Better sleep CAN change the REST of your life

Les Askelson is a believer in CPAP machines to treat sleep apnea.
“I am a true believer in the CPAP machine,” says Les Askelson. “It has changed my life – probably saved my life.”

Imagine waking and gasping for air, then catching your breath and falling back into restless slumber — for a minute or two, until it happens again. And again. And again, up to 50 times a night. That’s what sleeping was like for local on-air personality, Les Askelson, until a sleep study at Winneshiek Medical Center and a CPAP machine changed the rest of his life.

“I am a true believer in the CPAP machine,” says Askelson. “It has changed my life – probably saved my life – and I feel like I did when I was younger, with more energy to last the entire day and into the night!”

Askelson figured his hectic schedule was the reason he felt tired all day. A morning radio personality for over 35 years, Askelson’s day usually starts at 4:30 a.m. After going off the air at KVIK Radio in Decorah at 9 a.m., additional duties, including his job as a Winneshiek County Supervisor, usually bring him home no earlier than 6 p.m. – and sometimes as late as 10 p.m.

But when he was issued a citation for falling asleep at the wheel, Askelson knew that something was wrong. “I talked with my physician, and after a complete physical, he suggested I have a sleep study done,” he said. “The tests revealed I hadn’t been getting a good, deep sleep for years.”

Following his sleep study, Winneshiek Medical Center’s Home Medical Equipment department fitted him with a CPAP machine, which is a portable unit and mask that delivers continuous positive airway pressure to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

“Ever since I started using the CPAP, I sleep for the same amount of hours I always have, but I wake up and feel much fresher, more rested and a little more witty,” he laughed. “I look a little bit like Darth Vador in my CPAP gear – it’s comical.”

Sleep lab

Sleep apnea disorder causes the muscles in the throat to relax during sleep. Symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, restless sleeping and stops and starts in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea occurs more commonly in men older than 40.

Lack of quality sleep creates fatigue but, more importantly, sleep disorders can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, an inability to concentrate, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Fortunately, technicians from the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center are in Decorah each week conducting sleep studies in the WMC Sleep Lab. The sleep study test records your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate and breathing rate, as well as eye and leg movements during sleep.

Information from your sleep study is sent to the Sleep Disorder Center at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic, where a physician who is board certified in sleep medicine will interpret the results and recommend treatment to your local primary care provider. WMC also offers a complete line of CPAP options through the home medical equipment department, where specialized health care providers customize the fit for each patient’s CPAP machine. In addition, WMC respiratory therapists follow patient’s progress to ensure the equipment continues to work properly for them over the long-term.

“I recommend having a sleep study done to anyone who is having symptoms,” says Askelson. “Talk with your doctor if you think you should have one. My diagnosis has definitely changed my life for the better and it was easy – you can get your test done right here in Decorah. Don’t wait to have the test, it’ll add years of better health to your life.”

For more information on sleep studies at Winneshiek Medical Center, call 563-382-2911 or talk to your primary care provider.