Living with obstructive sleep apnea

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As an elementary school principal, Todd Kieffer runs at top speed most of the time. But that wasn't so easy when he struggled with symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

"I was extremely tired during the day. I didn't feel like I had the stamina to keep going, keep going, keep going," he says.  "I knew I had a problem because my entire family couldn't sleep."

Loud snoring. Then Todd would stop breathing.

"Then I'd do a snort and kind of wake up," he explains.

Obstructive sleep apnea can deprive you of sound sleep and make you tired during the day. It can also cause serious health issues.

"Usually we talk about cardiovascular disease as the major problem. If you have severe, untreated sleep apnea, your risk of dying from a heart attack and stroke is quite a bit higher than the normal population," says Mayo Clinic pulmonologist, Joseph Kaplan, M.D.

Kaplan is a sleep specialist and says obstructive sleep apnea may also aggravate diabetes, and it may contribute to mental slowing and memory difficulties. Plus the associated daytime sleepiness increases the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents from driving drowsy.

So what do you do if you think you have it?  A sleep study during which you go in for over-night monitoring can help your doctor confirm the diagnosis.

"He said you actually stopped breathing 70 times every hour," says Todd.

No wonder Todd was always tired.  Snoring happens when the back of your tongue and throat relax and restrict air flow. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your throat relaxes to the point where it blocks breathing.

A C-PAP machine is a device you wear over your nose. It provides air pressure while you breathe which keeps the back of your throat open.

Todd says the device made a huge difference in his life.  He also says his dad also had sleep apnea. Research shows it may run in families. The condition is also associated with obesity.

Again, Kaplan says if you think you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor.  For more information on obstructive sleep apnea , you can go to the Mayo Clinic's website at or you can call the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville at (904) 953-2272

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