Ten years ago, John P. didn’t know he wasn’t sleeping well at night. A ‘sleeper’ rarely does. Instead, it’s usually the bed partner that’s aware of a bedmate’s sleeping habits – and John’s wife Kim witnessed his progressively troubling sleep patterns.
With sleepless nights and a family history of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), John began monitoring his sleep with both a fitness tracker and a smart watch to gather some data. What he found was concerning. The numbers on both gadgets showed that the ratio of sleep time to restlessness and awake time were way off balance.
John’s internist encouraged him to undergo a sleep study, which confirmed his OSA diagnosis. He agreed to try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine -- the gold standard treatment for OSA. It involves forcing air through a mask into a person’s nose or mouth to improve their oxygenation during sleep. Unfortunately, the machine wasn’t the answer.
“Using the machine was one of the most unhappy times of my life,” John says. “I was so exhausted during the day. I would get up from a night’s sleep and need to take a nap a half hour later. The machine never worked properly, I tried six different masks over four months, and finally I said, ‘I'm done.’ I stopped using CPAP and started researching alternative treatments.”
That is when John came across Inspire, an FDA approved implantable device that has helped thousands of patients who couldn’t tolerate CPAP. Inspire stimulate the nerve that moves the tongue forward so the patient can breathe in air without the help of a mask or a hose.
John’s research led him to his hometown hospital, Morristown Medical Center. “Dr. Tom Thomas was, no doubt, the best surgeon out there for Inspire,” says John, who had the option to start right away at other hospitals but chose to wait three months to get on Dr. Thomas’ schedule. “It was well worth the wait. I couldn't have asked for a better situation,” he says.
Initially John met with Atlantic Health System sleep specialist Federico Cerrone, MD, who evaluated John’s lifestyle, genetics, background, sleep study results, and CPAP troubles. Dr. Cerrone confirmed that John could be a good candidate for Inspire. John and Kim met with Dr. Tom Thomas, a head and neck surgeon, who is the director of sleep surgery for Atlantic Health System. “Dr. Thomas was a straight shooter, honest and direct,” says John. “He explained why I was an ideal candidate, what the success rates were, and how the process worked. We received everything we needed to know from him and were ready to take the next step.”
As the last step prior to John’s qualification for Inspire, he underwent a drug-induced sleep endoscopy (DISE), which is a 15-minute procedure under IV sedation. “This assesses the anatomy of a patient's throat, tongue, and the caused obstruction while sleeping,” says Dr. Thomas. “At the end of the procedure, we determined that John was a good candidate for Inspire and we would proceed with implanting the device under general anesthesia.”
Four weeks later, John’s device was turned on. That first night using Inspire, John tracked his sleep with his fitness tracker and his smart watch again. But this time, when he fell asleep, he stayed asleep. He awoke feeling energized, and the numbers on his smart watch showed his oxygen levels in the high 90s, occasionally hitting 100%. “I know these numbers are just a guide, but I didn’t even need the numbers,” says John. “I knew I was sleeping and oxygenating better. I slept eight hours that night for the first time in probably 10 years, and I didn’t fall asleep during the day.”
John is back to his hour-an-half gym workouts, easy 5-mile powerwalks, and spending time with his three grandchildren. “I am a new person living a new life. It's unbelievable,” he says. “Kim said she has seen the largest transformation in me. She says I am a different human being, and I agree. This was truly life changing. Dr. Thomas and this little clicker by my bed have given me – and my wife -- the greatest gift of life, a good night sleep.”
Be Proactive About Your Health
A good night’s rest doesn’t just make you a nicer person. Good sleep is fundamental to health.