If you're among the 40 million Americans who suffer from a chronic sleep disorder, listen up.
Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe
If you don't get enough (or good enough) sleep, you might pay the price. Left untreated, certain sleep problems increase the risk for heart disease, depression, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, memory loss, and car accidents. That makes sleep a pretty serious business.
Just ask Lucas Lautner, M.D., 35. “Over the past five years or so, I had just felt like the quality of my sleep was quite a bit worse. I'd wake up feeling tired — like I hadn't slept—with headaches and a sore throat,” says Lautner, who is an Internal Medicine physician affiliated with Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System. “My wife mentioned that maybe I had sleep apnea, but she couldn't describe it well, so I wasn't convinced.”
But after Lautner had a sleep study at West Lakes Sleep Center, he knew his wife had been right.
Sleep Apnea: The Most Common Cause of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life threatening disorder that occurs when the flow of air during breathing decreases or is completely blocked during sleep. People who have sleep apnea usually snore heavily, gasp for air, and toss through the night. Greg Hicklin, M.D., a board-certified Sleep Medicine physician with West Lakes Sleep Center in West Des Moines, says, “Sleep apnea has a profound effect on cardiovascular health and blood sugar, and can contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, and heart problems. But treating apnea is pretty easy and the improvements are dramatic.” Lautner concurs. After being fitted with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, “The quality of my sleep is substantially better. I don't have the headaches or sore throat when I wake up. I have more energy to play with my kids and to be a good father and husband,” he says. “It has made a huge impact on my quality of life,” Lautner adds.
Over 80 Sleep Disorders
The universe of sleep disorders is large, making it important to be properly diagnosed and treated. The most common of these disorders include:
- Restless leg syndrome — produces very unpleasant sensations in a patient's legs when sitting or lying still, especially at bedtime. The uncomfortable feeling of restless leg syndrome occurs most often in the calves. It affects a person's ability to sleep at night and causes excessive daytime sleepiness. Hicklin says restless leg syndrome is usually easily treated with medication.
- Insomnia — occurs when a person habitually has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. It may be caused by outside influences such as time change, jet lag, or stress, or may be a result of a sleep disorder. “Insomnia is a big problem when it occurs night after night,” says Dr. Hicklin. “It's a reason to talk with your doctor.”
- Circadian rhythm imbalance — Thanks to the light bulb, many workers (grocery store employees, nurses, and truck drivers, for example) may work all night but then can't get regular sleep during the day. That causes an abnormal circadian rhythm (an imbalance in the body's normal rhythms), or what some call “shift-work disturbances.” “This is harder to treat, but there are lifestyle changes that will help. Bright lights at work will help keep you awake. If your shift ends during daylight, wear sunglasses on the way home. When you're ready to sleep, make sure your room is dark, cool, and turn off your phone,” Hicklin advises.
- Narcolepsy — Patients with narcolepsy are constantly sleepy and have a tendency to sleep at inappropriate times. If you find yourself nodding off while sitting in a chair in the middle of the day, while driving a motor vehicle, or during a conversation, you should seek help from a sleep specialist.
- Insufficient Sleep Syndrome — “If you sleep more than an hour longer on the weekend than during the week, you're trying to catch up on sleep. That's a symptom of insufficient sleep during the week,” says Dr. Hicklin. “Insufficient sleep is treatable if you're willing to go to bed earlier.”
Do You Need a Sleep Study?
If your sleep habits are impairing your quality of life, you probably would benefit from a sleep study at West Lakes Sleep Center, which was the first in central Iowa to be designed and built as a state-of-the-art, fully accredited, 24-hour service. “It's a bit like a high-end hotel, with eight private rooms. Each one has a comfortable bed, private bath, and big screen TV. We try to accommodate people's schedules and the entire staff is accredited in Sleep Medicine,” says Hicklin.
Thinking back on his sleep study, Lautner says, “It was not that big of a deal. The accommodations are very nice and the room is set up so your sleep can be monitored from down the hallway. It's not much different than staying at a hotel.”
Patients Get Help Here
When Hicklin's former partner— Dr. Randall Hansen (retired) — started the sleep lab in 1982, it was one of just 25 sleep labs in the nation. For more than 30 years now, it has remained on the cutting edge of sleep medicine and technologies. “That's our tradition,” says Hicklin. In part, the Sleep Center's high success rate (for example, over 90 percent of the Center's sleep apnea patients are in compliance with their therapies, compared to just 60 percent nationally) is its team approach to providing care. “We work closely with West Lakes Medical Equipment and UnityPoint at Home, so there's seamless interaction between the healthcare providers at those facilities and the Sleep Center,” Hicklin says. “When a patient is referred to us, we often see them the same or next day.
“Everyone at the Sleep Center is a registered sleep professional and committed to helping each patient. So they call to check on them, and they monitor and adjust their therapies to ensure they're getting the best possible sleep,” he says. Additionally, the clerical and scheduling staff also provide support critical to achieving the Sleep Center's mission. “Communicating with and educating patients about their sleep study is vital to the success of the patient's experience,” Hicklin adds. If you are having problems sleeping, it's important to seek help for proper diagnosis and treatment.
West Lakes Sleep Center is a partnership between The Iowa Clinic and UnityPoint Health – Des Moines.