Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm
A Mequon-based sleep center is offering free screenings for sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that causes individuals to stop breathing during sleep.
The Endeavor Center for Sleep Medicine has offered the screening at no cost for the past year using a compact technology called ApneaLink.
ApneaLink is manufactured by ResMed, Inc., a Poway, Calif.-based manufacturer and distributor of medical equipment used to diagnose and treat sleeping disorders.
Endeavor purchased ApneaLink and started offering free screenings after former Green Bay Packers star Reggie White died in January 2005. His death was linked to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, said Karen Block, administrator for Endeavor.
ApneaLink was introduced to the market around the same time, and Endeavor is the only sleep center in the Milwaukee area to offer it, Block said.
"When Reggie White passed, we got a lot of calls," Block said. "We wanted to create awareness of apnea and that our lab is in the community."
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common kind of sleep apnea and is associated with a reduction of oxygen in the blood and increased tension on the heart. Symptoms include fatigue and waking up multiple times during the night. Sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, a heart attack, a stroke and death if gone untreated.
"Sleep apnea feels like depression," Block said. "Individuals experience general fatigue, a decrease in motivation, an increase in irritability, a decrease in concentration and a decrease in sociability."
Individuals who are at risk for sleep apnea include snorers, men with a larger than 17 inch neck diameter, women with more than a 16 inch neck diameter, enlarged tonsils and an enlarged tongue.
The larger neck diameter, tonsils or tongue can lead to sleep apnea because they can block an individual’s airway when muscles relax during sleep.
At most sleep centers and hospitals, the first step in determining whether an individual has a sleeping disorder is to fill out a standardized sleepiness test called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Block said. If the test administrator feels an individual is at risk for sleep apnea based on the individual’s personal reflection of his or her level of sleepiness, an overnight sleep study is suggested.
Overnight sleep studies at sleep centers can cost between $3,000 and $5,800 just to determine if an individual has a sleep disorder, Block said. ApneaLink provides a base for individuals to see if a sleep study is necessary.
ApneaLink cost Endeavor $2,000 per unit, excluding $5 per cannula, which is a plastic tube, Block said.
Users insert one end of the cannula into the device and the other end under the nose and around both ears. Once the user presses the start button, ApneaLink is able to monitor breathing patterns and measures apneas, which are the complete or partial obstructions of the airway, leading to airflow limitations and snoring, Block said.
Users record information including their height, weight and body mass index, and they log what time they began using ApneaLink, what time the screening ended and if they woke up during the night for any reason.
Then ApneaLink produces a report with a risk indicator that identifies an individual’s risk of having sleep-disordered breathing, including obstructive sleep apnea.
Individuals outside of the normal range are recommended to participate in an overnight sleep study.
Endeavor purchased one device when it started offering the free screenings one year ago and recently purchased two more because of the awareness ApneaLink has created, Block said.
"The public needs to be educated," Block said. "The majority of snorers do stop breathing but not all have (sleep apnea)."
Many individuals with sleep disorders and sleep apnea wake up in the middle of the night multiple times but are not sure why. Some think they woke up because they had to go to the bathroom, however they might have woken up because they stopped breathing and as a result of being awake, felt they had to go to the bathroom, Block said.
One individual who used ApneaLink woke up three times in one night, Block said. When the results came in from the device, it showed that the individual had stopped breathing for 10 seconds or longer before waking up. The person complained of fatigue the next day but was not sure why.
"Based on the symptoms and the report, the individual was told to continue on to a sleep lab and do an overnight study. We recommend going to a physician first and to not necessarily go to Endeavor for the sleep study," Block said. "We just want them to take the first step to come in."
At times, the results from ApneaLink can help a physician see other issues, including insomnia, instead of apnea.
"Some people don’t know they have a problem," Block said. "They wake up every morning fatigued and have grown accustomed to it. Some think it is because they are getting older. But that is not the case."
Two apneas per night can be normal because when a person is in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, the entire body is shut down except for the brain, lungs and heart in an effort to recharge the body, Block said. When individuals lie on their backs during sleep, the tissue in the neck, the tongue and the tonsils can relax and move backward, obstructing the airway.
ApneaLink was originally for sale just to physicians but Endeavor believed it would be a great way to get awareness to the public about sleep apnea and Endeavor, Block said.
"People want to do it," Block said. "They see the need and they are very serious about following through."