Sleep research comes to Craig

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Suffering from not enough sleep and waking up tired along with having fatigue all day? Ever wonder why?

The Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Craig, along with Mobile Sleep Diagnostics in Grand Junction, now offers a service of testing sleep patterns. Mainly testing for sleep apnea, research determines why that decent night of rest cannot be obtained. A person showing signs of sleep apnea syndrome will stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time, more than five times during an hour of sleep.

This type of research was previously available only in larger markets such as Denver or Grand Junction.

"We are actually doing detective work in helping people get a better night's sleep," said Mark Spoon, respiratory therapist, registered polysomnograpy technologist and co-owner of Mobile Sleep. "We are able to bring the lab and technology to where we need it."

According to Mobile Sleep co-owner Tim Mayer, 9 percent of the population suffers from some sort of sleep apnea and it mostly occurs in middle aged adults but can affect everyone.

"This research addresses a clear need," TMH Administrator Randy Phelps said. "Patients who needed the test were not getting it done because they had to travel."

According to Spoon, the test is a simple procedure where the patient comes in about 8 p.m. and is hooked up to 17 different testing channels that test everything from muscle, heart and eye movement to brain waves and breathing. The patient basically stays with their normal bedtime routine, with the exception that they are spending the night in a hospital room.

Once the patient falls asleep, a duo of therapists from Mobile Sleep monitors the tests throughout the night and if sleep apnea or other problems are detected, Mobile Sleep works to remedy the problem.

"This test provides a conclusive diagnosis and can find a treatment," said Jeff Greer, cardiopulmonary unit manager at TMH. "This is real nice for people here."

Sleep apnea disrupts sleep because the body loses oxygen, causing a stop in breathing. This makes the body revive itself by startling itself and waking up. It may not awaken the person, but it is enough to affect the quality of sleep as the body is unable to get into the deeper stages of sleep such as rapid eye movement (REM).

Spoon has seen patients whose bodies awaken every 30 seconds during sleep, or 120 times an hour.

Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include loud, irregular snoring, snorts, gasps and other unusual breathing sounds during sleep, long pauses in breathing during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, obesity, changes in alertness, memory, personality or behavior, impotence, morning headaches and bedwetting. Problems do seem to worsen with age.

"The older you get the harder it is to recuperate from a bad night's sleep," Spoon said.

But sleep apnea does not discriminate on age or lifestyle and can affect anyone.

Sleep apnea can be life-threatening and devastate a career. It can result in auto and workplace accidents (as the person is prone to frequent rests because they did not have a quality sleep the night before), abnormal blood chemistry, high blood pressure, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), heart and lung complications, loss of alertness, memory and concentration and even death.

"It is hard to convince people that sleep apnea can be dangerous," Mayer said. "We can introduce therapy after making a diagnosis."

If Mobile Sleep's test determines a problem, 50 percent of patients can be treated through the use of an air mask that fits over the nose, according to Spoon. Patients needing the mask may rent the machine and Spoon said many insurance companies will pay for it because it is a serious health ailment.

Options include surgery on the soft palate of the throat to enlarge the airway area, laser surgery on the same area and surgically moving the lower jaw. According to Mayer, the remedy in many cases is to lose recent weight gains.

Consisting of glue and tape and no needles or blood, this sleep testing research is available one or two weeks each month at TMH. Patients are normally referred to the test by their physicians.

And all the patient needs to do is sleep.

"This is a piece of cake in terms of a hospital test," Spoon said. "It is one of the easiest but longest tests in the book."

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