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Sleep: we can't live without it. So then why is it that millions of Americans get so little of it?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately one in three Americans don't get enough sleep. Studies have shown that dozens of serious health problems stem from insufficient sleep, including depression, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and many others.
Combine these statistics and you have the makings of a health crisis - something many doctors and scientists have warned us about for years.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be exploring a range of topics on sleep and your health, with help from the Florida Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders. To kick things off, two of our sleep experts, neurologists Holly Skinner, DO, and Karen Baker, MD, co-directors of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Florida Hospital, help answer the FAQs of sleep studies - what they can reveal, what to expect and how they can help you sleep like your life depends on it (hint: it does).
First things first: what is a sleep study?
Officially termed a polysomnography, sleep studies identify and diagnose disruptions in your sleep patterns.
Dr. Baker continues, "A sleep study allows us to evaluate the patients overall sleep health." Usually, the test is used to diagnose sleep apnea. The test is done in the evening and conducted by a sleep technologist.
"As the patient sleeps, a range of functions are monitored using painless sensors that are applied to the skin. These functions include brain activity, heart rate, eye movements, breathing patterns, and oxygen levels in the blood," Dr. Skinner adds.
Once the study is complete, physicians specializing in sleep medicine analyze the results to make a diagnosis and recommend a personalized treatment plan.
What is it that doctors are looking for during a sleep study?
A range of disorders may be discovered over the course of a sleep study. "Some of these disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder, periodic limb movement disorder and insomnia," says Dr. Skinner.
But by far the most serious disorder that doctors look for is obstructive sleep apnea. This common, potentially deadly disorder blocks your airway as you sleep, causing you to stop breathing for short periods throughout the night. We'll be taking an in-depth look at sleep apnea in an upcoming blog.
When diagnosed, all of these sleep disorders can be treated, paving the way for improved sleep and better overall health.
Why should I get a sleep study?
There are many good reasons to undergo a sleep study, but let's start with the most concerning. Left untreated, sleep disorders can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, depression, hypertension and diabetes. In many cases, a sleep study is the only way to properly diagnose certain disorders.
Treating your underlying sleep disorder can help you regain your quality of life, too. For sufferers of chronic disorders like sleep apnea, it's common to feel "tired of being tired." Getting the treatment you need can restore your energy, vitality, and spirit.
What can I expect at a sleep center?
Typically, you'll be asked to arrive two hours before bedtime to get checked in and situated in the room.
Patients can bring their own pajamas if they like, as well as toiletries and other items from home that will make them comfortable and help them get to sleep. Once they're changed for bed, sensors are placed around the head and body so that the team can monitor various functions as they sleep.
Where do sleep studies happen?
Florida Hospital has five specialized sleep centers located within hospitals in greater Orlando, including:
- Florida Hospital Apopka
- Florida Hospital Altamonte
- Florida Hospital East Orlando
- Florida Hospital Orlando
- Winter Park Memorial Hospital
What if I can't fall asleep under these conditions?
This is a very common worry, but Dr. Baker reports that the majority of patients are able to fall asleep during a sleep study.
Dr. Skinner adds, "The sleep technologists in the lab during the sleep study are knowledgeable and compassionate professionals who understand that you are in a new sleep environment. Patients often comment that their experience was very pleasant because of our technologists' expertise and care."
How do I know if I should get a sleep study?
We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but sleep disorders may cause consistent problems that interfere with your daily life. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep?
- Do you have a history of snoring, or have you ever been told that you stop breathing or gasp for air while sleeping?
- Have you experienced tingling, itching, aching and other unusual sensations in your legs at night, or do you have an urge to walk, kick or move your legs for relief?
- Are you sleepy or drowsy during the day, and have you felt that fatigue consistently for more than two weeks?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it's probably a good idea for you to talk to your doctor about your sleep and if a sleep study is right for you.
Dr. Baker concludes, "Getting a good night sleep is imperative to both good physical and mental health."