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The importance of sleep

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POSTED January 30, 2013 3:41 p.m.

A third of the average person’s lifespan is spent sleeping. What happens during all that time? Many don’t consider how their bodies respond when it transcends toward a deep stage of sleep, or how sleep disorders can cause a variety of health problems.

Turlock pulmonary, critical care and sleep specialist Sunit R. Patel said there are 84 sleep disorders that are commonly known to specialists, while others remain undetected.

These disorders include: Apnea, snoring and shallow breathing, causing a loss of oxygen to the brain; narcolepsy, loss of voluntary muscle control; and sleep paralysis, an increased level of immobility and pressure on the body.

Though these studies are ever evolving, Patel believes that the increase of patients will provide more information about other, lesser known disorders and fill medical gaps.

“In a week, we see about eight new patients,” Patel said. “It ranges up to 30 patients per month, but we get direct referrals. I think from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine data that a population of 60,000 people need one sleep center. We have one sleep lab in the area that fulfills that quota.”

The California Sleep Center at Turlock’s Tower Health and Wellness Center offers two suites for sleep studies.

During sleep studies, patients wear a series of scalp electrodes and cords placed near the eyes to record rapid eye movement. The heart, midsection, and legs also have units adhered to the body using conductive paste that is non-evasive. There are also snore microphones placed on the neck and pulse indicators that analyze blood oxygen content levels.

Each cord connects to a monitor where the information is transferred to a sleep technician surveying the patient’s chart content every 30 seconds.

For those with sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure is applied to the patient known as CPAP. The nasal mask is connected, like the cords to a small electrical unit and pushes air to blow into the lungs.

 “They need to qualify to receive this type of treatment. We will give it to them if they have pauses in their breathing during the night. We wake them up and give them the CPAP interface mask to put on,” said polysomnographic technologist Mary Little.

CPAP machines can be used at home, which makes it an effective aid against sleep disorders for those afraid or unable to stay the night in the sleep lab.

“We are also offering portable studies if they are unable to move. We understand that some people can’t stay with us, and we understand that. We use portable units for the home,” said Little.

Sleep studies, although lesser known in the general public, are important to find causes of disturbances.

 “Lack of sleep can lead to a lot of fatigue, personal relationship problems, a lack of immune system, and less energy, which will affect your job,” Patel said. “Conditions like sleep apnea where people stop breathing can cause serious problems like blood clots, stroke, heart attacks, memory problems, and heart failure. Like any condition, early diagnosis is the best help.”

For more information about sleep studies, contact the California Sleep Center at 216-3420.

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