Sleep studies making difference

Spc. Todd Goodman, Story and photo
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

***image1***It’s amazing what a good night of sleep can do for the mind, body, spirit and long-term health.
“We have people coming by and shaking our hands,” said Clifton Edwards, supervisor of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Sleep Lab. “They become different people. You see it on them. They say, ‘I have a life now. I have energy to take the kids to soccer practice. My marriage is better.’ It really is miraculous.”

Sleep disorders, such as apnea, desaturation, excessive snoring, narcolepsy and daytime sleepiness plague many people. The sleep clinic stays booked, using overnight sleep studies to clarify problems and eventually providing relief.

There are five stages of sleep. Stages one through four allow the body to rejuvenate itself, healing wounds and injuries. Stage five, which is rapid eye movement or REM, is the only sleep stage where the brain rejuvenates itself and one is fully rested.

Referred patients participate in a nighttime study to determine which stage of sleep they reach. The study also monitors how hard the chest and abdomen work during breathing, as well as the airflow from the mouth and nose.

Some sleepers don’t work hard at all to breathe and some go as long as three minutes between breaths. It could be due to tonsils, adnoids or just too much throat tissue, said Mr. Edwards. Overweight people are more apt to suffer from sporadic breathing.

“When a person stops breathing during sleep, their oxygen levels drop way down (also known as desaturation),” he said. “A normal sleeper will have an oxygen percentage of 85 to 100. Some people have levels that reach as low as 50 percent.”

That creates a two-fold problem. Needed oxygen is not getting to the brain and carbon dioxide is not being expelled from the body. It also can keep a person from reaching the deepest stage of sleep and keep them tired during the day.

Many respiratory sleep disorders are remedied by using a nasal mask, which provides constant positive airway pressure. Oxygen is pushed into the patient’s airway, and through tension, keeps the airway open and allows unobstructed breathing.

If the nasal mask is ineffective, one option is surgery to remove excess tissue that causes the blockage.

“People go years with sleep apnea,” said Mr. Edwards. “Most people don’t really think about sleep, but it’s at least as important as a good diet. People talk about calories, but not sleep. If they did, they might find their lives a lot more comfortable.”

For those interested in a good night’s sleep, here are two suggestions from the sleep clinic staff.
Shoot for eight hours of sleep each night. Yes, some people function fine on less, but eight remains the optimum number.

Get to bed at the same time each night. Stick with a bedtime routine – drink warm milk, read a book, take a shower, etc. A varying sleep routine causes sleep patterns to vary also, which is not conducive to a sound sleep.