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Patient stories

Tired of being tired: Jason's story

Jason Sammon now enjoys restful nights thanks to his diagnosis and treatment.

Jason Sammon now enjoys restful nights thanks to his diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.

For years, Jason Sammon figured he wasn't sleeping well because of his work as a full-time paramedic and volunteer firefighter.

"I was working different shifts — days and nights in the same week," said Sammon, 40, of River Falls. "My sleep was irregular, and I was tired."

Sammon often napped on his days off to catch up on his sleep. His wife noticed he was snoring more, too. After Sammon started working in the lab at the River Falls Medical Clinic, he talked about his sleep problems with a colleague at the River Falls Area Hospital Sleep Center. She suggested an overnight sleep study.

Sleep study pinpoints problem

The test found that Sammon had sleep apnea, a common disorder in which a person stops breathing during the night — sometimes up to hundreds of times. Sammon then consulted with Daniel Zimmerman, MD, a board-certified sleep medicine physician and director of the River Falls Area Hospital Sleep Center, who recommended treatment with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a machine that keeps air flowing to the lungs during sleep.

Sammon said CPAP therapy gradually made a big difference in his life. "I'm not tired driving, I don't snore anymore and I don't need naps," he said. "I'm more alert and refreshed."

Expert help is essential

If you have chronic sleep problems, it's important to get help. Poor sleep can raise your risk for accidents and conditions like heart disease, depression and stroke. A sleep study can determine whether you have a sleep disorder.

There's a common misperception, Zimmerman said, that people with sleep apnea are older, overweight and male. "That's not always the case. There are many factors that can contribute to the problem, including the amount of tissue a person has at the back of the throat. A receding jaw or trauma to the nose can also be factors, and allergies can make sleep apnea worse."

To benefit from CPAP therapy, patients need to use their machines consistently, Zimmerman said. The Sleep Center staff regularly calls patients to ensure they're getting the most from their treatment.


Source: River Falls Area Hospital, Healthy Communities Magazine, winter 2012
Reviewed by: Daniel Zimmerman, MD, River Falls Area Hospital (RFAH) Sleep Center
First Published: 12/15/2012
Last Reviewed: 12/15/2012

Seeking a good night's sleep: Mark and Meredith's story

Meredith Johanson spent many sleepless nights poking and jabbing her snoring husband, Mark Johanson.

"He was an unbelievable snorer, and I could tell he stopped breathing at times. He'd startle and gasp for air," she recalls. "He didn't sleep well, and I couldn't either."

Mark's restless nights and resulting exhaustion were tough for him and the whole family. It was hard for him to drive at night or for long distances because he'd become dangerously sleepy. If he sat down after dinner to read or watch television, he often fell asleep in the chair and missed part of the evening.

Mark knew that his snoring and sleepiness were a problem. But he didn't know that he had obstructive sleep apnea, a dangerous condition where people stop breathing for up to a minute at a time. That's what he learned at the Sleep Center of Buffalo Hospital, where he had a sleep study.

Mark looks down as he marks a block of wood with a pencil.

Awake and alert, Mark Johanson works in his wood shop.


Photo credit: Meredith Johanson

Sleep apnea facts

  • Untreated sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, impotence, depression and headaches.
  • Sleep-deprived people are also more vulnerable to accidents.

Mark's story

Although he says it changed his life, Mark's sleep study was typical.

  • After explaining the test, the technician applied electrodes to his skin, which were hooked up to devices that measure eye movement, muscle movement, brain waves and oxygen levels.
  • After several hours of monitored sleep, measurements indicated that Mark had sleep apnea.
  • The sleep technician then started treatment with a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines deliver pressurized air to the nose, ensuring regular breathing throughout the night.
  • In the morning, Mark received a CPAP machine to take home.

Using the CPAP machine

It took Mark awhile to get comfortable with his continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine. He credits the Sleep Center staff for giving him tips and working with him to use the machine successfully. They offer several types of masks and found one that works well for him.

"I didn't really like wearing the mask, but I made up my mind to do this to improve my quality of life and my family's," he says.

Better sleep for everyone

Today, Mark's CPAP machine helps him sleep much better. He says, "I feel refreshed and function better at work and with my family."

Within a month of using the CPAP machine, Meredith noticed that Mark looked younger and less tired.

"Everyone's a winner," Mark says. "I feel better, and my whole family sleeps better."


Source: Buffalo Hospital, Healthy Communities Magazine, spring 2006
Reviewed by: Bernice Kolb, MD, medical director, Sleep Center of Buffalo Hospital
First Published: 05/04/2007
Last Reviewed: 12/03/2010