Sleep Health Support Group

Looking for information on your sleep problems? Do you use a CPAP machine?

The Sleep Health Support Group has been meeting quarterly for the past seven years through Penn Highlands DuBois to help people like you.

It is held at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesdays of September, December, March and June, and you just may find an answer at its next meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10.

The group meets in the second floor waiting area of the DuBois Community Medical Building, 621 S. Main St., DuBois. The meetings are overseen by the staff of the Sleep Disorders Center of Penn Highlands Healthcare and Dr. Angelo Illuzzi, medical director of sleep medicine for Penn Highlands Healthcare. Originally called “Snore Patrol,” the group name was changed a couple years ago to describe itself better.

“People like talking with other people same issues that they have,” Barbara Himes, supervisor of the Sleep Disorders Center, said. The meetings are informal with short educational piece followed by question and answer time.

The majority of the attendees are interested in sleep apnea. Apnea, translated from Greek, literally means "without breath." There are three types of apnea, but the most common one is obstructive apnea. Left untreated, it causes people to stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and sometimes for a minute or longer.

When diagnosed with apnea, many patients are advised to use CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure machines, or some other therapy. These machines provide a constant stream of air through a mask that keeps breathing passages open for sleeping. And “it can be difficult to adjust to the cumbersome CPAP, autoPAP or bi-level PAP treatment for obstructive sleep apnea,” Himes said.

At the meetings, “people enjoy getting mask tips and troubleshooting advice that we can provide,” she said. For example, a solution to why someone can’t keep a mask sealed when they sleep on their side may be letting a mask inflate first, then putting it on.

“Many people who start CPAP therapy quit, partly because of lack of support and frustration. We don’t want that. Not using the pressure machines can increase the risk for heart attacks, stroke, car accidents, possibly cancer, and diminished quality of life.”

Also, Himes said, research is ongoing and equipment technology is rapidly changing. A person might benefit from learning the newest information even if they have been doing everything right for years.

The meetings are open to anyone from newly diagnosed to long-time patients and their family members and friends. “Patients sometimes feel they are on their own with their therapies, and there is a lot of information to process from doctor’s appointments, equipment companies and others,” Himes said. “We want to make sure everyone knows there we are here to help.”

Anyone interested in attending is welcome to show up. No advanced notice is needed. For more information, call Himes at 814-375-3223.