment. He ended up dying from heart disease.”
To treat his sleep apnea, Ron began using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which is 98% effective at stopping sleep apnea when used correctly. St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center providers worked with Ron to ensure that he had the best CPAP mask for him, that it fit properly, and that everything was set correctly. “It is most important to get a mask that fits properly,” said Ron.
Using the machine, Ron’s apnea episodes of dropped significantly – from 48 an hour to only two. He was thrilled with the results. “Before, I felt constant fatigue, like a walking zombie,” he said. “Now, I’m more alert during the day and can work for longer periods.”
St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center
St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center has been accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) since 2007. The program was recently reaccredited for another five years.
“Sleep medicine is a newer field, and this certification means we adhere to practice parameters, good sleep testing and treating of sleep problems,” said Dr. Bachelder. “People can be reassured that they are getting the best care possible for a good night’s sleep.”
If you ever experience the following, talk to you doctor:
- Excessive snoring
- Waking up gasping during the night
- Teeth grinding
- Memory challenges
To learn more about St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center, talk to your primary care provider or visit slhduluth.com/sleep.