COLUMBUS — According to the American Medical Association (AMA), 30 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea.
However, the AMA reports that only about 6 million people have been diagnosed with it so far.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, dementia, and many other conditions.
Doctors say many people have misconceptions about treatment and don’t know how many options are available.
Two friends said they both slept better at night because of the treatment.
Dick Murray and Ed Schoonmaker have a lot on their plate: grandchildren, golf, and Euchre.
Both are 82 years young.
They have been friends for 40 years and live next door to each other.
They have a lot in common, but they also shared something a little less obvious: trouble sleeping.
“I was a little tired and my energy level was really low,” Murray said.
“My wife used to say, ‘You’re not breathing in the middle of the night, you’re snoring, so you have to hit everything,'” Schoonmaker said.
Both said the sleep study results were alarming.
“Every night, 34 times an hour, I would stop breathing for eight to 13 seconds,” Murray said.
Like his friend, Mr. Schoonmaker also suffered from sleep apnea, but neither of them were able to rest, even with CPAP machines.
“It was miserable. It kept my wife from sleeping. It kept me awake. I didn’t sleep well,” Murray said.
“I’m a stomach sleeper, so I was having problems with the hose and my mask was about to come off. It was such a hassle when traveling,” Schoonmaker added.
By 2021 and 2022, they plan to see sleep medicine specialist Dr. Asim Roy.
“One of our goals is to educate people. You can diagnose them at home so you don’t have to spend the night in a sleep lab. And treating sleep apnea involves: There are so many options,” Roy said.
One of those options is a nerve-stimulating treatment called Inspire Sleep.
“It’s basically a pacemaker. It’s a battery in your chest and a wire that goes to the nerve that controls your tongue,” Roy said.
The pulsation of the tongue keeps the airway open.
Murray underwent surgery before Schoonmaker.
“It was a lifesaver and really changed my life.
He is now a patient ambassador, and even when Mr. Schoonmaker’s wife fell and broke her shoulder days before surgery, Mr. Murray remained by his side for his friend.
“He took me to all kinds of doctor’s appointments, surgeries,” Ms Schoonmaker said.
Inspire Sleep recently received approval from major insurance companies, Medicare and the Veterans Administration.
To receive treatment, patients must be at least 18 years of age, diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, suffer from CPAP, and meet certain weight criteria. As with any surgery, complications such as infection, pain, and swelling can occur. Some patients reported temporary tongue weakness after the procedure.
“It’s important to understand that access to care is now much easier than ever and technology is getting more and more advanced,” Roy said.
As for Murray and Schoonmaker, this treatment saved their lives.
“Since I got Inspire, I’ve lost 32 pounds, partly due to my diet, but mostly because I have more energy and can do things I couldn’t do before,” Murray said.
“I’ve lost 25 pounds. I’m back where I was,” said Mr. Schoonmaker.
Murray’s sleep-breath interruptions are now down to four to five an hour, and Schoonmaker has just played golf at the Senior Olympics.