Do you have sleep apnea?

St. Johns County resident Tony Colichio said all his life he had trouble sleeping through the night. He’s now 71 years old and said he’s finally found a cure for his insomnia.

“I would sleep for an hour and then wake up gasping for air,” he explained. The snoring was really bad, too.

“My wife loves me very much, but she also needs her sleep too because she works. Many times during the night she would wake me up, ‘You’re snoring, you’re snoring,’” Colichio said.

Colichio would slip out of his bedroom as quietly as possible and suffer in the dark trying to fall back asleep only to wake again gasping for air.

He said he was misdiagnosed for years.

“They thought it was narcolepsy, but when the medicine turned off, I fell asleep,” Colichio said.

Not sleeping through the night caused him to fall asleep during the day. He said his friends would tell him he would doze off while they were talking.

Colichio said he felt like his energy was always low and admitted he was struggling until he was hospitalized with a heart condition.

The nurses noticed he would stop breathing while sleeping at night. His cardiologist referred him to the Jacksonville Sleep Center, where he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, caused by obstruction of the airway usually at the base of the tongue.

“I went for a sleep study and they found out I was stopping breathing 71 times per hour,” said Colichio.

Dr. Peter Nassar, medical director of the Jacksonville Sleep Center through Baptist Health, diagnosed Colichio with sleep apnea.

“Ninety percent of people with sleep apnea snore, but only 10% of snorers have sleep apnea,” he said.

Nassar explained the signs of sleep apnea.

“Sometimes you’ll hear an obvious snort or a gasp,” he said. “Sometimes, they’ll be really loud snoring and then it just goes completely quiet for 15 to 20 seconds and then the snoring starts back with a little bit of a gasp and it’s very loud.”

As part of a sleep study, Nassar rates someone based on their answers to eight questions to determine if they may have OSA, Obstructive Sleep Apnea:

OSA Questionnaire

Snoring? Do you snore loudly? (Loud enough to be heard through closed doors or your bed partner elbows you for snoring at night.)Tired? Do you feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime such as falling asleep driving or talking to someone?Observed? Has anyone observed you stop breathing or choking/gasping during your sleep?Pressure? Do you have or are being treated for high blood pressure?Body mass index more than 35kg?Are you older than 50 years old?Is your shirt collar (neck size) 16 inches or larger?Are you male?

Anyone who answers:

Yes to 0-2 questions = Low risk of OSAYes to 3-4 questions = Intermediate risk of OSAYes to 5-8 questions = High risk of OSA

Nassar said one of the most common and effective treatments for most people with OSA, sleep apnea, is the use of a CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, machine.

A CPAP machine uses a hose connected to a mask or nosepiece to deliver constant and steady air pressure to help someone breathe while they sleep.

“The very first time I used it, I was like a new man,” Colichio said of using a CPAP machine earlier this year. “I was thinking better, staying up longer, didn’t fall asleep in movies or cars and my wife liked having her husband back. It has changed my life.”

Colichio said he wished he had started using it years ago. The machine sits next to his bed and has a mask, which he places over his nose and mouth when he sleeps.

He said he now sleeps uninterrupted for 7-9 hours a night. He said he feels like he has a new lease on life, now that he is sleeping through the night.

If you would like to learn more about the sleep study program offered through the Sleep Center at Baptist Health click here or call: 904-854-6899.

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