Stick a Cork in It! Living with Sleep Apnea

“But I don’t snore.” How many times have you heard that denial?! We joke about it, and we can be sensitive to a point, but the truth is that excessive snoring can be a symptom of a dangerous sleep disorder. Fortunately, there are simple, non-invasive tests to help determine why people snore and solutions to help them breathe more clearly and to assist them – and their families, partners, or neighbors – sleep well.

Chronic snoring is often the result of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the breathing pathways are partially blocked by cartilage and tissue. The sufferer experiences lapses in breathing and fails to receive oxygen for brief moments during the sleep cycle.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be very serious. It contributes to daytime sleepiness, which can lead to reduced productivity, irritability, decreased ability to fight infection and illness, and possibly accidents in vehicles and at work due to fatigue. Other health problems have been tied to sleep apnea including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed through a comprehensive exam and often requires participating in a sleep study. This takes place in a laboratory designed to look like a typical bedroom. The patient spends the night hooked up to electrodes and is monitored by cameras which record movement, breathing patterns, oxygen content, and other evaluative criteria. This information is then reviewed by experts, who can recommend an effective treatment plan designed to improve your quality of life by improving your breathing and sleeping.

One of the most effective treatments of obstructive sleep apnea is a breathing system called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses a machine and breathing mask to help the person breathe more easily during sleep. The CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway does not collapse when you breathe in.

Often, people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it. They’re not aware that their breathing stops and starts many times while they’re sleeping. Family members or bed partners usually are the first to notice signs of sleep apnea and can suggest medical intervention.

Family members can do many things to help a loved one who has sleep apnea, such as:

  • Let the person know if he or she snores loudly during sleep or has breathing stops and starts.
  • Encourage the person to get medical help.
  • Help the person follow the doctor’s treatment plan, including CPAP treatment.
  • Provide emotional support.

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Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Wash Away Your Troubles . . . or at Least the Germs

You’d think by now we wouldn’t still be writing or reading articles about the value of proper hand washing in limiting the spread of bacteria, germs and common disease. But for all the buzz and promotion and hand wringing by caring mothers everywhere, people still don’t seem to get the message: Thorough, proper hand washing is the easiest, most cost effective and smartest way to prevent the spread of germs that cause a variety of diseases that are passed from person to person. Period.

Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene will help you avoid getting sick and reduce the spread of germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread when people don’t wash hands with soap and clean, running water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands. But also know that if your hands are visibly dirty, sanitizer is not going to do the trick.

So, even though it’s an old story, we’re going to tell it again, especially since it’s summer and you and your kids are playing and working outdoors, attending fairs and picnics, visiting farms and beaches, and visiting all the places germs love to congregate.

You should always wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

And while you’re at it, washing your hands improperly negates the value, so here are some simple hand-hygiene tips:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well.
  • Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Of course, you don’t want to be a germaphobe, but common sense is always the best policy. ATMs, debit machines, gas pumps, door handles, laundromats, playgrounds…the list of potential incubation sites is endless. Our bodies are built for this, but with a little help from you, you’ll have fewer colds, infections, and other inconvenient ailments by practicing this simple, easy step. Post this article on your refrigerator, and have a great, healthy summer!

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Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Travel Wellness: Plan and Be Happy

As you pack for your summer vacation, there are a number of extras you should consider sticking in your luggage and other preparations you should consider prior to getting on the road, in the air, or boarding your cruise.

If traveling abroad, be sure to investigate recommended vaccinations for the country or region you are visiting. Your PCP or an infectious disease specialist can guide you and offer suggested protection. They may even provide antibiotics “for the road,” if needed.

The last things you want to struggle with anywhere (especially while vacationing in a foreign land) are stomach ailments. These are very common, and travelers are more susceptible in areas that don’t share our highly regulated standards for water sources and purity. Know when it’s safe to “drink the water,” which includes ice cubes in your beverages, fountain drinks that use local water, and in warm beverages which may never get hot enough to kill bacteria.  In questionable areas, you should also avoid tap water for rinsing your mouth while brushing your teeth. Additionally, you may have to avoid or use extra caution when eating locally grown vegetables and fruit that are washed in local water.

Bring medicines with you. We’re spoiled in the U.S. with multiple pharmacies nearby and a plethora of medications available in supermarkets and mini marts. In other countries, many of the medicines we take for granted, like over-the-counter antacids and heartburn remedies, nausea medicine, cold and flu options, antihistamines, decongestants, hydrocortisone creams, and traditional painkillers may be hard to find or unavailable outside of a hospital or clinic, especially outside of a city.

Don’t count on being able to refill your prescriptions easily. Anticipate what you’re going to need for the time you’re away, and get enough to carry you. Many pharmacies will allow you to take extra meds beyond your 30-day standard dose with a second prescription from your physician, but don’t wait for the last minute. If you’re asthmatic and use an inhaler, or require an EpiPen in case of allergic reactions, plan in advance. It’s also smart to have every medicine you are taking written down – both name and dose – in case you end up needing medical care.

Smart travel wellness extends beyond food choices and medication preparedness, no matter where you vacation. It’s important to listen to your body’s natural rhythms when it comes to sleep and physical activity. There’s always more to see and do than there is time, but when you overextend yourself for prolonged periods, your natural immunities and protections may be compromised, and you’re more likely to get sick or sustain an injury.

Common sense continues to be your best guide. Use sunscreen, wear hats, and use insect repellants.  If you’re riding a bike or motorized bike, wear a helmet. Use seatbelts in cars and taxis, just like you would at home.

Be smart, use your head, plan wisely, and have a great time!

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Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Employers, You Don’t Have to Do it All Yourself!

You know in your heart and in your head that wellness programs work effectively for improving your employees’ physical and behavioral health. Wellness programs also promote teamwork, contribute to improved productivity, can boost quality, retention and customer service, and reduce absenteeism. Yet for all that we believe to be true – and have seen work effectively, especially with large employee populations – wellness efforts for small employers are still relatively new and largely unmeasured.

Large employers have embraced and invested in workplace wellness programs for many years, and have seen a strong return on investment (ROI) in having a healthy workforce that can help stem rising healthcare costs and boost employee productivity. In contrast, the landscape for small businesses varies greatly from the large-employer community, even though there are valuable lessons to be learned and shared. Many factors contribute to this contrast, including:

  • Lack of Data: Lack of research and gaps in data result in an absence of a strong case for support (including ROI) to small employers to offer workplace wellness programs;
  • Lack of Awareness: Small business owners, in addition to employees of these businesses, lack awareness about the benefits of workplace wellness programs;
  • Lack of Financial Incentives: Multiple, credible studies over many years on large company wellness programs suggest that when there is a measurable ROI and financial incentives for either or both the employer and employee, wellness programs work. There is no such option currently for small employers.
  • Variability among Size and Workforce Makeup: Small businesses vary greatly in size and in the makeup of their workforce, and there is a deficit of effective adaptable and scalable models and other tools. However, that picture is changing as a groundswell of support and resources are now becoming available. Organizations and programs have been established regionally and nationally to provide training, education, and information that all small employers can review, use and relate to.

A great place to start is CBIA Healthy Connections, a wellness program specifically designed for your small business that’s available for free to CBIA Health Connections participants. Visit cbiahealthyconnections.com to learn why wellness programs make sense for small business and how to get your company started.

Another valuable resource is the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), which offers training, newsletters, educational materials, and workshops. Most of this information is free, and they offer access to employers and to employees at www.welcoa.org.

As more research is conducted and small employers continue to search for support and additional resources, new statistics are likely to emerge validating the effectiveness and return on investment inherent to small business wellness programs. Meanwhile, employers can find and implement a variety of support services that will help them initiate or expand their current efforts, and continue their positive journey toward employee wellness.