Most of us in this country are not aware of Obstructive Sleep Apnea otherwise called OSA. Diseases like diabetes and cancer get all the air time but OSA is largely ignored and this in spite of the fact that it can lead to mortality. In the West, people diagnosed with sleep apnea are not issued driving licenses or allowed to operate heavy machinery. We, in India, are not that aware of this seemingly harmless disease.
Dr. Soumitra Deb, a general physician, says, “I always used to snore. But the snoring increased gradually over the years. I used to feel tired during the day. I used to wake up multiple times at night. Sometimes, I would wake up at night with bouts of coughing. Finally, my daughter arranged for a sleep apnea test through TriBeCa Care.” Dr. Deb has been using the CPAP machine for around two weeks. His snoring has stopped completely and he doesn’t wake up as many times at night as he used to.
On awareness about sleep apnea, Dr. Deb says, “It needs to be advertised a lot more. People could come to know about sleep apnea through their doctors. So, doctors need to be aware themselves. Another way of making people aware of OSA is through media. After my personal experience, I have already recommended the CPAP machine to some of my patients.”
Dr. A.K. Roy, himself a medical professional, says, “The CPAP machine has given me tremendous relief. My lifestyle has changed. The nature of my work requires me to sit and work for 5 to 6 hours at a stretch. I used to feel sleepy while working. That doesn’t happen anymore. I couldn’t read. I would feel sleepy if I read for too long. All of that is gone now.”
Mr. Sanjib Das was asked to get a sleep test done by his physician. “I knew about this disease before but did not bother about it too much. Now I know that sleep apnea is a life threatening disease.” After he was diagnosed with OSA, he promptly bought the CPAP machine and swears by it now. “There is no drowsiness. I feel fresh in the morning after I wake up. The machine is very helpful. I will definitely recommend it to others who have sleep apnea”, he says.
Most doctors, who are also patients, agree that for people who have sleep apnea, the CPAP machine is a life saving device. Dr. Subhashish Roy says, “What happens in the case of children that suffer from sleep apnea is, firstly they suffer from many other diseases. Consequently, their school performance suffers. They often suffer from hyperactivity and lack of concentration. Also, they suffer from colds a lot more because of mouth breathing.” In the case of adults, the symptoms are hypertension and mood swings. Daytime sleepiness is one of the main symptoms of OSA and Dr. Roy has experienced it himself. Performance in the workplace takes a hit. The CPAP machine is very helpful in this regard.
“People were not that aware of sleep disorders”, he says. “Awareness about sleep disorders is still minimal. Snoring is not such a big deal. Everybody snores.” In his opinion, before changing the way people think about sleep apnea, medical professionals need to be aware of this deadly yet innocuous disease. He says, “There are a lot of workshops about sleep nowadays and a lot of courses on sleep too but there is still room for improvement. Sleep disordered breathing or SDB is slowly being recognised by doctors and people. What basically happens in OSA is the oxygen saturation in the body goes down. And all this happens in sleep. In severe cases, there can be death.”
There is one thing in common among all the people who spoke to us. They all say that after using the CPAP machine, their quality of life has changed completely.
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