Tim Teat - A weight lifted

Sleep apnea is no longer hindering Tim Teat’s fitness goals

Tim Teat has plenty of energy for rope exercises at the gym now that he is being treated for sleep apnea.

For Tim Teat, physical fitness is a priority. He lifts weights and maintains a strict diet and exercise plan. Yet something was still missing for this paragon of wellness.

He should have been gaining muscle. Instead, his weight stayed exactly the same.

He should have been full of energy. Instead, he relied on coffee and energy drinks to get him through the day.

He should have been sleeping soundly. Instead, his wife woke to the horrific sound of him choking in his sleep — multiple times, every night.

But Tim never suspected sleep apnea.

“As far as symptoms go, I didn’t identify with any of the typical issues, like falling asleep while driving or mid-conversation,” he says. “But if I sat in a recliner after 7 p.m., it would swallow me up and spit me out snoring.”

Then one night Tim woke up choking so badly that he got sick. He finally agreed to talk to his doctor, who referred him for a sleep study at the Methodist Richardson Medical Center Sleep Disorders Center.

Shocking results

During a typical sleep study, patients sleep for around eight hours to gather the information needed. Tim’s technician came back into the room after just one hour.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he told Tim. “This is the worst case of sleep apnea I’ve ever seen.”

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep. This limits or cuts off the airflow, and the patient stops breathing.

More than five of these apneic episodes an hour is considered abnormal. Tim was having 78! In other words, he didn’t have one single minute of uninterrupted sleep at night — ever.

His first sound sleep

When your head hits the pillow at night, you go through several stages of sleep. The deeper stages have been tied to many health benefits, including better memory and lower blood pressure. Sleep is when the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.

Tim never left the first stage, so he never got any of these benefits.

After Tim met with Greg Foster, MD, pulmonologist on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center who is board certified in sleep medicine, the sleep lab tested several CPAP setups to find the correct fit. CPAP is short for continuous positive airway pressure. Using a nasal mask, these machines push just enough air pressure into the nasal passages to keep the airways open, resulting in uninterrupted breathing.

With the right CPAP machine, Tim dreamt for the first time in his adult life.

“It was so incredibly vivid; I’ll never forget that sensation,” he says.

“I finally knew what it was like to really sleep.”

A life changed

While it typically takes a few weeks for patients to see any improvement, Dr. Foster says Tim’s sleep was affected immediately.

“When he came for a follow-up appointment about two weeks after getting the machine, his apneic episodes were down to an average of two per hour and his blood pressure was normal,” Dr. Foster says.

Tim is also finally seeing progress in his fitness goals. Since he started sleeping with the CPAP machine, he has gained 8 pounds of lean mass. What’s more, he feels “a million times better.” But it’s not only about all the things he’s gained — it’s also about what he’s lost.

“That exhaustion, that misery is no longer there,” he says. Now, with a solid eight hours of sleep a night, Tim has given up his caffeine habit and gained a new appreciation for what a night of rest can do for his body.