Anything But Apnea: AWAKE groups evolve to support all sleep disorders

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awake all sleep disorders asaa american sleep apnea association

A.W.A.K.E. stands for Alert, Well, And Keeping Energetic

When the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) first created the A.W.A.K.E. program, it was inspired by a very specific need. Thousands of people across the US who were beginning a brand-new therapy using PAP (positive airway pressure) to treat sleep apnea. They needed support.

Our nationwide (and beyond) groups of volunteers helped many make the adjustment to what was then a very foreign, challenging therapy.

Back then, the machines were large and loud. The masks were clunky and uncomfortable. The pressure settings were locked to a single number.

That was back in the 1990s.

Since then, PAP therapy has come a long way. Machines are compact, powerful, “smart,” and whisper quiet. Masks are smaller, more comfortable, and fit much more precisely. Pressure settings come in a variety of technologies: continuous (CPAP), Bilevel (BiPAP), and automated (AutoPAP). There are even more complex systems available like ASV (adaptive servo ventilation) for more complex patients.

Meanwhile, the ASAA has also come to recognize that, in the 21st century, sleep problems aren’t limited to sleep apnea. The need for live meetups of patients with sleep disorders has probably never been more critical to our national health.

A.W.A.K.E. programs have started to evolved in order to service that trend. A.W.A.K.E. groups no longer limit their support to those who have sleep apnea. Instead, their coordinators are beginning to create diverse support group spaces for patients needing advice and guidance for treating all sleep disorders.

Featured below are two A.W.A.K.E. programs that have successfully transitioned from “sleep apnea only” to a wide range of sleep concerns.

carroll hospital asaa awake group all sleep disorders

Kelly Day—Carroll Hospital Center A.W.A.K.E./Westminster, MD

Describe the kinds of sleep disorders that your A.W.A.K.E. group provides support for.

Kelly Day (KD): “Carroll Hospital’s A.W.A.K.E. group provides support to people with sleep apnea and insomnia. We also provide attendees with information regarding sleep hygiene, PAP treatment and oral appliances used to address sleep issues.”

What benefits does having an A.W.A.K.E. group, open to all sleep disorders and problems, offer?

KD: “Our A.W.A.K.E. group allows us to help community residents with sleep issues regardless of whether they had testing through our facility or somewhere else. It allows us to raise awareness and educate them on the symptoms of different sleep disorders and the various treatment options available.”

What would you say to someone in your community who needs support for a sleep problem?

KD: “We recommend that they visit their health care provider to discuss their symptoms and whether a sleep study is necessary. If their provider has determined that a sleep study is necessary, the person can call Carroll Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center at 410-871-7170 where our team of specially trained physicians and technologists can provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of potential sleep disorders.”

Carroll Hospital’s A.W.A.K.E. Network takes place on Wednesdays from 7 to 9 pm in the Shauck Auditorium, located in the hospital’s East Pavilion at 291 Stoner Avenue, in Westminster, MD.

Upcoming meeting dates are:

  • November 8, 2017
  • March 14, 2018
  • May 16, 2018 (Carroll Hospital’s Sleep Awareness Day Fair)
  • September 12, 2018

Registration is preferred. To register or for more information, people should call 410-871-7000 or visit

southlake awake group merrillville asaa all sleep disorders

Michelle Hebert and Rebecca Worley—Southlake County A.W.A.K.E./Merrillville, IN

From Becky Worley:

“Our group meets the second Monday of every month in a waiting room in one of the physicians offices that is in our building.

Each month we send a newsletter recapping the previous month and re-announcing the upcoming meetings. We offer coffee (not so good for sleep, but hey!) and water. Each month we share a homemade snack that one of us has made.

I pick a sleep related topic each month which may or may not be clinical and offer maybe 10 minutes worth of my own input. Then the group takes it from there.

We are an adult support group (probably a good idea because the members tend to stray away from our topic at hand to some highly questionable topics….????) and have a pretty much 50/50 mix of male to female ratio.

We have convened for 2017 and will have our next meeting in February 2018. Due to the end of summer, holidays and weather it traditionally has been times that have are low attendance for many things. So Michelle and I thought to give a respite and then start again in February.”

Describe the kinds of sleep disorders that your A.W.A.K.E. group provides support for.
Becky Worley (BW): “During our meetings we TRY to focus on any sleep disorder that the members want to talk about. We advertise the support group to include any and all disorders.
We primarily get apneics and the occasional PLMD or Insomnia patient. Given our location close to Chicago, we have found that our Narcoleptics tend to migrate toward Chicago, so we rarely if ever see one of them.”
What benefits does having an A.W.A.K.E. group, open to all sleep disorders and problems, offer?

BW: “By opening our group to all disorders, the members learn as well as “teach” about their individual sleep struggles.

I love to watch the groups reaction when a new or established member (insomniac, RLS, etc) makes a point regarding their own disorder.  You can actually see the group get an “AH-HA” moment, sometimes all at the same time.

I am hoping that by opening to the group to all Sleep Disorders, we will eventually get enough to sub divide into individual support groups.  Albeit, that may be a long way off, but one can dream!!!”

The Southlake County A.W.A.K.E. meets at 521 East 86th Avenue, Suite G, in Merrillville, IN on the second Monday of every month. Their next meeting is scheduled for February 2018. For meeting times and other information, call 219-736-2590 or send an email to [email protected] or [email protected].