3 Real Women With 3 Real Sleep Problems
We asked WebMD's sleep expert to help these tired ladies learn to get some shut-eye again.
Sleep Apnea: The Robber of Sleep
Stephanie Torrez, 56, of Stanwood, Wash., juggles her personal schedule as
well as the daily timetables of two surgeons at Western Washington Medical
Group. But being unable to get a good night’s sleep made the surgery
scheduler’s life and work increasingly difficult. Her exhaustion was so
overpowering that even small things such as driving to the store were starting
to feel like a monumental task.
One day she almost fell asleep behind the wheel. "I was driving home from
running errands, and I had my granddaughter in the car," says Torrez. "But I
was so tired, I just couldn’t stay awake and drive anymore, so I pulled
The next thing she knew, her husband was knocking at the window. She had
fallen asleep on the side of the road with her granddaughter in the
Luckily, her husband happened to drive by -- but the experience scared them
into seeking help. "I had been living with a lack of sleep for about six years,
and it was making my life miserable," Torrez says.
She wasn’t able to travel with her husband because she was too tired to
enjoy it, and her over-the-top snoring was keeping him up at night. She had
visited her doctor, who suggested she try weight loss. She had gained more than
a few pounds and was considered overweight, but getting slimmer didn’t help her
snoring -- or her exhaustion.
After the driving incident with her granddaughter, she made an overnight
appointment at a sleep center, which uncovered the culprit: Torrez had
obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person stops breathing during
sleep because the airway collapses, causing snoring and disrupting
The Sleep Doctor’s Rx for Sleep Apnea
"Sleep apnea can give new meaning to the word 'snoring,'" Breus says. "As
the muscles in the body relax and the airway closes, air can’t get in or out,
and what little air does escape comes out as a snore. People with sleep apnea
periodically stop breathing while sleeping, which interferes with their ability
to get restful sleep." But it doesn't have to stay that way, Breus emphasizes.
His advice for Torrez includes:
Try CPAP. A CPAP -- or continuous positive airway pressure machine --
is a mask that fits over the face to help increase air pressure in the throat,
keep the airway open, and ensure free breathing during sleep. "This will be an
immediate fix to her problem, improving her sleep and energy levels right
away," notes Breus, "and also her husband’s."
Take it with you. The downside to the CPAP is that it’s a treatment,
not a cure, and Torrez will benefit from it only as long as she wears it. "When
she packs her bags for travel, the CPAP should go in right after her
toothbrush," Breus says.