Don’t Suffocate Him with that Pillow: Your Snorer Might be Suffocating Already

Gentlemen, how much would you do for your mate?

Would you cook?

Would you clean?

Would you wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask to stop your snoring?

Would you do it for yourself?

Loud snoring is annoying to those around you (and down the hall), but it’s also unhealthy for the snorer and often the sign of a dangerous sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“This is a serious issue,” says Joel Brown. “You could die from it.”

Brown says during college, he was awoken by a frantic friend because he stopped breathing. Due to a blockage or narrowing of the airways in the nose, mouth or throat, OSA sufferers regularly stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer while sleeping.

“Your body has a defense mechanism that says breathing is more important than sleeping,” says Brown, a Highland Park native. “You don’t wake up, but you don’t really get sleep either.”

During an apnea episode, your brain wakes you up, sometimes so briefly you won’t remember, but these interruptions prevent you from reaching deeper levels of sleep. That leads to exhaustion during the day, which lowers productivity and increases accidents. And that’s the least of it.

Nationally recognized sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shives, of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, says sleep apnea sufferers are two to three times more likely to have high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, heart failure, coronary artery disease and stroke, as well as a higher risk of dementia, obesity, diabetes and depression.

Brown ignored his sleep issues for decades until about two years ago when he participated in a sleep study.

He was told he stopped breathing every 90 seconds.

Since less than 40 percent of patients cure sleep apnea through surgery, Brown chose his treatment via CPAP, which prevents the airways from closing during sleep by blowing air into the nose through a face mask.

“The machine sucks,” says Brown. “Let me count the ways. Some people tolerate it very well. I’ve been fighting with it for over a year. But I haven’t given up.”

Brown received motivation to stick with it when someone he knew died following an apnea episode. He was 25 years old.

“It makes you think,” says Brown.

While OSA most commonly affects middle-aged men, anyone at any age can suffer from it, and post-menopausal women carry the same risk as men.

So, if you are a loud snorer or consistently tired during the day despite adequate sleep time, consider scheduling a sleep consultation, which is generally covered by insurance.

Then slap on that CPAP mask and give your mate — and yourself — some much needed sleep.

Just be forewarned: “It’s like an albatross,” says Brown. “It’s not sexy at all.”