Gautier Police Chief Dante Elbin is what Dr. Christopher Karcher, a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with Singing River Health System, calls a classic scenario.
“His wife was a big part of it. That’s a classic scenario where the spouse just has to step in and say, ‘The snoring is really loud and I’m concerned,” said Dr. Karcher.
“My wife told me to come here because we weren’t sleeping,” said Elbin, “I was having issues with snoring and of course my quality of life as far as resting and how I operated at work, I could tell there were differences, I was always fatigued. I came here to get a checkup from a doctor that knows what he’s talking about and, sure enough, the tests showed that I had sleep apnea.”
For many of us, the solution to snoring is as simple as turning over, but for 18 million Americans it is a sign of something much more serious: sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and more.
“It’s an insidious process, meaning it’s subtle in its onset and very slowly progresses over each decade of life and it’s harder and harder to put up with untreated,” said Dr. Karcher. “And when we take off that burden and pull the curtains back most patients have a profound appreciation for it.”
For many patients, the majority of their apnea events occur during a crucial stage of sleep called REM sleep.
“There are a lot of unique things that are going on during REM sleep including a tremendous loss of muscle tone that makes the airway so much more collapsible but other important things are going on too, including consolidation of neurotransmitters, circuitry that are involved in short-term memory formation and access to those new memories. So if we have a process like sleep apnea that is interrupting some of these unique stages of sleep like REM sleep, it’s going to translate into having cognitive difficulties during the day for patients.”
After his initial meeting with Dr. Karcher, Elbin underwent two sleep studies at the Singing River Health System Sleep Center in Ocean Springs, MS. The first study confirmed that Elbin was suffering from sleep apnea. To remedy this problem, Dr. Karcher recommended a CPAP machine, which blows air through a mask to generate a pneumatic stent, an air support which stops the airway from collapsing.
“He put me on a CPAP and it has dramatically changed the way I feel each day,” said Elbin.
“I sleep a whole lot better during the night. I’m sleeping longer, whereas before I might be sleeping 2 or 3 hours at a time and I’d wake up and roam around the house. I’m now sleeping through the night with this machine they gave me. So the quality of life has changed since I’ve seen Dr. Karcher and gotten the proper equipment to get a good night’s rest. Of course, everyone else who sleeps around me is getting a good night’s rest also.”
“You can be in a kind of figurative fog,” said Dr. Karcher, “and you don’t realize you’re in it until you are pulled out of it. And that’s what a lot of our patients tell us, ‘Oh wow, I had no idea what I was putting up with.’”
“For him, he started sleeping better immediately, and his wife did too! She was very appreciative.”