Using the CPAP machine, Dr. Chris Winter was able to increase Michelle’s oxygen flow while she slept, reducing the apnea episodes and improving her overall sleep quality.

Waking up refreshed

In July 2011, Michelle Seymour received a wake-up call of the most frightening kind.

“I didn’t really think anything of it,” she began, as she described her experience driving home from work that evening. ”I felt tired all the time, so this time didn’t seem different at first. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. In an instant, I crossed the yellow lines and had an accident.”

Fortunately no one was hurt, but Michelle couldn’t understand what had caused her to doze off. In search of answers, she visited the Sentara Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center for a sleep study.

“It wasn’t a big deal at all,” she recalled. “The nurses were really nice; they asked a couple of ques­tions. By the time they were done wiring me up, I was ready to go to sleep.”

It turns out that Michelle suffers from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), a condition that causes her airflow to pause or decrease during sleep due to a narrowed or blocked airway. A person with a mild case of OSAS might have an apnea-hyponea index (AHI) of five, and a severe case would occur in someone with an AHI of 30 or higher.

“Michelle’s case was really quite bad. Her AHI was 108. That means that she stopped breathing or had trouble breathing 108 times in one hour. That’s really severe — and even dangerous,” says Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and the director of the sleep center. “Changing oxygen levels stresses the body and can cause harmful substances to be released, raising blood pressure and narrow­ing blood vessels — not to mention the immediate drowsiness that can cause driving accidents.”

A new person wakes up

Using the CPAP machine, Dr. Winter was able to increase Michelle’s oxygen flow while she slept, reducing the apnea episodes and improving her overall sleep quality.

Once her OSAS treatment began, her friends and co-workers noticed a difference immediately. And the changes weren’t just evident in her demeanor: People tell her that her appearance has changed as well.

“I guess I was retaining water because my friends say I look thinner in my face and neck area,” Michelle says. “I’ve also noticed more definition in my legs. I can feel a difference in the way my clothes fit across my shoulders. I can exercise and walk around more without feeling tired. All those little aches and pains are gone, too.”

“It sounds like a cliché,” continued Michelle, “but it is true: Turn­ing your life around starts with a good night’s sleep.”

With higher energy levels and a better appetite, Seymour couldn’t be happier.

“I keep using the word ‘amazing,’ because it really is,” she went on. “My friends say that my eyes are brighter, my color is better, and I seem more alert and focused. And I am. I feel so good, I’m almost apprehensive that it’s suddenly going to stop. I feel so good that I never want to sleep without the CPAP machine.”

“When you’ve gone without sleep for so long and, suddenly, it’s back, the transformation can be astound­ing,” added Dr. Winter. “Michelle is a perfect case for why OSAS needs to be treated. Her treatment may have added years to her life.”

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