H Charles Jelinek Jr DDS March 2019

March 2019

JEL INEK JOURNAL

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RESTING EASIER My Journey to a Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and What I’ve Learned

There was once a time when, if I didn’t get my power nap, I knew I had a long afternoon ahead of me. When I could, I would try to take a 5-minute nap around lunchtime, but even when I got my midday snooze, I often found myself falling asleep on my way home. To mitigate this, I’d crank up my music and roll my windows down, praying I would hit every green light and not have to sit with blaring music as I tried to force myself to stay awake. Mornings were no better, even after getting eight hours of rest from the night before. I’d start my day with a large cup of coffee, and once I had my second and third cup, I could glide gently into the day. I thought my wife was just a light sleeper when she complained about my snoring. I’d shared rooms with my West Point classmates and peers for years, and no one had complained about my snoring like she did. Despite my education, I had unknowingly fallen victim to a common practitioner problem — ignoring my symptoms of the obvious. Something was blocking my airway. After reading articles and research papers about sleep apnea, I went to a seminar. At this event, they were offering free at-home sleep apnea tests, and I decided to give it a shot. What I found was shocking; my breathing stopped 17 times every hour that night. I was diagnosed with having moderate sleep apnea. Rather than continuing to ignore it, I knew I had to act. Since that test, I’ve been wearing an oral appliance when I sleep to open my airway passage and mitigate the effects of sleep apnea. Adjusting to this device wasn’t difficult, and it feels as though I am wearing a retainer each night. I now refuse to go to bed without it. I haven’t had coffee in two years since I began treating my sleep apnea, and I don’t even think about lunchtime naps or blaring music to stay awake. What’s even better is that my wife is much happier, sleeps better, and hasn’t complained about my snoring at all. You know what they say about the correlation between a happy wife and a happy life. She sleeps better not having to worry about my next breath or deal with my snoring.

I used to look at sleep as a wasted part of the day, but I now view it as being just as important to my health as nutrition.

When you sleep well, you’re lifted

out of foggy thinking, your decision-making skills are fine-tuned,

and overall, you become a healthier person. When I see the warning signs of sleep apnea in a patient’s mouth or overhear them complaining about memory problems, cognitive issues, or

snoring, I suggest they see a sleep expert for a sleep test. I work with sleep experts every day, and I continue to treat my patients throughout the process, often fitting them for their appliances. Some patients are receptive. Their mom, grandpa, and aunt all have sleep apnea, so they were bound to get it. Others are shocked. Like me, they thought their symptoms were normal or didn’t even think twice about the issues they had until they heard how abnormal these symptoms actually are. Thankfully, there is more research being done on sleep apnea, and developers have made treatment advancements that go beyond CPAP machines. It is a treatable condition, and we’re learning more about it every day. Take it from the dentist who failed to read his own symptoms for years: Being that groggy isn’t normal. Restful sleep is possible, and I’d love to help you find it. — H. Charles Jelinek, Jr., DDS

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