More than 18 million Americans are living with the nightmare known as sleep apnea:
"Sleep apnea is a very common problem. It's really got a lot of serious ramifications," said Dr. Donald Greenblatt.
Apnea is when there's an absence of breathe while you sleep because your airways close together. It causes your body to wake up sometimes hundreds of times a night to restart airflow.
Doctor Donald Greenblatt is the director of the Strong Sleep Disorders Clinic. He says sleep apnea is common among overweight people. But there are other causes:
"I wanna say bad luck. But part of it has to do with the way your airways are put together, genetics, tends to run in families."
Apnea puts tremendous stress on the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. But there are solutions. Greenblatt recommends making behavioral changes first. Lose weight, avoid alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime, or change your sleep position. Other treatments and technology have evolved tremendously in recent years:
"When I started doing sleep stuff, the only treatment available for sleep apnea was tracheostomy," said Greenblatt.
Greenblatt says the most effective treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP machine. It connects to your nose and forces air circulation. There's also a new, surgical implant--similar to a pacemaker--recently approved by the FDA.
"It gets inserted into the chest. A wire goes up to the throat, and a wire is down by the lungs, when it senses that you're taking a breathe, it stimulates the airways muscles to keep them open," said Greenblatt.
Strong is hoping to become a regional implant center. Although Greenblatt says it's so new, the insurance coverage and cost is unknown.
Above all--the biggest thing is determining whether you have sleep apnea and working to correct it.