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Sleep disorders: It’s not just beauty sleep

Sleep disorders can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated, but studies can diagnose problems and put you on the road to better health.

Feeling fully rested and restored isn’t the only benefit to a good night’s sleep—good slumber is also good for your health. Sleeping six hours or less a night may raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and insulin resistance.

Sleep disorders can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated. Fortunately, sleep studies can diagnose problems with sleep and put you on the road to a better night’s sleep and good health.

A sleep study is a test that collects data on how well you sleep and how your body responds to sleep. A few areas sleep technicians focus on during the study include brain and heart activity, oxygen levels, breathing, snoring, and leg movements.

The most common sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition causes you to stop breathing momentarily, but repeatedly, during sleep. Your brain realizes you are not breathing and forces you to wake up enough to open your throat for air. However, you might not wake up completely. This is why some people are unaware they have OSA. Even though you do not realize you wake up, your sleep is still interrupted. Sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability and memory problems.

Research has shown a strong link between OSA and three of the top four leading causes of death. OSA may lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure and hypertension.

The technicians at the Shannon Clinic Sleep Center have more than 37 years of experience and have administered more than 3,300 sleep studies. The accredited four-bed Center offers several sleep studies for adults and pediatric patients during day and nighttime hours. Patients are referred to the Center through their doctor’s office.

What happens during a sleep study?

A minimum of six hours is required for a sleep study. Before a patient arrives at the Center, the technicians are already aware of the patient’s medical history—high blood pressure, diabetes or other health issues. The Center strives to make patients feel at home, and each room is as comfortable as possible. After the leads and monitors are connected and tested, patients are allowed to carry on with their normal bedtime routine. Patients are asked to turn off the TV and their cellphones before they go to sleep. Patients are also asked to sleep supine (on their backs) for a short period of time, but they are allowed to sleep in the position that is the most comfortable.

The patient is monitored for two or three hours. The technician uses software created specifically for sleep studies and watches for abnormal respiratory effort or anything abnormal, including if the patient has apnea (stops breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time) and if a hypopnea (decrease in airflow by at least 30 to 50 percent with a 4 percent oxygen desaturation) occurs. If a patient has at least 30 events within a two- or three-hour span, they are placed on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). Patients with an existing condition such as excessive daytime sleepiness or cardiac disease are placed on CPAP sooner into the study. The CPAP interface mask gently forces oxygen into the airway allowing patients to breathe and sleep easier.

This is all done in one night so the patient does not have to come back for another study. Each patient is sent home with their own treatment mask. If a patient cannot undergo a traditional sleep study due to medical or insurance reasons, other options are available. These include:
PAP-NAPs. PAP stands for positive airway pressure. These studies are shorter and performed during the day. These are used when a patient is reluctant to try or has had other issues with CPAP treatment. These patients are hooked up to two respiratory effort belts, a snore sensor and an EKG lead and monitored by a technician. The purpose of the study is to initiate or familiarize the patient with CPAP treatment.

Daytime studies. Nighttime or shift workers have the same opportunity to schedule a traditional sleep study during the daytime hours.

Home sleep testing. Home sleep studies are used for patients whose insurance carriers require the study and for patients with physical limitations. After receiving instructions from a technician, the patient takes the testing device home. The device fits around the head like a headband and sits on the forehead. It monitors oxygen levels and heart rate, can tell if the patient is awake or asleep, and collects data during the study. After the study, the patient returns the device to the Center so the collected data can be retrieved and interpreted by a technician.

Do you have a sleep disorder?

Watch out for these signs and symptoms of a sleep disorder:

  • Has your partner noticed that you gasp or stop breathing during sleep?
  • Do you often wake up feeling unrefreshed?
  • Do you sometimes feel excessively sleepy during the day?
  • Have your energy and motivation levels decreased?
  • Do you find it difficult to concentrate?
  • Do you have short-term memory loss?
  • Do you have feelings of depression?
  • Do you wake up with chest pains or palpitations?
  • Do you have night sweats?
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