Sleep is Key to Good Overall Health

In today’s plugged-in, 24-hour society, many people view sleep as a luxury. But more and more research is showing that getting enough good quality sleep is essential to your health. Sleep problems have been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. Lack of sleep can also trigger depression-like symptoms, lower your ability to fight off illnesses and decrease your mental functioning. “Your mom always said a good night’s sleep is good for you,” said Joseph Seipel, MD, neurologist and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Floyd Memorial. “Science is showing she was right.”

The amount of sleep people need varies greatly among individuals. However, you are probably not getting enough good quality sleep if you are having symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness; waking up with a headache; fatigue or drowsiness; snoring loudly; or feeling sleepy when you drive.

The Sleep Disorders Center Offers Sophisticated Equipment and Expertise

Diagnosing the problem is the first step toward improving your quality of sleep. And, the Sleep Disorders Center at Floyd Memorial has the experts and advanced equipment needed for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Ron Kron, RRT, is the clinical manager of the center. As he explained, “We have been treating patients with sleep-related breathing disorders in our sleep lab for 18 years. In 2005, we received full accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as a Sleep Disorders Center. It is recognition of the quality of care available here and allows us to treat all types of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and more.”

According to Kron, “The center offers the expertise of physicians and polysomnographers who monitor sleep studies and prepare test results for physician interpretation. In addition, we recently expanded our center from four beds to six, and upgraded our monitoring system.” During sleep studies, patients may be monitored for brain and heart activity, snoring, leg and arm movement, blood oxygen saturation and more.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a Growing Problem

One of the most serious sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. It is a condition in which people stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. “Fortunately, the brain briefly arouses people with OSA when this occurs so they can resume breathing,” explained Dr. Seipel. “The result, however, is very poor quality, fragmented sleep.”

One of the most serious sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. It is a condition in which people stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. “Fortunately, the brain briefly arouses people with OSA when this occurs so they can resume breathing,” explained Dr. Seipel. “The result, however, is very poor quality, fragmented sleep.”

Approximately 20 million American adults suffer from OSA, yet 90 percent remain undiagnosed. According to Dr. Seipel, “There have been very rare cases in which people have such a severe episode that it triggers cardiac arrhythmia and causes them to die in their sleep. Usually, though, chronic OSA is a little like smoking. You can live with it, but it’s going to catch up with you, significantly increasing your risk of stroke and heart attack over time.” As he explained, “When you have to struggle to breathe, adrenaline kicks in. It elevates your blood pressure and increases the activity of your sympathetic nervous system. Studies are showing that the hypoxemia, or lack of oxygen, caused by OSA may be associated with insulin resistance, high blood sugar, diabetes and obesity. There is a whole cascade of very serious problems untreated OSA can bring on.” Treating OSA may involve lifestyle changes such as losing weight and avoiding alcohol and sedatives, or mechanical means, such as the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask. Treating it properly not only helps patients feel more alert and energetic on a daily basis, but may also prevent life-threatening complications down the road.

Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

  • Go to bed at approximately the same time each night.
  • Sleep in a room that is totally dark.
  • Don’t watch TV while falling asleep, the light it emits stimulates your brain.
  • Don’t sleep with pets, they move frequently, which can be very disruptive.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and exercise before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal for at least three to four hours before going to bed.

AWAKE Meetings Offer Added Support

Once each quarter, in January, March, June and September, on the third Tuesday of the month, patients and partners of patients with sleep apnea are welcome to attend a free AWAKE meeting. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. at Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital in New Albany. Guests enjoy refreshments, the support of fellow OSA patients, a question-and-answer session and presentations by medical professionals. For details, please call 812-949-5550.

For more information or to make an appointment with the Floyd Memorial Sleep Disorders Center, call 812-949-5550.