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Sleep apnea device improves Veteran’s health and sleep

For years, Air Force Veteran Deanna King struggled with fatigue and exhaustion. After seeking help at Michael E. DeBakey VA in Houston and receiving a new device designed to treat sleep apnea, she sleeps like a baby.   

“I was a walking zombie. I would often wake myself up because of snoring, but I really thought I was getting plenty of sleep. It wasn’t until my daughter brought up my snoring that I decided to get it checked out.”  

Houston VA’s Sleep Disorder Research Center team

King participated in a sleep study which revealed a diagnosis that almost six-million people in the United State have received. She had obstructive sleep apnea. King was quickly given a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine but knew it was not for her. “The CPAP machine was a total no-go for me. I brought it back the next day.”

That’s when Dr. Supriya Singh, director of Houston VA’s Sleep Disorder Research Center, stepped in. After hearing King’s story, Singh suggested she may be a great candidate for Inspire, a newer device designed to treat sleep apnea. The Inspire device is a nerve stimulator placed under the skin above the chest during a simple medical operation.

“This device works with the patient’s natural breathing process to treat obstructive sleep apnea,” said Singh, who is board certified in pulmonary disease, internal medicine and sleep medicine. “It stimulates the tongue and the palate to move them forward to open up the airway allowing oxygen to flow naturally.”

Device designed to not wake the patient up

The medical procedure to implant the device is about two hours long and consists of one incision under the jaw where an electrode is placed. A battery is placed under the skin on the chest which connects to the electrode. The patient is then given a remote control to turn the device on before they go to sleep and off when they wake up. The stimulation is subtle and is designed to not wake the patient up, meaning it shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable. 

Deanna King: “I sleep great and wake up refreshed.”

“Since I got this new device, my quality of life has improved so much. I sleep great and wake up refreshed. The remote is so easy to use. It really is a life-changer,” King shared.

Despite being just a minor annoyance, there are several potentially serious side effects to sleep apnea. Left untreated, they include high blood pressure, strokes and heart issues. According to Singh, sleep problems such as insomnia, nightmares and sleep apnea affect everyone, but they are particularly common among military Veterans.  She says her team at Houston VA is thrilled to offer Veterans the latest technology to treat sleep disorders.

“We see thousands of Veterans every year in our sleep clinic. Numerous clinical trials have found this new device to be safe and effective and we are excited to see such wonderful results in our Veterans. Our goal is to improve the lives of each and every Veteran we see,” said Singh, who is also an assistant professor of Medicine-Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Now that she is getting plenty of rest, King—retired from the Air Force with more than 20 years of service—is planning trips to Spain and Morocco later this year. “Travel is what I enjoy in my retirement and I’m looking forward to many more trips,” she said.

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