Category Archives: 2015 Scholarship

My brother

By: Daynna S

Sleep Apnea…I know a bit about that! My name is Daynna S and I am a graduating senior that knows a little bit about this subject. My brother was diagnosed with a sleep disorder called Sleep Apnea also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Obstructive Sleep Apnea means that a person has episodes that their airway or throat becomes blocked or obstructed causing them to have episodes when they are not breathing while they are sleeping. Even though this happens while sleeping at night, it often affects people with how they function and feel during the day.

My brother and I have always been really close growing up. I remember he would snore really loudly and often times he would look like he was not breathing while he was sleeping. Seeing him doing this would scare me as well being worried if something would happen to him. I also remember that he would struggle a lot with getting up to get ready for school in the morning and sometimes it would even affect his performance in school.

My mother took him to the doctor to have his problem assessed. He had to go to a sleep lab to have an overnight sleep test done. He was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea when he was nine years old. Because of his diagnosis, he had to have his tonsils and adenoids removed to treat and correct this condition. I remember visiting him in the hospital after the surgery and being a little scared because his mouth was purple, he looked a little like a zombie. I would later find out that he was only able to eat ice cream, which was not an issue for him at all! After his surgery, I saw him improve immediately! He no longer snored and no longer had the episodes of looking like he was not breathing while sleeping. I was elated as well as relieved to see that he was better.

My brother is now twenty-one years old and is thriving and doing quite well. He is a full-time college student entering his third year of college. I believe the fact that his sleep apnea was treated when he was younger has had a positive impact on his quality of life. It has allowed him to excel in school both academically and athletically. When he was a high school student, he was heavily involved in academic clubs and was captain of the basketball team. This would have definitely been a challenge for him had he not been able to rest and sleep properly to restore his body’s energy by getting proper sleep!

I have learned that some people have to use a sleep machine called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. A CPAP machine blows pressurized air that allows the person to sleep more efficiently.The air helps by taking away the obstruction to allow them to breathe properly without the stress sleep apnea places on the body. By using the CPAP machine, they do not have the same type of symptoms that I witnessed my brother have. Fortunately, he has never had to use a CPAP machine as his surgery proves to have been successful. He also makes an effort to eat well and remain in his best physical shape to maintain a healthy weight as that also contributes to having sleep apnea.

Sleep is very vital to our overall health as your body is meant to do a lot of things for itself in your sleep. It is clinically proven that therapeutic sleep helps your body operate more closely to the capacity it was created to function at. With that being said…Sleep well!


By: Dawn G

Sleep is a very important factor of day to day living and functioning. It is estimated that a person should receive at least 8 hours of sleep at night to be well rested and rejuvenated for the following day. How is that possible when you have a partner that snores excessively loud at night? Snoring has never bothered me this much until now because of my polar bear that I call a boyfriend. It has taken a toll on my life feels like because his snoring keeps me up at night. I am a full time college student with a job who needs as much sleep as possible but that just seems too impossible when my boyfriend comes to visit. The snoring has got me to the point to where I will be woken up out of my sleep and forced to sleep in the living room on the couch. I have expressed to him on many occasions that he should go get checked because I am convinced that he has a problem but he thinks it is normal and everybody snores. Since the snoring has started to affect me I decide to do some research.

While doing research I learned that snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that causes you to temporarily stop breathing when you are sleep. This explains why he sounds as if he is gasping for air when he is asleep. Also while doing my research I learned that snoring can affect anyone, male or female, at any age of their life. Snoring is also a common problem in the United States but it is mostly common in males who are overweight. Out of curiosity I also did research on what is exactly happening to the body when a person snores? While sleeping your throat muscles are relaxed and your tongue falls backward which makes your throat narrow. When you breathe, the walls of your throat vibrate but the narrower your airways are the louder the snoring becomes.

There are many factors that causes a person to snore such as enlarged tonsils, enlarged adenoids, and inflammation of the nose like upper respiratory infections, sleeping on your back, and being overweight. My research could not have been completed if I did not study the treatment for snoring. At night I have tried many things to stop my boyfriend from snoring or at least stop him from snoring so loudly but nothing works. To my understanding in order to fix this problem a lifestyle modification has to occur, which means treatment of allergies, lose weight, or changing sleep position. Surgery on the back of the throat and roof of the mouth is also an option. Lastly there is the CPAP. This is a continuous airway pressure appliance that blows room air into the back of the throat to prevent it from collapsing.

He is so unaware of his snoring that it’s crazy and it actually makes me so mad because while you’re sleeping so peacefully here I am wishing I was getting a nights rest. The snoring is so annoying and at this point I am ready to do whatever it takes to stop it. I cannot deal with waking up in the morning and not feel as if I got a good night’s rest any longer. I want to feel refreshed in the morning not as if I just went to sleep before I woke up. To think that this just may be my life long partner (husband) and the problem can get worsen as he ages is frightening. I love my boyfriend dearly however we have to find a solution for this snoring!


By: Dawn C
Tucson, AZ

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines have become an intimate part of my life. My husband and I both use them. My husband has been told that his need for a CPAP is not related to his weight; however, since he started using his machine regularly he has lost weight and gotten much healthier with little effort on his part. Not that it has been easy, he has made many adjustments over the last five years, but the one with the most drastic impact has been the regular use of his CPAP which was prescribed for him seven years ago. He relies upon the VA medical system for his health care, and while they have been amazing with him he is often reluctant to question his doctors. When he went in for his first check up with the respiratory specialists after we met I went with him. I told the specialist that he didn’t use his CPAP regularly and the response was “well since it says here that you stopped breathing 80 times an hour in the test perhaps that’s not a good idea.” The look on my husband’s face told me he had never heard that information before. He has used his machine every time he sleeps since!

For me my journey to my CPAP has been different. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur at my birth. My parents were told I would grow out of it in time. When I was 13 I was admitted to the hospital for an outpatient surgery and during the preparations for the surgery they heard the heart murmur. They did a chest X-Ray and decided to hold me in the hospital overnight before my surgery. In the end, they told my parents that I would “probably” grow out of it and if I didn’t it wasn’t a major issue. I never had another issue or thought of it other than to put it on my medical history paperwork throughout my life.

In 2011 I was diagnosed with cancer. I successfully fought the cancer, but the process has caused me many health issues. In 2013 I was admitted to the hospital twice in only two months. The first time was because I passed out without any explanation and the second was due to chest pain. In the first visit they re-discovered my heart murmur and with new technology were able to see what was causing it. I had an atrial septal defect, which is basically a hole in my heart. Then they ran more tests. I actually have three holes in my heart, a patent foramen ovale, the atrial septal defect and a ventricular septal defect. According to my doctors these congenital defects are not causing any health issues at this time. However, they wanted me to have a sleep study done as the VSD was only visible when I was snoring.

I was at that time uninsured and as I am also overweight and sleep apnea is normally caused by weight issues I was unable to get the procedure approved at the hospital I was going to. My husband found a very nice CPAP at a garage sale and picked it up for me. I still have not been able to get a sleep study approved and am now without insurance again so I won’t have one in the near future. This means that my machine has not been adjusted to me personally. It also means that I haven’t had a new mask since then. I understand, from my experiences with my husband, that neither of these is very healthy for me; however I believe that it is essential for me to have this machine until I can have a sleep study and update the machine and have it customized to me.

Recently we have moved to Arizona for my health. It has worked so well that I am looking forward to returning to school in the fall. With the completion of my degree I will make certain that I get a position with benefits and take the sleep study I need.

How important is sleep?

By: Dawit Y

We spend one third of our lives doing it, and yet, some of us never seem to be able to get enough. People all over the world don’t receive enough sleep whether it’s from a medical condition like narcolepsy, or simply not having enough time in a day. The effects of getting a good night’s rest are essential and signs of sleep depravation are not as hard to spot as one may think. It is important for everyone to get enough sleep, but many people often ignore it. If people do not get enough sleep they may experience sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have negative effects. When people do not get enough sleep or less, they may feel crabby and unable to function as well as they usually do the next day. Balancing work and parenting as a single parent in today’s society is tough.

Juggling children, work, taking care of home, and cart the children to extracurricular activities are a lot for one’s plate. As single parent I had my share of sleepless nights as well, mostly when either my children fall sick or when I work extra shift at work. The last time I remember when I had a sleepless night was when both of these factors together came to hunt me. I agreed to work extra hours at the hospital because the night shift secretary was unable to come into work. Although I had worked a 12 hour shift, I still had enough energy to work at less five more hours that I had agreed too. At the end of my shift I was ready for a hot shower and my warm bed to rest. Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder where a person has experiences of not breathing during sleep. Over 20 million Americans, mostly overweight men, suffer from sleep apnea. Despite these numbers, sleep apnea is often not treated directly because its symptoms are thought to be those of depression, stress, or just loud snoring. There may be a genetic component to this disorder as it often occurs within families.People with sleep apnea stop breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time; these short stops in breathing can happen up to 400 times every night.

The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath”. There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed.Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. Nine out of 10 patients with sleep apnea have this kind of apnea. If you have this type, something is blocking the passage or windpipe, called the trachea, that brings air into your body. Your windpipe might be blocked by your tongue, tonsils, or uvula. It might also be blocked by a large amount of fatty tissue in the throat or even by relaxed throat muscles. Central sleep apnea is rare. This type is called central because it is related to the function of the central nervous system. If you have this type of apnea, the muscles you use in breathing don’t get the “go ahead” signal from your brain. Either the brain doesn’t send the signal, or the signal gets interrupted.

How I came to know CPAP

By: Noah D

Vividly, I can remember my older sister screaming, “Dad! I can’t get any sleep with you snoring so loudly!”. My father was well known for being anything but easy to sleep next to, due to his heavy snoring, but I never really thought of it as anything serious, other than having to learn the ability to sleep next to a buzz-saw. Further down the road, I came across an unfortunate video of a popular bodybuilder who was given the prognosis of only a few years to live. Heavily dramatized, the video zoomed in on a clip of the bodybuilder breathing on into machine, giving off the impression of being on life support. I thought to myself, “wow this guy is really on death’s door”.

Due to being a bodybuilder myself, I frantically researched how this man came to be so ill. Though my research, I found out that he had undiagnosed sleep apnea that had been left untreated, leading to severe heart complications. These complications arose due to the large amount of muscle tissue that had developed around his neck, leading to obstructed breathing when asleep. This obstruction of breathing lead to his body being deprived of oxygen, thus inflicting damage on the heart muscle. The machine he was using was turned out to be a CPAP machine, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. I learned that this machine keeps the airways open when one is sleeping and prevents any obstruction that sleep apnea would otherwise cause. I was relieved that I had no sleep issues, so I had nothing to worry about, or so I thought.

A few months later, I went on a cruise with my father for a week-long trip in the Caribbean. Upon unpacking our bags, my father pulled out a machine similar to the one I saw the bodybuilder wear. I asked my dad “is that a CPAP?”. He told me yes, that he was diagnosed with sleep apnea and that it prevented obstructed breathing throughout the night. I was relieved that my father had gotten the proper treatment for his sleep apnea. I was also glad to be able to get a good night sleep next to him now that snoring was not an issue.

A few nights later, during the cruise, I fell asleep before my dad and woke up to my dad shaking me. He said “Boy, I can’t get any sleep with you snoring so loudly!”. To his news, this was a shock to me. This seemed like Déjà vu from what my sister said. I had never known that I too had a snoring issue. Being a college student sleeping in solitary, there was no one that could have told me that I too had a snoring issue. After that night, my father gave me the advice to go get a sleep study done as he did. Given that I was a bodybuilder and my dad had sleep apnea, getting a sleep study was top priority.

When I got back home, I signed up for a sleep study immediately. After the study I had my very own CPAP machine. It was a little tough to get used to but overall my sleep has improved and feel much more refreshed when I use it. Overall, if it was not for the cues in my life telling me that sleep apnea could be an issue, I may have never known about the dangers of obstructive sleep apnea. I am glad that I now know the risks and treatment for sleep apnea. I hope that my story influences others to take actions to their cues of sleep apnea and get the treatment that can save their lives.