Lifestyle

Wired up at the sleep disorders clinic

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

A night of sleep disorder study isn’t much different from staying in a motel. Except for the monitor wires hanging off your body and the closed-circuit television camera watching you from its ceiling-level perch.

The St. Francis Sleep Disorders Clinic isn’t some cold, stark place where cots are lined up for a succession of sleepless zombies. Fearful or pessimistic patients have been pleasantly surprised by the comfortable, private, decorated sleep rooms and the general cheeriness of the place, said a technician who worked with me during my sleepover Wednesday night.

Sleep disorders are serious. Sleep apnea, for instance, can lead to fatal health conditions. But at St. Francis’ clinic, there’s no doom and gloom. The technicians are professional but friendly, trading quips and putting patients instantly at ease.

And they’re attentive. “We can hear a pin drop,” my technician said as she explained that if I had to get up in the middle of the night, all I had to do was sit up and say so in a normal-tone voice and she’d come disconnect me from the monitoring equipment.

About the equipment: It’s in a separate room, where technicians watch monitors showing data relayed by the “ponytail” of wires connected to you. Elastic belts around your chest and abdomen measure breathing, your heart rate and the oxygen level in your blood are registered by a clip on your index finger, and electrodes on your head and legs keep track of brain waves, muscle and eye movement, breathing and heart rate. (It may sound like a Frankenstein experiment, but don’t worry. The wires are thin and light, barely noticeable after a while, and you can sleep in any position with them). And there’s a video monitor so they can watch your sleep-related behavior.

Check-in for an overnight study is usually between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. I showed up at 8 and was led to my room, which included a wide, comfortable bed, a cushy easy chair plus and an attached bathroom shared by another sleep room. I was given time to settle in and fill out some forms. Then my technician hooked me up with the wires, waiting until I was ready to turn out the lights before connecting them to a monitoring unit.

After watching a movie video on the in-room TV and reading until almost midnight, I was drowsy enough to fall asleep. My wakeup call was for 6 the next morning, and the technician awoke me on the dot with the good news that I don’t have sleep apnea or any other serious sleep disorder.

Not everyone’s so fortunate. The clinic’s patients are about 50-50 men and women. Children occasionally are treated, but adults are the most common patients.

Men reportedly are the ones least enthused about being there, carrying on their tradition of being resistent to seeking medical attention. But all of them are sent to the clinic by doctors who want their patients to get help getting the right kind of sleep –– without which they’d be facing serious health problems and trouble in their jobs and personal lives due to sleep deprivation.

It’s better to snooze than to lose.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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