Fatigued? Area docs say your sleep might deserve some study

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Getting hooked up for a sleep study at a west suburban hospital. | Curtis Lehmkuhl ~ File Photo

Dekalb County Class: Exploring the Effects of Quality Sleep

Noon - 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 5

Valley West Medical Office Building
1310 N. Main St.
Sandwich, Ill. 60548

Free; includes lunch.

Registration required.

http://bit.ly/123ztTm

Or call 815.786.3962

Symptoms of sleep disorders:

  • Snoring
  • Choking or gasping for breath during sleep
  • Feeling tired or fatigued after sleeping
  • Weight fluctuation inability to lose weight
  • Nodding off while driving
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Sexual dysfunction/impotence
  • Frequent urination
  • Depression or substance abuse
  • Heavy snoring followed by grunting
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times

Source: www.valleywest.org/sleep/symptoms.html

Sleep has been pushed to a low rung our society's hurry, hurry lifestyle ladder, experts observe.

So health leaders at Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich, Ill., are trying to raise awareness that everyone - from small children to teens to the elderly-needs a good night's rest to perform at his best as well as to fight chronic conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure.

"Everybody needs to get a recovery period...this is just so important for general health," said Jamie Broekhuizen, DO, a family practice physician with the KishHealth Physician Group, based in Dekalb. It's such a priority that she and several other doctors will present a lunchtime panel discussion "Healthy Conversations with KPG Doctors: Exploring the Effects of Quality Sleep," at the Valley West Medical Office Building in Sandwich on March 5.

Moderated by Anne Hoeksema, a staff member of the Valley West Sleep Disorder Center, the panel will look at how sleep affects heart health, memory, weight control and diabetes. Doctors also will discuss how a sleep study can uncover the causes of poor sleep and lead to successful treatments.

Given the current obesity levels in the nation, experts are concerned that many people may have undiagnosed sleep apnea, which is more common in overweight patients. Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops for a very short time or is very shallow. The shallow breathing stresses the body because it is not receiving adequate oxygen. Snoring, which can be the result of disrupted breathing, is just one of the symptoms of sleep apnea, Broekhuizen said.

But snoring is one of the main symptoms that prompts doctors to refer patients for a sleep study, Broekhuizen said. In addition, patients with difficult-to-control blood pressure and diabetes can benefit from Valley West's Sleep Center.

"Although awareness of sleep apnea is growing, I think we have ways to go," Broekhuizen said. "Bad sleep habits tend to get ingrained in our 20s, and then are tough to break in our 40s and 50s," she said.

"Sleep isn't just about sleep...it's about how we need sleep to keep our blood pressure in check, keep us from overeating and keep our stress hormones from damaging our bodies," Broekhuizen said.

A Valley West sleep study starts with a referral from a physician, often a primary care doctor, and continues with a detailed questionnaire a patient answers about his sleep habits and general health.

Valley West's sleep lab rooms are comfortable hotel-like rooms with queen (not hospital) beds. Each room has a television, as well as private washrooms and a shower. The rooms are all secure and the sleep technician is awake in a separate room and monitors the patient during the test.

Patients may bring pillows or other comfort items from home and since the study is overnight, patients do not need to take a day off work. Prior to sleeping, small wires and monitoring devices are attached in order to observe sleep and breathing during the night. This test is non-invasive, meaning all the electrodes allow the patient to move to comfortable sleeping positions or get up to use the washroom.

After the study is completed and analyzed by a sleep specialist, the physician recommends a course of treatment. Today there are many options available, and could include a machine that helps a patient breathe all night-without stopping. Or if the patient is observed with restless leg syndrome, for example, he may benefit from a prescription drug, Hoeksema said.

Then there is the business case for improving our sleep. A Jan. 23 Wall Street Journal article pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 40.6 million American workers, or 30 percent of the civilian workforce, don't get enough rest. And Harvard Medical School scientists estimated in 2011 that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity per year, mainly because of "presenteeism," people showing up for work but operating at subpar levels.

"If morning after morning you wake up after a 'full' night's sleep and still don't feel refreshed, then there might be something going on," Hoeksema said.

She pointed out that poor sleep needs to be taken into consideration alongside many other issues.

"It may be the harried mother who thinks her fatigue is just the result of her responsibilities," Hoeksema said. "Or it might be the middle-aged person who is depressed, so he eats more sweets, which can set up a vicious circle of poor sleep and increasing feelings of depression."

Hoeksema pointed out that when the body is not "at rest, even though we think it is, could lead to all types of chronic illnesses."

Karen Huelsman is a local freelance writer specializing in health care issues.