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Sleep Apnea Device Improves Veterans’ Health and Sleep

Air Force Veteran Deanna King

For years, Air Force Veteran Deanna King struggled with fatigue and exhaustion. Today, after seeking help at the Houston VA and receiving a new device designed to treat sleep apnea, she is sleeping like a baby.

“I was a walking zombie,” she said.  “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.”   

King participated in a sleep study, which revealed a diagnosis that almost 6 million people in the US have received – she had obstructive sleep apnea.   King was quickly given a CPAP machine but says she knew immediately it was not for her.   

“The CPAP machine was a total no-go for me,” she said.   “It was uncomfortable and the mask and hose were a pain so I brought it back the next day.”

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

“The Inspire device works with the patient’s natural breathing process to treat obstructive sleep apnea,” Singh said. “It stimulates the tongue and the palate to move them forward to open up the airway, allowing oxygen to flow naturally.”

The medical procedure to implant the Inspire lasts about two hours and consists of one incision under the jaw where an electrode is placed. From there, the Inspire 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. 

“Since I got the Inspire, my quality of life has improved so much,” King said.  “I sleep great and wake up refreshed.  The remote is so easy to use…it really is a life-changer.”

Despite seeming like a minor annoyance, there are several potentially serious side effects to sleep apnea left untreated, including high blood pressure, strokes and heart issues, Singh said. While sleep problems, such as insomnia, nightmares, and sleep apnea, affect everyone, they are particularly common among military Veterans.  Singh says the team at the Houston VA is thrilled to offer Veterans the Inspire system as an additional treatment option.

“We see thousands of Veterans every year in our sleep clinic,” she added.  “Numerous clinical trials have found Inspire 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.”  

Now that she is getting plenty of rest, King, who retired from the Air Force with 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.”

For more information about a sleep study at the Houston VA, call 713-794-8730.

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