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Sleep apnea treatment
improves overall health

Sarah and Greg Stiefel both sleep better with help from Sanford Health's Sleep Center.
After learning they suffered from the same sleeping disorder—sleep apnea—Sarah and Greg Stiefel both sleep better with the help of a sleep therapy device called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP.
  Greg Stiefel says he and his wife, Sarah, have found their “drug of choice.” It’s continuous positive airway pressure—also known as CPAP— and it has changed their lives in ways they never would have believed. Not only do the Stiefels notice they sleep better since they were diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea, but they also have more energy all day long, no longer suffer from chronic headaches, get sick less often and don’t take daily naps.

“I sleep with a CPAP machine 100 percent of the time,” Greg said. “Without it, I don’t know where I’d be now. I was tired all the time. It didn’t matter where I was. If the opportunity arose, I took a nap. When I did sleep, I almost always woke up with a headache and never felt rested.”

Sarah, a registered nurse, suspected Greg had sleep apnea. She noticed several suspicious symptoms: elevated blood pressure, weight gain, chronic fatigue and snoring that continued to worsen. But Sarah didn’t recognize the problem in herself.

Many sleep disorders go unnoticed because the symptoms are common and seemingly harmless. “I snored but I have since I was a young child and our daughter snores,” Sarah said. “My mom and sister snore, too. So I really didn’t think of my snoring as being sleep apnea. I thought it probably had more to do with our anatomy.”

When Sarah mentioned her concerns about Greg to Wendy Skager, a clinic nurse in Sanford Clinic’s
pulmonology department, Wendy gave Sarah a packet on sleep apnea that also contained a questionnaire to complete. It convinced Sarah that Greg had sleep apnea. So she made an appointment for him.

Dr. Andreas Sarrigiannidis, Sanford Health board-certified pulmonologist, confirmed Sarah’s suspicions following Greg’s sleep study. The simple study required Greg to check in an hour before bedtime and sleep in a quiet, comfortable room while Sanford Health technicians at an adjacent monitoring station observed and recorded his sleep patterns, heart and respiratory activity and body movements.

“Greg’s diagnosis was an eye opener for me,” Sarah said. “I snore worse than him and I was tired all the time, too. Even before I got tested, I used Greg’s machine for naps and couldn’t believe how refreshed I felt.”

Greg and Sarah say any reservations they may have had about using a CPAP machine were eliminated as soon as they realized how much better they felt wearing the mask at night. Their machines are easy to clean and take with them when they travel. Although Greg worried the machine would be noisy, he quickly grew accustomed to its low-level hum. Technology had already improved when Sarah got her machine and hers is even quieter.

“I don’t think I could live without that machine,” Sarah said. “I don’t get colds like I did and my allergies have really improved. I used to clear my airways every morning when I woke up. [The CPAP] keeps your airways open and it’s humidified so your nasal passages stay moist.”

  Dr. Andreas Sarrigiannidis
Dr. Andreas Sarrigiannidis

At the time, the Stiefels were on separate insurance programs. Both insurance companies covered the costs.

“There are probably a lot of people who have this,” Greg said. “I’d just say get yourself checked. You won’t believe how much better your life is.”

Snoring, apnea episodes, narcolepsy, restlessness, sleep/wake problems, and childhood sleep disorders are the disorders most frequently recognized and treated at Sanford Sleep Disorder Center, said Sleep Disorder Center Director Lana Curl.

Click here for more information about Sanford Sleep Disorder Center.


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