FOX FILES: New Device Diagnoses Sleep Problems At Home

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) - As many as 40 million Americans stop breathing several times an hour every night.  It`s called sleep apnea. Snoring can be a sign of apnea.  Some people stop breathing as many as 100 times an hour. In many cases they are prescribed a CPAP machine.  CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure.  The device can save lives.  Sarah Gall said her husband, Rocky, snored loud and often all night long.  He would also stop breathing.  Rocky call said, 'I`ve actually woke myself up before snoring.'  He was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  A person stops breathing, the brain wakes them up, they start breathing and then stop again.  The cycle can be repeated many times a night.  It results in a horrible night of sleep.  Rocky fell asleep while driving one time it caused a minor accident.  Gall said, 'It was scary.'

Dr. Victoria Sharma, a sleep expert, works at the SSM Center for Sleep Disorders.  She treats apnea patients.  In many cases the muscles in a person`s airways relaxes obstructing the flow of air.  It`s a condition that can cause deadly problems.  Dr. Sharma said High blood pressure, coronary heart disease heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke and diabetes.

Dr. Sharma said the CPAP machine pushed air to the back of the throat, 'Allowing the air to go through unobstructive and getting to the lungs without a problem like it`s meant to.'  The CPAP has made evenings more restful in the Gall home.  Rocky Gall said, 'It`s a lot better it`s so much better.'  Sarah Gall added, 'I call it the wife gift, because I sleep at night.'

Patients can be sent to a sleep clinic.  They spend the night hooked up with all sorts of probes that are connected to a computer.  In another room a sleep technician monitors the patients sleep.  David Freund is a sleep technician, 'We`re looking for what stage of sleep they`re in whether they`re having events whether they`re breathing has stopped.'

People who don`t want to go to a sleep clinic can now be tested at home.  Daniel Tirardo is director of the SSM Center for Sleep Disorders, 'This is actually the most ground breaking piece of technology we have.'

He said a doctor can order a simple device for cases that are not complicated.  It has fewer probes.  A patient connects the machine; it talks to the patient throughout the procedure.  It costs less, insurance companies like that.  It automatically sends the testing information to a person`s doctor.  But, it`s not perfect.  Tirado said, 'The downside is it does provide limited information for the doctor to make a diagnosis.' So, a patient could still need to be tested in an overnight stay at a sleep clinic.  

There are other solutions for apnea including surgery and dental devices.

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