A bad night's sleep means a groggy day at work for most people. But others, may suffer from a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnea.
In recent years, doctors have discovered that poor sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack and stroke. The American Sleep Disorders Association estimates that 100 million Americans regularly fail to get adequate rest.
"People are beginning to realize sleep is important," said Dr. Bashir Chaudhray, a pulmonologist with the University Hospital's Sleep Study Lab in Evans. "Sleep represents one-third of our lives. We used to never discuss sleep in medical schools. All of that is changing. More and more people with sleep problems are being diagnosed. Sleep apnea is one example. That lazy boy in the class is really not lazy. He has a problem."
Sleep apnea is just one of the disorders that doctors are studying at the clinic off North Belair Road.
The ASDA estimates that four in 100 middle-aged men and two in 100 middle-aged women suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the disorder, which causes people to stop breathing at times while they are asleep.
Jeannette Thomas (right), a sleep-lab technician, prepares Karen Sharpe-Dye for
participation in a sleep study at University Hospital's lab in Evans.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
During the relaxed state of sleep in some people, the airway collapses and cuts off the flow of oxygen to the lungs. The lack of oxygen forces the person to wake up, but often it is so quick that the person doesn't remember and goes back to sleep. In the most severe cases, a person can stop breathing hundreds of times a night.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability, memory loss and sexual dysfunction.
"Before the apnea was diagnosed, I would be so sleepy in the afternoons that I could be teaching a class and almost fall asleep," said James Brooks, a computer instructor at University Hospital In Augusta. "I had an occurrence where I was sitting and working at a computer in the afternoon, and I remember waking up with my head on the keyboard from where I had fallen asleep. I just couldn't stay awake."
The sleep study lab originally opened in University's main hospital in 1995 before moving to Evans in 1997. Lab technicians monitor people with suspected sleeping disorders by videotaping the patients and monitoring their brain waves and vital signs. The study is condensed into a nine-page report and given to the patient's doctor, who then recommends a treatment.
"Sleep-related problems have an impact on our lives - how long we live and what the quality of our life is day-to-day," Chaudhary said. "The best news in this area is that we can do something about it. Not only are we able to make the diagnosis, we are able to do something about it."
The most popular treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure machine. CPAP provides a gentle flow of air through a nasal mask into the patient forcing the airway open.
"The field of sleep medicine is indeed waking up," Chaudhray said. "We have come a long way."
Tours of the sleep study lab at 4321 University Parkway will be Nov. 14 at noon in conjunction with a complimentary barbecue lunch and a presentation on sleep disorders. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 736-0847 or (800) 413-6652.
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