It’s time to put those sleepless nights to rest
Not only do people suffering from sleep disorders endure long, restless nights, but they then push through perpetual drowsiness and fatigue during the days that follow. The longer their disorder goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more it takes a toll on their health.
But a sleep study can help put those sleepless nights to rest. Formally called a polysomnogram, a sleep study is a diagnostic test that records brain waves, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rate, breathing, arousals, eye movements and leg movements during sleep. The measurements are used to properly diagnose sleep disorders so a physician can recommend an appropriate treatment.
“A sleep study measures how much sleep occurs,” says Dr. Peter Analytis, sleep medicine physician and medical director of the Morris Hospital Sleep Center. “It records when sleep begins, how long it takes to fall asleep at night, what time the person wakes up in the morning, how many total hours of sleep occur and much more. The study also records brain waves to quantify sleep and then tries to correlate different sleep findings with the stage of sleep.”
As scientific as the process may sound, staff at the Morris Hospital Sleep Center strive to make the experience as comfortable for the patient as possible.
Each patient is assigned a room that more closely resembles a hotel room rather than a healthcare clinic exam room. Rooms are equipped with a full-sized bed with an adjustable mattress, a private bathroom, television, recliner and more.
“The lab is designed to be more like a hotel room than a hospital setting so the patient can hopefully feel more comfortable and relaxed and sleep as they would during a normal night at home,” says Patti Jankowski, registered polysomnographic technologist at the Morris Hospital Sleep Center. “Sometimes patients are nervous at the start, but I do find that once they see the rooms and are given some education, they usually become more relaxed.”
Upon arriving at the Sleep Center, patients are greeted by a sleep technologist who watches over them the entire time. Sleep techs help each patient get acclimated to their rooms and then explain what will happen during the sleep study.
Patients are connected to electrodes, which gather the needed physiological data to diagnose a sleep disorder. In addition, one of the technologist’s roles is to monitor the patient throughout the night from another room and document anything that may be of importance for the physician.
By the time the sleep study is over, Jankowski says most patients are pleasantly surprised at having slept so well considering the circumstances.
“The experience is extremely comfortable,” Dr. Analytis adds. “Most of the patients have no difficulty sleeping in the environment.”
Sleep apnea is one of the most common disorders diagnosed and treated at the Sleep Center and is defined as a disruption in breathing during sleep when the airway collapses against itself and a person snorts or snores to re-open the airway.
“Each time that happens, it can cause a disruption in your sleep stages and keep you from getting into the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep,” Jankowski says. “As a result, most people with sleep apnea are sleepy during the day due to lack of good deep sleep.”
Once diagnosed, sleep apnea is successfully treated through CPAP therapy, a non-invasive breathing device worn during sleep. The mask fits over the nose or mouth and creates a seal. The CPAP machine blows air in to hold the airway open, allowing the patient to breathe in and out normally without any disruptions in sleep.
It usually doesn’t take long to notice the benefits.
“Once treated for sleep apnea, the results can be immediate,” Jankowski says. “Patients who are here for a second study (for treatment) who have worn CPAP for the first night are very often amazed at the difference in how well rested they feel.”
For more information, visit www.morrishospital.org/sleepmedicine.