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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bonnie Verhunce

Sleep Studies Explained

Judging from recent statistics, sleeplessness is an epidemic in America:

*While most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, the CDC has found that 30% of

civilian-employed adults in the US-about 41 million people-sleep fewer than 6 hours on average. * According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 50 million Americans will suffer from a sleep disorder at some point in their lives.

Sleep deprivation can lead to wide range of health problems (including high blood pressure,

heart disease and stroke), lower levels of workplace productivity, decreased school performance, lower quality of life and impaired public safety. All of these things raise costs for society as a whole. If the numbers we shared earlier are even broadly accurate, it's not surprising that growing numbers of people are turning to their healthcare providers for help. In many cases, this help will begin with a sleep study.

Sleep studies are designed to help diagnose a range of chronic sleep disorders:

* Sleep apnea. A condition that occurs when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time while asleep. There may be a problem in the way brain signals are sent to the muscles responsible for breathing, or there could be some obstruction or narrowing of the breathing pathway. * Nighttime insomnia. Inability to sleep at night, possibly due to stress, hunger, depression or physical discomfort. * Periodic limb movement disorder. Where the legs, feet or arms twitch repeatedly during sleep. * Nighttime behavior problems. Problem behaviors include sleepwalking, bed-wetting and night terrors. * Problems staying awake during the day. Narcolepsy is one example. * Problems sleeping during the day. This can be a particularly challenging issue for those who work at night or in shifts. * Problems with your stages of sleep. Each night you should normally have four to five cycles of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A sleep study can determine if there is an abnormality in this pattern.

If a sleep study is necessary, general practitioners and family doctors typically recommend four common types:

* Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). Determines how long it takes you to fall asleep and if you enter into the REM stage of sleep. * Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT). Determines if you can stay awake during your normal hours of wakefulness. * Polysomnogram. Records different body functions as you sleep, including blood levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, eye movement, brain activity, breathing rhythm and rate, heart rhythm and rate, snoring, how air moves through your nose and mouth, belly and chest movement and general muscle movement. * Actigraphy. A device worn on the wrist similar to a watch that measures your movements both while asleep and while awake. It is used in cases where there is a problem with a person's body clock.

In most cases, a sleep study is performed either in a hospital's sleep lab or in a specialized facility, where conditions can be controlled and patients can be closely monitored. However, a sleep study can sometimes be performed in your own home as well. Electrodes will be painlessly attached to your skin to record information as you sleep. Although many people begin the process believing that they won't be able to fall asleep under these kinds of circumstances, most have surprisingly little difficulty.

Dr Bonnie works closely with our patients to develop healthy lifestyle habits-particularly in the areas of nutrition, exercise, stress management and (YES!) sleep-that help prevent illness and injury.

If you or someone you care about isn't getting enough quality sleep, we encourage you to call or visit our office today!

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