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Monica Anderson – Sleep Apnea Success Story

'I feel alive again' – Monica Anderson, sleep apnea success story

How having a sleep study at Methodist Richardson could change your life

undefinedFrom the spring 2012 edition of Shine magazine

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. In Monica Anderson's case, the cloud was her father's sudden death from a heart attack last May. The silver lining was a wake-up call that would save Anderson's own life.

"Over the past several years, my kids told me that I snored extremely loudly, and I always felt tired and unrested," Anderson says. "I suspected that I had sleep apnea, but I was in denial."

With sleep apnea, tissues in the back of the throat collapse, cutting off a person's air supply and, ultimately, disrupting his or her sleep. Snoring, caused by those tissues flapping together, is a common symptom of the disorder.

As a registered nurse at Methodist Richardson Medical Center, Anderson knew that sleep apnea, especially coupled with her diabetes, would raise her own heart attack risk. "The loss of my father shocked me enough to say that I needed to get this checked out," she says.

The heart-sleep connection

Only a few days after her loss, Anderson met with Gregory Foster, MD, director of Methodist Richardson's Sleep Disorders Center, who scheduled her for a sleep study at the medical center's American Association of Sleep Medicine-accredited sleep lab.

"With sleep apnea, your air supply is getting choked off repeatedly every night, and that creates a stress response in your body," explains Dr. Foster, an independently practicing physician on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson. "That raises your heart rate and causes the blood vessels to constrict, elevating blood pressure. Over time, it can lead to heart attack and stroke."

How studying pays off

Like many patients, Anderson was nervous at first about the sleep study, but she has nothing but positive comments about the experience.

"It reminded me of a nice hotel," she says. "They adjusted the temperature exactly the way I liked it. I brought my own pillows, too, so it was almost like being at home."

Before the study, the sleep technician let Anderson try on different types of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines to see which felt most comfortable. A CPAP machine is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea, Dr. Foster says, and it works by generating airflow to keep tissues in the back of the throat from collapsing.

While Anderson says it was different at first to sleep with the machine, she was grateful to have one of her own only a couple of weeks later.

"What a difference it has made!" she says. "I noticed the difference the very first night. I slept better than I have slept in a very long time. I feel like a whole different person. I feel alive again."

Anderson has more energy and has gone from being a homebody who napped frequently to an adventurer who loves to travel. Case in point: On a recent cruise with her daughter, the ladies were able to share a room – and sleep soundly, snore-free.