Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mike & Molly Mixed on CPAP, Sleep Apnea

Mike & Molly, a traditional CBS sitcom with three cameras and a laugh track, is the most controversial new show on television this fall. The show is about an obese Chicago couple in the early stages of their relationship.

Health pundits rail on Mike & Molly for promoting obesity and unhealthy life choices. Entertainment critics have a different but equally critical take on the show – some say the show uses endless fat jokes to mock obese people.

At this point in the show’s run it’s hard to say if either group is right, but there is one healthy choice Mike & Molly is promoting – the recognition and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.

The latest episode, titled “Mike has Sleep Apnea,” introduced millions of prime-time viewers to CPAP, the front-line treatment for the sleep disorder. The episode is a step forward for sleep apnea awareness, but it doesn’t get everything right.

The episode is about the new couple’s difficulties sharing a bed for reasons including an obvious (and unfunny in this blogger’s opinion) fat joke and Mike’s treatment for sleep apnea.

The couple gets in bed and Mike matter-of-factly tells Molly he sleeps with a CPAP to stop from snoring. Then he tells her he doesn’t have to wear it that night. Both statements raise concerns.

After a few jokes about the appearance of Mike’s CPAP mask, Mike is fast asleep. Meantime, Molly can’t sleep because of the sound of air blowing from CPAP. She tries to move Mike, who starts snoring.

This is where the show gets things wrong. Loud snoring should not happen with CPAP unless the machine has a titration problem. An appointment with a sleep specialist can fix that easily.

For that matter, technically Mike’s treatment isn’t just to prevent snoring, but the breathing pauses from sleep apnea. A person with the disorder may sound like they are choking or not breathing at all.

Additionally, Mike’s offer to skip CPAP for a night sets a bad example. For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, treatment is not optional. Sleep apnea can wreck your sleep in the short-term and devastate your health in the long-term when untreated.

Make no mistake about it, Mike & Molly’s take on sleep apnea is flawed, but it may inspire people to seek treatment. And for that reason, the show may not be as bad as its reputation suggests.

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