Statisticians tell us we sleep one third of our lives. But not everyone is so lucky. Conditions such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy prevent some people from getting all the rest they really need. It’s not just inconvenient. It can be detrimental to a person’s health. At the newly opened Center for Sleep and Neurodiagnostic Studies at Northside Medical Center, our board-certified, fellowship-trained specialists can help diagnose and treat your sleep disorder.
The new center features state-of-the-art equipment and four patient rooms that offer more of a hotel atmosphere than that of a hospital. The newly renovated rooms are furnished with blackout shades, special fans designed to alleviate dust, noise machines, coffee makers and charging stations for electronic devices. We are the only sleep center in the area to provide our youngest patients with cribs.
Patients also appreciate the secure Northside location with a parking lot that is well lit and monitored by cameras. There are reserved parking places for sleep lab patients.
Sleep apnea is the umbrella term for a chronic condition suffered by an estimated 18 million Americans. Many people afflicted with sleep apnea don’t even know they have the condition because it can’t generally be detected during a routine visit to the doctor. Often, it is the bed partner who notices the symptoms during the night. With sleep apnea, a person experiences breathing that is excessively shallow while they sleep—a condition known as hypopnea—or experiences an interruption in their breathing for 10 seconds or more. When these pauses occur, even as little as five times per hour, it is considered sleep apnea. However, these non-breathing episodes may occur up to 100 times per hour. Regular breathing only restarts with gasps, snorts or a choking sound. Poor sleep quality and daytime drowsiness aren’t the only effects of sleep apnea. It also increases your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is an aptly named disorder. The symptoms usually occur in the evening or at night, when the person is trying to relax or go to sleep. In fact, the symptoms can increase in severity during the night. RLS is a neurological disorder in which throbbing, pulling and other unpleasant sensations are experienced in the legs. The medical terms for these sensations are paresthesias—referring to the abnormal sensations—and dysesthesias—referring to the unpleasant abnormal sensations. These sensations range from merely uncomfortable to irritating to painful. Often, these are accompanied by an almost uncontrollable and overwhelming urge to move one’s legs and, by doing so, relieves the discomfort.
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder where the brain is unable to regulate normal sleep-wake cycles. People who suffer from narcolepsy can experience bouts of sleepiness that are irresistible throughout the day. When this happens, the narcoleptic person will fall asleep for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, though in some extreme cases, the person may sleep for an hour or longer. Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is the most common symptom of narcolepsy. However, some people suffering from narcolepsy experience cataplexy, a condition in which laughter or terror can cause a sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone. Others will experience vivid hallucinations as they fall asleep or awaken. And still others may experience brief episodes of complete paralysis at the beginning of sleep or as their sleep ends.
Losing weight and quitting smoking can improve sleep and reduce the severity of sleep apnea. In addition, it’s a good practice to avoid alcohol and sedatives, which relax the central nervous system.
For many, sleeping on their backs worsens sleep apnea. Using oral appliances can help keep a person’s airway open during sleep. Others may benefit from a body pillow or similar device that prevents them from sleeping on their backs.
When first measures (lifestyle changes, pillows and appliances) fail to work, our specialists often recommend CPAP therapy. WIth CPAP— continuous positive airway pressure—a breathing mask or nasal pillows are worn as you sleep. The mask or nasal pillows are connected by a tube to a machine that blows pressurized air into the mask to keep your airway open.
Similar to the CPAP, a VPAP—variable positive airway pressure—uses a mask or nasal pillows to provide positive air pressure to keep your airway open. The amount of pressure varies as needed.
APAP—automatic positive airway pressure— provides the right amount of air pressure your airway needs to remain open automatically.
Some patients have tissue in their airways that prevents proper respiration while breathing. For these individuals, Columbus Regional Health specialists may recommend a surgical procedure to remove some of this tissue and widen the airway.
Making changes to your lifestyle and adding activities such as walking, acupressure or massage can often reduce or eliminate symptoms.
When lifestyle changes alone don’t satisfactorily eliminate RLS symptoms, our specialists may also suggest certain prescription medications to treat restless leg syndrome.